Update info

Updated every Friday.

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 25th

What happened this week?

Hidroituango dam failure in Central Colombia forces evacuation of thousands and leaves downriver communities at risk

On May 24th, the Colombia Civil Defense declared a red alert for the Pacific and Orinoquia Regions and an orange alert for the Caribbean, Andina, and part of the Pacific Regions due to heavy rain and an increase of the water level in several rivers. Media reported an overflow of the Cuanapi river in the city of Tumaco, Nariño Department, where at least 300 people were affected due to floods. Elsewhere, in the Municipality of Jamundi, Valle del Cauca Department, approximately 3,000 people were affected due to a strong cold wave and the villages of Jamundi and Valle were affected by 25 landslides...Read more   Latest press release from the Colombia National Disaster Risk Management Unit(spanish)

Colombia's Ituango hydroelectric dam: threats, violence, and mismanagement 

A landslide at Colombia’s biggest dam that forced the evacuation of about 26,000 people highlights the risks to communities who have lived the area for generations, according to campaigners who have protested for years over the massive project. The $4 billion Ituango hydroelectric dam in northwestern Colombia has been dogged by protests since construction started in 2010 but was due to start generating power this year as part of a global push into clean renewable energy projects. But campaigners fear the Ituango dam will wreak havoc on the environment and destroy fishing and farming communities and they have been campaigning to stop the dam’s construction.
Following a trend of rising violence against environmental defenders across Latin America, on May 2, one of the local opponents to the dam was assassinated. Hugo Albeiro George Perez was a member of Movimiento Ríos Vivos in Colombia and one of the leaders of opposition to Ituango and associated mining projects in the region. Meanwhile, poor ecological management practices on the part of EPM caused major issues for the dam itself. Three landslides occurred between April 28th and May 7th that blocked the flow of water through an upstream diversion tunnel that was intended to keep the reservoir from filling to unsafe levels...Read more  Read more

Interesting Facts

As Hawaii’s Kilauea erupts, volcanologists learn what warning signs may exist that point to future eruptions 

Weeks after it first erupted on May 3, Kilauea’s dramatic volcano activity continued to threaten homes, with lava and dangerous gases as it cracks apart at its base and blows periodically at its top to jettison lava and plumes of ash. Scientists are studying these oozing fissures, explosive eruptions and magma flow patterns as they happen, a rare opportunity for many of them who, without the real thing, are often left to model volcano behavior in distant laboratories. Where the volcano cracks into fissures, how the magma tracks through the ground and what warning signs may exist that point to future eruptions will be used to better plan and protect the state’s communities in the future. Scientists have noted chemical similarities between the lava emerging from the fissures here in what is known as the “lower east rift area” and the magma at Kilauea’s peak.
Researchers are particularly interested in the observations of Kilauea’s steam-powered “phreatic” eruptions, which occur when hot rock interacts with water in the ground. If the volcano’s vent is blocked by falling rock, the resulting steam will build up pressure until it explodes. The warning signs for these events are poorly understood, said Maarten de Moor, a researcher at Costa Rica’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory ... Read more

Hurricanes: Stronger, slower, wetter in the future? New analysis compares 22 named storms with possible hurricanes of the future

Satellite image of 2017's Hurricane Jose off the U.S. Atlantic coast and Hurricane Maria over Atlantic waters to the southeast of Jose.
Scientists have developed a detailed analysis of how 22 recent hurricanes would be different if they formed under the conditions predicted for the late 21st century. While each storm's transformation would be unique, on balance, the hurricanes would become a little stronger, a little slower-moving, and a lot wetter.
In one example, Hurricane Ike -- which killed more than 100 people and devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2008 -- could have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter if it formed in a future, warmer climate. Other storms could become slightly weaker (for example, Hurricane Ernesto) or move slightly faster (such as Hurricane Gustav). None would become drier. The rainfall rate of simulated future storms would increase by an average of 24 percent.
The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and published in the Journal of Climate, compares high-resolution computer simulations of more than 20 historical, named Atlantic storms with a second set of simulations that are identical but for a warmer, wetter climate that's consistent with the average scientific projections for the end of the century.... Read more

Policy Developments and Outlook
Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay join to increase resilience of tri-border region

South America’s tri-border region – where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet – is highly exposed to extreme climate and weather events. It suffers from numerous vulnerabilities, including: poverty, economic and political instability, lack of resources and infrastructure. Now the unique ‘Triangle City Cooperation’ project has recommended that cities of this region must take precipitous action to reduce their climate change vulnerability and forge more climate-resilient development – to secure the region’s future. The project’s work has led directly to the formation of several tripartite initiatives among Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to shore up the region’s short- and long-term resilience.
Since the project’s inception in March 2017, the project has sought to to identify cooperation strategies among the three cities of Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina): cities which meet at the confluence of borders – and of the major Parana and Iguazú Rivers. The project has been a joint effort among the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), the National University of Misiones (Argentina), the Instituto Internacional Polo Iguassu (Brazil) and the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption (Paraguay). It has been supported by the Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America initiative of CDKN, Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano and IDRC (Canada).
The research team analysed vulnerability and adaptation strategies in the tri-border region, in order to identify existing climate-related trends and problems in the cities... Read more   Download the report Evaluación de la vulnerabilidad y estrategias de adaptación en la región trinacional (Spanish) 

Friday, May 18, 2018

May 18th

Interesting Facts

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) looks at past disasters to prepare for the future

Released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future looks at various disasters from the distant and recent past and explores the likely impacts similar events would have if they were to occur in today’s more populous and connected world. Aftershocks notes that impacts from disasters are increasing due to population growth and development. These trends are likely to continue in the future. For example, models show that by 2050, population growth and rapid urbanization alone could put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets at risk to river and coastal floods. The report explores how understanding the great disasters of the past enables governments and communities to better prepare for the risks they face. For example, earthquakes that struck Chile and Haiti in 2010 demonstrate the value of enforcing building standards and resilient urban planning to mitigate the impact of future events. A remodeling of typhoon Wanda, which devastated the coastal regions of China in 1956, illustrates both the impact of natural hazards in a rapidly growing economy and the benefits of effective risk identification and early warning systems. A closer look at the two earthquakes in Mexico City in 1985 and 2017 illustrate the importance of integrating multiple interventions to mitigate risk, from early warning to improved building practices and financial protection... Read more   Download the report    

Caribbean Lost Almost $700M in Tourism Revenue Due to Hurricanes in 2017

Waves crash against El Malecon ahead of the passing of Hurricane Irma, in Havana, Cuba.The Caribbean's tourism sector lost close to US $700 million in revenue and saw almost one million fewer visitors in 2017 due to the devastating impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria. An industry report released by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council revealed the disastrous effect the storms had on one of the region's most critical industries when compared to previous years Tuesday. The report notes that the hurricane season resulted in an estimated (loss) in 2017 of 826,100 visitors to the Caribbean, compared to pre-hurricane forecasts. It is estimated that those tourists and the missed revenue could have sustained more than 11,000 jobs within the region. Tourism is a crucial sector for Caribbean countries. The industry, according to the report, is responsible for 15.2 percent of the region's gross domestic product. It's also responsible for 14 percent of the overall all jobs in the islands... Read more

Hurricanes Irma and Maria a hint of what the future holds 

Hurricanes Irma and Maria a hint of what the future holdsSecretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque warned that Hurricanes Irma and Maria which devastated many countries in the Region last year were “a hint at what the future holds”. Speaking at the opening of a meeting with the Heads of Institutions of the Community at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on Monday, the Secretary-General noted that the long-term forecasts for climatic activity in the Region were even “more foreboding as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.” The meeting was aimed at strengthening the co-ordination among the Institutions and the Secretariat as the Community builds resilience to encounter the new normal of more intense and frequent climatic activity. A review of the preparedness and management of the response to the events of last September has been undertaken by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to glean lessons learned... Read more

Cuban Scientific Center to Help Reduce Disasters in the Caribbean 

According to the minister of Science, Technology and Environment Elba Rosa Perez, the weather center in the Cuban province of Ciego de Avila will train specialists from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Perez said that the Ciego de Avila-based institution will host three disaster risk reduction training courses for experts, researchers and scientists from the Caribbean. She stressed that the facility has conditions, new technology and a competent staff, so it can become an excellent convention unit in central Cuba. The minister added that it would be an ideal place to hold events on meteorological forecast and climate change, and it can provide technical assistance, scientific technological and innovative services to sectors of the economy and society... Read more

Policy Developments and Outlook
U.S. Senate aims to improve volcano warning system 

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation aimed at improving the country’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities. The measure would strengthen existing volcano monitoring systems and unify them under one connected system. It also would create a Volcano Watch Office, which would operate around the clock, to monitor all active volcanoes in the U.S. and U.S. territories. The measure still must be approved by the U.S. House. Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell says her state has five of the highest-threat volcanoes in the nation. She says Thursday’s eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is a reminder that volcanoes are a persistent and serious threat.... Read more  

Jamaican government working on framework for disaster risk financing

Jamaica has been working on establishing a policy framework for disaster risk financing, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams said on Tuesday. Williams, who was making her first contribution to the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives since being promoted to minister in a Cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on March 26, said she is pleased that the Government has put in motion, and are far along with the analytic work that will guide the eventual establishment of a Policy Framework for Disaster Risk Financing ahead of a disaster. Williams said that the Government would continue to maintain a contingency in the budget to deal with high frequency events, but relatively low levels of damage. She added that an analysis of the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund would also guide Jamaica's continued participation in the product... Read more  

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11th

What happened this week?

The damages of Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano and its possible explosive eruption 

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano has been sputtering lava for a week, forced around 2,000 residents to evacuate, destroyed 36 structures — including 26 homes — since May 3, when it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the summit crater. Now experts fear that it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air in the coming days or weeks. What could happen is not an eruption of volcanic gases but mostly trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater released like in a kitchen pressure cooker, with rocks, said volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University in West Virginia. The problem is the lava lake at the summit of Kilauea is draining fast, about 6.5 feet (2 meters) per hour and in little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to almost 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning. The lava levels in the lake are dropping because lava is spewing out of cracks elsewhere in the mountain, lowering the pressure that filled the lava lake... Read more

Belize signs $20 million loan with IDB to reduce climate vulnerability  

Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, and Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Cassandra T. Rogers, today signed a loan contract for US$10 million that will seek to reduce Belize’s vulnerability to climate change and risk with the implementation of climate resilience measures in the tourism sector, and the improvement of disaster risk management governance. The project is a continuation of the Bank’s support for flood mitigation in Belize City, which included the Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Project, completed in 2017
The program consists of two components. The first will seek to reduce climate change risk in the tourism sector. It will include studies and investments to reduce floods in the Orange Street area of Belize City, an area with a comparatively high climate risk. Additionally, this component includes actions to control coastal erosion in Palapa Gardens beach on Caye Caulker and to reduce the impacts of intense tourism activities on the surrounding coral reef and seagrasses at Goff’s Caye. The second component deals with disaster risk management governance and climate change adaptation. The US$10 million loan, from the Bank’s Ordinary Capital, is for a 25-year term, with a 5.5-year grace period and a LIBOR-based interest rate... Read more

Interesting Facts

The science behind the volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island 

The science behind the volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big IslandHawaii’s Kilauea volcano has entered a new destructive period of eruptions, which has happened several times since it resumed producing lava in 1983. Here’s some context behind one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Hawaii Island’s youngest: Kilauea is currently in the second phase of growth, the “shield building” stage, where it is the most active and the most voluminous. Lava eruptions have occurred at the volcano’s summit since 2008 and since 1983 on its eastern shoulder at a crater called Pu'u O'o, which collapsed on April 30, and sent lava searching for a new path downhill. Scientists are concerned that if the lava column drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kilauea Caldera, it will cause more eruptions... Read more    

To live on a volcano is to accept risk. On Hawaii’s Big Island, the risk has become reality. 

Hawaii exists, and continues to take on new shapes, in large part because of Kilauea, the longest-erupting volcano on the planet, and — according to some Hawaii residents — because of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Living here has always been a gamble. Home sales in high-risk areas in Hawaii tend to plummet in the wake of volcanic activity, and insurance companies are increasingly limiting their offerings. But while some residents are devastated by knowing they might have lost everything, others say it’s a gamble they’ll take again as the area is believed to maintain its appeal.
Land on this side of Hawaii is some of the cheapest in the state — not just because of the sputtering volcano, but because, residents say, it’s also relatively rainy and it lacks the white-sand beaches that tend to draw tourists....   Read more

The Quest to Hurricane-Proof an Island 

Eight months ago, Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, where nine out of 10 buildings lost a roof. The World Bank estimated the total damage at $1.3 billion, or 224 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Remarkably, though, less than a year later, there’s optimism in the air as Dominica is making a bid to be the world’s first climate-resilient nation. Climate Resilient Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD), a task force to hurricane-proof the entire island has been conceived shortly after the storm by government officials. The government expects to appoint a chief executive and leadership team to the agency as soon as it gets parliamentary approval, likely in July. CREAD’s first mission will be to determine best practices across every sector—roads, building codes, energy grids, water management—before enforcing them islandwide.
The government has already been collaborating with international organizations to establish some parameters ahead of CREAD’s inauguration. Any roofs that are being rebuilt with aid from the government or major nonprofit groups are being reengineered according to United Nations Development Programme standards. The UNDP guidelines call for steeper roof angles to better withstand wind, for example, and for the use of screws rather than nails to strengthen frames. Building codes are being rewritten with the help of the Canadian government and the U.K.’s Department for International Development, as well. And the Dominica government is taking the first steps of burying utility cables, elevating bridges, and shifting to solar from generator power—all projects that CREAD will see through to completion. If Dominica is successful, it will eventually be able to rebound from a Category 5 storm in a matter of weeks, not months or years... Read more

Learning from big innovations in Small Island States 

Small island developing states (SIDS), which account for less than 1% of the world’s population, are some of the world’s most vulnerable countries to disasters and climate change. Of the countries with the highest disaster losses relative to GDP, two-thirds are small island states, with annual losses between one and nine percent of GDP on average.
Even those numbers are misleading, however, since a single disaster can cripple an island’s entire economy. Without tropical cyclones, for instance, Jamaica’s economy could have grown by as much as 4% per year; instead, over the past 40 years, it has grown 0.8% annually. Sometimes, growth is wiped out all at once: When Hurricane Maria struck Dominica last year, it caused damages and losses equivalent to 220% of the country’s GDP. But what we learn from these small, remote, highly exposed islands could be useful for millions of people around the world. Though their size makes SIDS vulnerable, it also makes them ideal for piloting comprehensive analytical tools and innovative methodologies that help us understand climate and disaster risks and design resilience strategies. Successful tools and methodologies can later be applied to bigger countries or broader regions with similar challenges, particularly coastal areas... Read more    

What men in disaster response should do to promote gender equality

Currently, the majority of disaster response staff are men. They have a large role to play in creating safer and more supportive work environments for women in disaster response roles — both on the ground and at headquarters. Last year, ActionAid and CARE International came together to compile a report on what holds women back from disaster response positions. Following allegations of sexual misconduct in Haiti by Oxfam, Save the Children, and staff from other aid organizations, Devex spoke with emergency preparedness staff focused on diversity inclusion from CARE International and ActionAid to get their advice on what men in disaster response can do to create a more inclusive environment and work toward gender equality. While some of the best practices they suggest seem simple, it’s clear that they are often not implemented. From recruiting more diverse teams, breaking down “bro-culture,” and knowing when to take a step back, here are eight tips from experts... Read more   

Friday, May 4, 2018

May 4th

What happened this week?

Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) launches a regional tourism education and awareness campaign (RTEAC) on climate resilience

The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has launched a regional tourism education and awareness campaign (RTEAC) aimed at fostering a discussion on climate resilience and sustainability on both the regional and international stage. The campaign will run for seven months through November 2018 as part of a series of activities delivered in support of the Climate Smart and Sustainable Caribbean Tourism Industry (CSSCTI) Project with funding from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) via the African Caribbean Pacific, European Union, Caribbean Development Bank Natural Disaster Risk Management (ACP-EU-CDB NDRM) in CARIFORUM Countries Programme... Read more

Interesting Facts

Regional project working to make Caribbean fisheries climate-smart     

Fisheries experts from Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines met in Kingstown, St Vincent to explore options for a climate-smart fisheries monitoring system and a related fisheries and environment database.
The experts met at a two-day workshop organised by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) to support the roll out of the Fishery-Related Ecological and Socio-Economic Impact Assessments and Monitoring System project. The project is an initiative under the Regional Track of the Caribbean Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR), funded by the Climate Investment Funds through the Inter-American Development Bank, and managed by the University of the West Indies’ Mona Office for Research and Innovation. This data-driven project under the PPCR recognises that Caribbean fisheries are under serious threat due to climate change, and focuses on information strengthening to facilitate climate smart planning for the sector... Read more    

Policy Developments and Outlook
U.S. House advances Disaster Reform Recovery Act 

The U.S. House of Representatives recently advanced the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA), which proposes broad reforms at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DRRA would increase the emphasis on pre-disaster planning and mitigation to reduce the potential for future loss of life and address the rising costs of disasters. For example, the legislation would increase the federal investment and focus on pre-disaster flood and hurricane mitigation to fund projects such as flood proofing hospitals, emergency operations and first responder bases of operation, and protecting critical infrastructure and utilities... Read more  

Jamaica developing disaster risk financial management policy

Prior to the end of the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF Jamaica will develop, with the technical assistance of multilateral partners, a Public Financial Management Policy for Natural Disaster Risk combined with a ten-year operational plan for its implementation that takes into account fiscal space and other limitations. The Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke made the announcement in his address to the 32nd Annual Sales Congress of the Caribbean Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in Montego Bay Sunday night. He noted that in achieving and maintaining economic independence Jamaica must take account of its realities and pointed out that taking ownership means taking responsibility. A part of this reality, he said, is that, based on the island's geographic location, it is subject to natural disasters and the incidences of these have been increasing over time.. ... Read more