The Watchers – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Mon, 18 Oct 2021 05:41:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “Unsurvivable Storm Surge”: Hurricane Laura Most Powerful to Hit Louisiana in Recorded History, driven by CO2 Emissions Thu, 27 Aug 2020 04:03:51 +0000 [Hurricane “Laura” became nearly a category 5 with winds at 150 mph or more on Wednesday evening before landfall. A category 5 has winds of 157 mph. Hurricanes are more frequent and more powerful because of the climate emergency driven by humans burning fossil fuels and putting heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. – ed.]

By Teo Blašković | –

Potentially catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds, and flash floods were expected along the northwest Gulf Coast Wednesday night (LT).

At 12:00 UTC on August 26, Laura’s center was located about 450 km (280 miles) SSE of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and 465 km (290 miles) SE of Galveston, Texas.

On Tuesday, the storm had had maximum sustained winds of 185 km/h (115 mph) and minimum central pressure of 963 hPa, which made it a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

It was moving NW at 24 km/h (15 mph) and this general motion should continue Wednesday, followed by NNW motion tonight (LT).

On the forecast track, Laura should approach Upper Texas and southwest Louisiana coasts this evening and move inland near those areas tonight or Thursday morning.

NHC forecasters expect the system to continue strengthening into a category 4 hurricane later today, followed by rapid weakening after landfall.

Key NHC messages:

Life-threatening storm surge with large and dangerous waves is expected to produce potentially catastrophic damage from San Luis Pass, Texas, to the Mouth of the Mississippi River, including areas inside the Port Arthur Hurricane Flood Protection system.

This surge could penetrate up to 50 km (30 miles) inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Actions to protect life and property should be rushed to completion as water levels will begin to rise later today.

Hurricane-force winds are expected tonight in the warning area from San Luis Pass, Texas, to west of Morgan City, Louisiana, and the strongest winds associated with Laura’s eyewall will occur somewhere within this area. Hurricane-force winds and widespread damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday.

Widespread flash flooding along small streams, urban areas, and roadways is expected to begin this afternoon into Thursday from far eastern Texas, across Louisiana and Arkansas. This will also lead to minor to isolated moderate freshwater river flooding.

The heavy rainfall threat and localized flash and urban flooding potential will spread northeastward into the middle-Mississippi, lower Ohio and Tennessee Valleys Friday night and Saturday . . .

“Increasing shear is expected to slightly weaken the hurricane close to landfall, so the new forecast keeps the previous 195 km/h (120 mph) intensity near the coast.

Laura will weaken rapidly after landfall, but it will likely bring hurricane-force winds well inland over western Louisiana and eastern Texas. In the extended range, there is some chance that Laura re-intensifies as a tropical cyclone off the Mid-Atlantic coast, instead of becoming part of a frontal system, but for now the forecast will stay extratropical at 96 hours and beyond.”

“It should be mentioned Laura is now a large hurricane, and wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards will extend far from the center. Do not use the cone graphic for any representation of these hazards, it is just for the center uncertainty,” Blake said . . .

Storm surge and tropical-storm-force winds will arrive within the warning areas well in advance of Laura’s center later today. All preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion in the next few hours, NHC warns.

The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves. This storm surge could penetrate up to 50 km (30 miles) inland from the immediate coastline in southwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. For information specific to your area, please see products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast office.

Hurricane conditions are expected in the hurricane warning area tonight and Thursday, August 27. Tropical storm conditions are expected to reach the coast in the hurricane warning area late today or tonight, and are expected in the tropical storm warning area tonight and Thursday. Hurricane-force winds and damaging wind gusts are also expected to spread well inland into portions of eastern Texas and western Louisiana early Thursday (LT).

From this afternoon through Friday, Laura is expected to produce rainfall totals of 125 – 250 mm (5 to 10 inches), with isolated maximum amounts of 380 mm (15 inches) across portions of the northwestern Gulf Coast from western Louisiana to far eastern Texas, and northward into much of Arkansas.

Over the lower to middle Mississippi Valley from central Louisiana into western Tennessee and Kentucky and southeastern Missouri, 50 – 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) of rainfall with isolated totals of 150 mm (6 inches) are expected.

This rainfall will cause widespread flash and urban flooding, small streams to overflow their banks, and minor to isolated moderate river flooding.

By late Friday into Saturday, portions of the Tennessee and Ohio Valley could see 50 – 100 mm (2 to 4 inches) with locally higher amounts as tropical moisture from Laura moves through the region. This rainfall could lead to localized flash and urban flooding along small streams.

A few tornadoes are expected this evening through tonight over Louisiana, far southeast Texas, and southwestern Mississippi. The risk for a few tornadoes should continue into Thursday across Louisiana, Arkansas, and western Mississippi.

Swells produced by Laura are affecting the U.S. Gulf coast from the west coast of Florida to Louisiana and are expected to reach the coast of Texas and northeastern Mexico today. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Laura is the first major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico since Michael in 2018 and the first major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico during the month of August since Harvey in 2017, Dr. Philip Klotzbach notes.

“When Laura makes landfall in about 24 hours, it will be the record 7th named storm to hit the continental US (CONUS) before the end of August. The current record for CONUS named storm landfalls by the end of August is 6, set in 1886, 1916, and 2020.”

The average date of the first major hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean is September 4.

9 major hurricanes on record (since 1851) have tracked within 80 km (50 miles) of Laura’s current location. The most recent of these is Hurricane “Rita” in 2005.

Teo Blašković is a researcher, journalist and editor of The Watchers. You can reach him at teo [ at ]


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KPIX SF Bay Area: “Hurricane Laura Threatens To Devastate Parts Of Louisiana, Texas Gulf Coast”

Australia’s Climate Apocalypse: Wildfires Kill half a Billion Animals, produce Smoke Cloud as Big as United States Sun, 05 Jan 2020 05:03:11 +0000 By Teo Blašković | –

(The Watchers) – Bushfires in Australia have killed at least 22 people since August 2019 and destroyed more than 2 500 buildings, including over 1 400 homes. In addition, 28 people are still missing in the state of Victoria. Half a billion animals have been killed, including a third of the local koala population.

Strong, dry, northwesterly winds will cause ongoing fires to flare up yet again over the coming weekend, threatening communities that have already experienced widespread devastation./p>

The fires have so far burned estimated 5 900 000 hectares (15 000 000 acres / 59 000 km2 / 23 000 mi2).

“The fires in Australia are huge,” said Anti Lipponen, a physicist and research scientist at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. “Today, the area of the smoke from the bushfires is about 12 400 000 km² (4 800 000 mi2). That is larger than, for example, the USA, Canada, or China.”

Embed from Getty Images
A dehydrated and injured Koala receives treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie on November 2, 2019, after its rescue from a bushfire that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares. – Hundreds of koalas are feared to have burned to death in an out-of-control bushfire on Australia’s east coast, wildlife authorities said October 30. (Photo by SAEED KHAN / AFP) (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images).

Tens of thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate coastal areas in the states of Victoria and New South Wales on January 3, ahead of yet another weekend of extremely dangerous fire weather conditions to communities that have already experienced widespread devastation. According to Andrew Freedman of the Capital Weather Gang, the weather conditions over the next couple of days will be similar to what led to the bush fire crisis.

Temperatures across much of South Australia are expected to soar above 40 °C (104 °F) and gusty winds ahead of, and behind, an approaching cold front could generate areas of raised dust, BOM said today.

Fire dangers this weekend will reach extreme levels for many southern districts, and that includes the Mount Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island. Today’s fires on the Kangaroo Island were described as ‘virtually unstoppable’ and worst than expected. Rescuers evacuated two hundred people from a caravan park on the island after a fire broke through control lines.

Saturday, January 4 is shaping up to be another extremely dangerous day across Gippsland, northeast Victoria, and right along the southern coast and ranges of New South Wales, including the ACT.

Conditions are set to mirror, or even deteriorate beyond what those observed on New Year’s Eve as temperatures climb to 40 °C (104 °F) near the coast, and as high as 45°C (113 °F) inland.

Strong, dry, northwesterly winds will cause ongoing fires to flare up yet again, threatening communities that have already experienced widespread devastation.

Via The Watchers

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Australia wakes after night of bushfire devastation | Nine News Australia

“Get out Now!” Australia’s Climate-Driven Extreme Fire Danger forces 30,000 to Evacuate Mon, 30 Dec 2019 05:02:20 +0000 By Teo Blašković | –

(Via The Watchers ) – Authorities of the Australian state of Victoria have ordered more than 30 000 residents and tourists in East Gippsland to leave the region immediately as bushfires have reached an extreme danger level. Dangerous fire conditions are expected across the state today and tomorrow, BOM said, with very hot temperatures in the forecast followed by strong and gusty NW’ly winds expected to develop on Monday afternoon (LT), December 30. A severe weather warning has been issued.

The evacuation order was issued on Sunday, December 29, 2019, by Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.

“We are asking you to now leave East Gippsland from that area, east of Bairnsdale, along the coast there, into the parks, into the forest,” Crisp told reporters.

“You should not be there tomorrow, and we want you to get out now!”

There are 3 significant fires burning today in the forest in East Gippsland — near Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang. “It is likely that these fires will impact communities tomorrow when the weather is forecast to be very hot, dry and with strong gusty winds,” Vic Emergency said in today’s media release.

“Under these weather conditions the fires in East Gippsland will grow significantly in size and it is possible that they will burn from the forest towards the coast, potentially crossing the Princes Highway. If this happens the Princes Highway will be closed for some time. Tomorrow’s extreme fire and weather conditions also means there is a risk of new fire starts as a result of dry lightning. Any lightning strikes in dry, drought-affected forests have the potential to quickly become fires that threaten lives and homes.”

Prime Minister of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, repeated the warning on Twitter. “If you are in East Gippsland you should leave today while it’s safe to do so. Residents should activate their fire plan and consider staying with friends and family outside the area. If you are visiting, you should leave today. Please DO NOT travel to the area.”

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology warned residents of Victoria to prepare for a very hot day tomorrow (December 30), followed by late gusty wind change. “Most centers are expected to top 40 degrees (°C / 104 °F), with 43 (°C / 109.4 °F) in Melbourne. A late gusty wind change will bring much cooler air across Victoria to round out 2019.”

A severe weather warning has been issued ahead of a cold front and associated trough expected to cross Victoria on Monday afternoon and evening. Strong and gusty north to northwesterly winds will shift squally southwest to southerly following the change.

Damaging winds, averaging 60 to 70 km/h (37 – 43 mph) with peak gusts of 90 to 100 km/h (56 – 62 mph), are forecast to develop over southwest Victoria Monday morning, extending to the Central district around midday and reaching Alpine areas (above 1 200 m / 3 900 feet) in the east during the afternoon and evening.

Winds will ease around an hour after the cooler southwest to southerly change moves through.

Isolated thunderstorms over remaining districts, mainly with and following the change, also have the potential of producing wind gusts of 100 km/h (62 mph) which could lead to localized dust storms. Separate warnings will be issued for these thunderstorms as required.

Locations which may be affected include Hamilton, Warrnambool, Portland, Ballarat, Geelong, Mt Hotham and Falls Creek.

Featured image credit: NASA Terra/MODIS. Acquired on December 29, 2019

Via The Watchers

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Did Undersea Volcanoes Hasten Fall of Eastern Rome and Pave way for Rise of Islam? Sat, 28 Dec 2019 05:01:10 +0000 By Julie Celestial

( The Watchers) – Researchers presented underwater volcanism as a new interpretation of why the sky mysteriously went dark for over a year beginning 536 A.D., with some parts of Europe and Asia seeing the Sun for only about four hours a day and accounts saying the Sun gave no more light than the Moon for 18 months. The dimming led to catastrophic global cooling, famine, and civil upheavals in Medieval times.

“People thought it was the end of the world,” said Dallas Abbott who studies paleoclimate and extraterrestrial impacts at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

536 A.D. was also one of the worst periods to be alive, according to Harvard University medieval historian Michael McCormick, who is not part of the study.

“And it came about during this year that a most dread portent took place,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year.”

This period of darkness and cooling marked the beginning of a longer upheaval period as trees struggled to grow from 536 to 555 A.D., indicating that the dimming was extensive, and experts have no idea exactly why.

Abbott and her colleague John Barron from the US Geological Survey presented their analysis in a poster at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Their study of a Greenland ice core pointed to underwater eruptions that carried sediments and marine microorganisms into the atmosphere, which helped dim the sunlight.

Volcanic eruptions are known to spew sulfur and other particles into the atmosphere that can block out sunlight. However, geological records only showed big eruptions in 536 and 541 A.D., which are not sufficient in explaining the nine-year downward spike in tree growth.

Moreover, it would require a lot of sulfur and ash to darken the sky, and some of that material should be present in rock layers and ice cores.

However, “the amount of sulfate that was deposited wasn’t as much as in other eruptions where they experience a similar amount of dimming,” Abbott explained.

Number of fossils from tropical areas deposited in the Greenland ice during the 6th century (blue line). Sulfate levels in the ice core (black line). Image credit: Dallas Abbott/LDEO.

The researchers examined ice layers from an ice core named GISP2 that were laid down between 532 and 542 A.D and measured the chemistry of the meltwater. They also extracted microscopic fossils.

“We found by far the most low-latitude microfossils that anybody’s ever found in an ice core,” said Abbott.

The researchers were only able to identify one high-latitude species that were believed to be blown into the atmosphere by underwater volcanic eruptions near the equator.

These submarine eruptions around 536 and 538 A.D. would have vaporized seawater with the rising steam carrying calcium-laden sediments and microscopic sea creatures into the atmosphere.

Some of the particles would have eventually settled in the Arctic.

Equatorial volcanic eruptions can affect the entire planet. Once the white sediments and microorganisms were in the atmosphere, it would have been very good at reflecting sunlight back into space. These are also difficult to detect in sediment records.

There is a chance that space rocks hitting near the equator could have thrown the sediments and microfossils into the air, but the ice core chemistry and lack of cosmic dust in the layers make this less likely.

“If there were impact events, they would have to be relatively small.”

Abbott and her team said they would like to study another Greenland ice core next to see whether they can replicate the surprising findings.

A young blood with an old soul, Julie Celestial is fascinated with skies, stars, and every speck of dust in the universe. You can contact her at

Original Study

“New ice core evidence for a volcanic cause of the A.D. 536 dust veil” – Larsen et al. – Nature:


New and well‐dated evidence of sulphate deposits in Greenland and Antarctic ice cores indicate a substantial and extensive atmospheric acidic dust veil at A.D. 533–534 ± 2 years. This was likely produced by a large explosive, near equatorial volcanic eruption, causing widespread dimming and contributing to the abrupt cooling across much of the Northern Hemisphere known from historical records and tree‐ring data to have occurred in A.D. 536. Tree‐ring data suggest that this was the most severe and protracted short‐term cold episode across the Northern Hemisphere in the last two millennia, even surpassing the severity of the cold period following the Tambora eruption in 1815.

Featured Image: The mosaic of Emperor Justinian and his retinue, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy,Carole Raddato, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Actually we are implicated in the World’s 7th Mass Extinction of Life on Earth Wed, 25 Dec 2019 05:01:35 +0000 By Julie Celestial | –

(The Watchers) – The biodiversity crisis we experience today– defined by the rapid loss of species and rapid degradation of ecosystems– is believed to be the sixth mass extinction. However, some scientists say it should perhaps be called seventh, suggesting the inclusion of the End Guadalupian in the Big Five mass extinctions which are: the end-Ordovician, 444 million years ago, 86% of species lost; the Late Devonian, 375 million years ago, 75% of species lost; the end-Permian, 252 million years ago, 96% of species lost; the end-Triassic, 200 million years ago, 80% of species lost; and the end-Cretaceous, 66 million years ago, 76% of all species lost.​

The end-Permian was said to be the greatest extinction event of all time. At the period, the mass extinction from the end-Permian overshadowed another extinction eight million years earlier at the end of the Guadalupian epoch.

Over the last 30 years, though, geologists have been delving deeper into the end-Guadalupian, widely known as a distinct crisis.

Now, scientists are arguing that this ancient annihilation was huge enough to rank among the pantheon of previous apocalypses, and they suggest renaming the group of major extinction events as the Big Six.

There have been many setbacks in history, but by studying the biggest ones, experts can begin to unearth patterns and seek common causes.

Increasing evidence suggests that many global extinction events were linked with oxygen-depletion in the oceans, and the end-Guadalupian fits this.

“I think there’s a problem with hanging on to the number five,” said Richard Bambach, a marine palaeoecologist and professor emeritus of paleontology at Virginia Tech who was a reviewer on the landmark Sepkoski-Raup paper.

The end-Permian came much closer to wiping out the entire life on Earth when based on percentages. However, Bambach said the end-Guadalupian was also shockingly bad for biodiversity.

“If you actually look at the raw numbers, the loss of taxa in the Guadalupian is actually greater than it was in the Permian,” he emphasized.

The end of the Guadalupian epoch is marked by the Emeishan Traps in southwestern China– a monument to a lava flood that exploded in the ocean 260 million years ago.

The event spewed plumes of methane and carbon dioxide that devastated the climate, causing as much as 60% of marine species to die.

Flood basalts like the Emeishan Traps exist all over the planet, and they have been shown to line up with the Big Five.

“It’s a one-to-one correlation,” said Michael Rampino, a geologist at New York University. But geologists studying mass extinctions were not usually looking for flood basalts.

In the early 1980s, after Luis and Walter Alvarez theorized that a meteor impact wiped out the nonavian dinosaurs, teams of experts searched for evidence of meteor strikes that might explain the other mass extinctions.

Rampino, coming up empty-handed, tried to consider flood basalts, noting that the Deccan Traps in India had developed around the same period as the Chicxulub impact and the end-Cretaceous extinction.

In a similar manner, the End Permian was also marked by even bigger Siberian Traps.

“I went from being an impact man to a volcanism man.”

His research over the last 10 years has focused on correlating flood basalts with the other significant mass extinctions, as well as with periods of oxygen depletion and ocean acidification.

Investigating such correlations was fraught in the 1980s when technologies for dating fossils and rocks were less reliable compared to now.

In the past five years though, advanced radiometric dating methods have given increasingly accurate timestamps for geologic events.

Uranium-lead zircon dating has superseded the much less accurate argon-argon dating, and margins of error that used to span millions of years now span thousands, increasing the data resolution greatly.

With this, geologists can confidently say that the end-Guadalupian lava flood took place within a hundred thousand years– instantaneously in geologic terms– and that it coincided with the extinction crisis shown in the fossil record.

In a study, Rampino and co-author Shu-Zhong Shen of Nanjing University brought together the newest data on the Emeishan Traps and an examination of the ecological severity of the end-Guadapulian extinction to argue for its addition to the Big Six.

The team said ecosystem changes in the end-Guadalupian were dramatic– there was a widespread collapse in huge coral and sponge reefs, as well as other organisms that built shells out of calcium carbonate, which would have dissolved in the acidic water.

Giant mollusks with shells that looked like alien cruisers went extinct, and man other species nautilus-like cephalopods called ammonites also vanished forever.

Paleontologists said there is less knowledge about land casualties, but among them were a group of dinocephalians who were large, thick-skulled proto-mammals.

After the destruction, the dominant seedless ferns were supplanted by seed-bearing gymnosperms like conifers and ginkgoes.

New calculations also clarified the timing of the first and last appearances of species in the fossil record.

Researchers said due to poor dating, many species that had gone extinct in the Guadalupian were mistakenly correlated to the end-Permian, giving it an inflated extinction rate of 95% of marine species, when it was probably around 80%.

Bambach noted that he has some doubts about the study’s analysis of the ecological severity of the End Guadalupian.

Global sea levels reached their lowest during the Guadalupian and rose again after the die-off event– meaning, relatively few Guadalupian reefs are preserved in a rock where paleontologists can access them.

“Some of the disappearances of ecosystems may be simply the deterioration in the quality– or the amount– of the preserved record.”

One exception though is in China, where Shen has been dating marine fossils across the Permian era and refining the biological picture of the Guadalupian.

Still, Bambach agrees with Rampino and Shen that it’s time to include the End Guadalupian to the Big Five.

“It does rank right up there with the big ones.”


“The end-Guadalupian (259.8 Ma) biodiversity crisis: the sixth major mass extinction?” – Michael R. Rampino and Shu-Zhong Shen – Historical Biology -


    “The modern loss of species diversity has been labeled the ‘sixth extinction’ subsequent to the five major mass extinctions widely recognized in the Phanerozoic geologic record – the end-Ordovician (443.8 Ma), the Late Devonian (372.2 Ma), end-Permian (251.9 Ma), end-Triassic (201.4 Ma) and end-Cretaceous (66 Ma) events. Rankings in terms of numbers of genera suffering extinction, and especially in terms of ecological impact, however, put the end-Guadalupian (end-Capitanian) (259.8 Ma) extinction event in the same category with the other major mass extinctions. Thus, there were apparently six major Phanerozoic mass extinctions, and the current loss of species should perhaps be called the ‘seventh extinction’.”

Julie Celestial: A young blood with an old soul, Julie is fascinated with skies, stars, and every speck of dust in the universe. You can contact her at

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

France 24 English: “UN biodiversity report shows world is going through ‘sixth mass extinction'”