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Friday, June 30

129.2 Degrees Fahrenheit

"If that 129.2 degrees reading [in Ahvaz] is accurate, it would arguably tie the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth in modern times."

"In the Persian Gulf city of Jask, Iran, about 800 miles southeast of Ahvaz, the humidity was even more suffocating. The dew point on Wednesday morning hit 91.4 degrees. Dew points above 90 are quite rare."


On Thursday, June 29, the temperature reached 129.2 degrees (53.8C) in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran. The temperature was the hottest in Asia since global temperature recording began in the 1880s. It beat out the 128F temperature in Turbat, Pakistan recorded weeks earlier on May 28, which was among the regions that had set a new world record. Doyle Rice at USA Today reported in part yesterday:
[In Ahvaz] The heat index, which also takes humidity into account, hit an incredible 142 degrees.

Fortunately, the weather forecast for Ahvaz on Friday is for "cooler" weather, with a high of only 119 degrees, according to AccuWeather.
The following temperature map, put together by Etienne Kapikian, a meteorologist with the French national weather service, was published at Kapikian's Twitter page before temperatures in Iran reached their zenith yesterday according to Weather Underground readings. However, I'm posting the map to show the massive temperature spike in a particular region of Iran/Iraq. 

Why was that one region so much hotter than nearby ones? I don't know. The Washington Post report, below, only mentions that a heat dome had settled over the Middle East. Maybe significant differences in topography would explain it?

There were two other record-breaking weather events recorded in the Middle East in June -- lowest humidity and hottest overnight low temperature. See the Weather Underground report after the WaPo one.    


Iranian city soars to record 129 degrees: Near hottest on Earth in modern measurements
By Jason Samenow
June 29 at 3:07 PM
The Washington Post

[See website for graphic showing weather model analysis of Middle East yesterday]


A city in southwest Iran posted the country’s hottest temperature ever recorded Thursday afternoon, and may have tied the world record for the most extreme high temperature.
Etienne Kapikian, a forecaster at French meteorological agency MeteoFrance, posted to Twitter that the city of Ahvaz soared to “53.7°C” (128.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Kapikian said the temperature is a “new absolute national record of reliable Iranian heat” and that it was the hottest temperature ever recorded in June over mainland Asia. Iran’s previous hottest temperature was 127.4.
Weather Underground’s website indicates the temperature in Ahvaz climbed even higher, hitting 129.2 degrees at both 4:51 and 5 p.m. local time.
If that 129.2 degrees reading is accurate, it would arguably tie the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth in modern times.
Christopher Burt, a weather historian for Weather Underground, has exhaustively analyzed world temperature extremes and determined the 129.2 degree readings posted in Mitribah, Kuwait on July 21, 2016, and Death Valley, Calif., on June 30, 2013, are the hottest credible temperature measurements that exist in modern records.
[see WaPo website for WU printout of readings]

Officially, Death Valley set the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth on July 10, 1913, soaring to 134 degrees (57 Celsius). But Burt posted a devastating critique of that measurement in October 2016, concluding it was “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective,” and that the weather observer committed errors.
For the 129.2 degree-reading Ahvaz posted on Weather Underground to stand and match the highest modern global temperature, it will require review by the World Meteorological Organization.
The scorching temperature reading was brought about by a dome of heat centered over the Middle East.
The excessively hot air over Ahvaz, a city of 1.1 million people, felt even more stifling due to high humidity. As the temperature climbed into the high 120s, the dew point, a measure of humidity, peaked in the low 70s; a high level for the desert location (due to air flow from the Persian Gulf, to the south). The heat index — a measure of how hot it feels factoring in the humidity — exceeded 140 degrees. This combination of heat and humidity was so extreme that it was beyond levels the heat index was designed to compute.
In the Persian Gulf city of Jask, Iran, about 800 miles southeast of Ahvaz, the humidity was even more suffocating. The dew point on Wednesday morning hit 91.4 degrees. Dew points above 90 are quite rare. The highest dew point ever measured on Earth is 95 degrees (35 Celsius), set at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on July 8, 2003.
Thursday marked the second straight day of record heat in Ahvaz. On Wednesday, it hit 127.2 degrees (52.9 Celsius), breaking the record for Iran’s hottest June temperature, only to be exceeded the next day.
These Iranian temperature extremes come just a month after several locations in the Middle East recorded their hottest May temperatures during another exceptional heat wave.
On May 28, the western Pakistani town of Turbat hit 128.3 degrees (53.5 Celsius), tying the all-time highest temperature in that country and the world record temperature for May, according to Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters.
At the same time Masters reported that at the military base of Konarak in eastern Iran, the temperature reached 127 degrees, “destroying the record of the highest temperature ever recorded in May in Iran (50.5°C in Bostan in May 1999).”
All of these record-breaking temperatures in recent years, including Thursday’s reading in Ahvaz as well as those set in Kuwait and Death Valley in 2016 and 2013, represent temperature extremes consistent with what climate scientists expect to see in a warming world.
The National Academy of Sciences published a report in 2016 that said worsening heat waves are among the weather events that can be most easily connected to human-caused climate change.
study published in the journal Nature Climate Change in 2015 cautioned that by the end of the century, due to climate change, temperatures in the Middle East may become too hot for human survival.


Jason Samenow is the Washington Post’s weather editor and Capital Weather Gang's chief meteorologist. He earned a master's degree in atmospheric science, and spent 10 years as a climate change science analyst for the U.S. government. He holds the Digital Seal of Approval from the National Weather Association.

[END REPORT]

Additional record-breaking weather phenomena:

A World Record Low Humidity? 116°F With a 0.36% Humidity in Iran
By Dr. Jeff Masters 
June 22, 2017, 1:29 AM
Weather Underground

[...]

Above: A screen shot of the observations on June 20, 2017, from Safi-Abad Dezful, Iran, where the temperature hit 46.5°C with a -33.2°C dewpoint at 12 UTC, giving this city of 420,000 in western Iran a ridiculously low relative humidity of 0.36%. Image credit: OGIMET.

On Tuesday afternoon at 12 UTC on June 20, 2017, the temperature at Safi-Abad Dezful, Iran hit 115.7°F (46.5°C) with a -27.8°F (-33.2°C) dewpoint, giving this city of 420,000 in western Iran a ridiculously low relative humidity of 0.36%. At that level of atmospheric moisture, the temperature would have had to plunge 143°F (80°C) in order for the moisture to condense out and form ground-level clouds. If one were to cry in joy (or more likely) in despair at the heat, I doubt those tears would reach your lips!

I asked weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera about the reading, and he stated that he confirmed the validity of the reading with Iranian meteorologist Sabit Siddiqi. This was the lowest humidity in world recorded history that Herrera was aware of; the previous lowest humidity he knew of was in Las Vegas, Nevada: a 0.6% reading on June 27, 2011. 

He gave credit to Georgian climatologist Evgeny Gavrilov for calling his attention to the new Iranian low humidity event.

However, Steven D. Hilberg, Senior Climatologist for the U.S. Midwestern Climate Center, wrote me this morning to tell me that on May 4, 2014, Needles, California hit 102°F (38.9°C) with a -36°F (-38°C) dewpoint, which works out to a relative humidity of 0.33%. Given that we can't really measure humidity to a precision of hundreths of a percent, the two readings are pretty much tied for the lowest humidity record. If anyone finds a similar or lower value, please let me know!

Needles, California made another respectable run at the world record for lowest humidity at 12:56 pm PDT, on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, when the temperature hit 119°F (48°C) with a -11°F (-24°C ) dewpoint, for a relative humidity of 0.8%. The preliminary high temperature in Needles on Wednesday topped out at a relatively cool 122°F. The previous day, June 20, 2017, Needles tied their all-time hottest temperature on record: 125°F. We’ll have more on the record-smashing Southwest U.S. heat wave in a post later this week.
World record hottest overnight low temperature: 111°F in Oman on June 17

As we reported on Monday, it’s been a remarkable few weeks for heat in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, with three nations—Pakistan, Oman and the United Arab Emirates—setting their all-time hottest temperature records between May 28 and June 16, 2017. 

To add to the list of extraordinary recent heat events there, we now have a world record for hottest overnight low temperature: a minimum temperature of 111.6°F (44.2°C) recorded on the morning of June 17, 2017 at Khasab, Oman, located on the Persian Gulf. 

According to Herrera, the incredible overnight heat was made possible by a strong foehn wind that was blowing downslope from a mountain that Khasab sits at the base of. Descending winds heat up the air by compression as it is forced downward, and many all-time record warm temperatures are set during foehn events.


[...]

Dr. Jeff Masters co-founded Weather Underground in 1995, and flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

********

Monday, June 26

Halfway through the year we have already set new heat records in Middle East, USA

"The heatwave in May that covered northern India, central Pakistan and eastern Iran created a new world record."

Summary of the Great Southwest U.S. Heat Wave of 2017
Dr. Jeff Masters
June 24, 2017, 1:10 AM
Weather Underground

The great Southwest U.S. heat wave of 2017 is gradually diminishing, but it has left behind hundreds of smashed heat records, including at least four all-time hottest temperature marks for major stations. According to wunderground weather historian Christopher C. Burt, this week’s event has been the most intense heat wave yet recorded to affect the Southwest so early in the summer, coming about a week earlier than the previous great June heat waves that have affected the Southwest, like those of 2013, 1990 and 1994.
[...]
The multi-day nature of this heat wave has been adding to it's dangerous nature: prolonged heat waves are especially hazardous because there is less chance for people to cool down by night, thus increasing the stress on those who do not have access to air conditioning.
[...]
This week's heat wave brought high levels of ground-level ozone pollution to the affected region. Ground level ozone, which is created from chemical reactions between volatile organic carbon (VOC) compounds and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight, is created more readily at warmer temperatures. The heat wave’s record heat helped these chemical reactions occur faster, resulting in ozone pollution that topped out in the “Unhealthy” range in the valleys of California.
[...]
****
June 26, 2017
Al  Jazeera 

Figures verified by Maximiliano Herrera
With thanks to Jeff Masters et al at Weather Underground

At the current rate of progress, 2017 will turn out to be the second hottest year since 1880, when the recording of global temperatures started.

2016 was boosted a little by El Nino which would make it even more remarkable were 2017 even to be ranked second because El Nino has gone for now.

So far this year world records have been broken in both high temperature and low humidity.

The heatwave in May that covered northern India, central Pakistan and eastern Iran created a new world record. Turbat in Pakistan recorded 53.5C on May 28, the new highest May temperature in the 137 year continuous list. It was also the highest temperature recorded for any month, in Pakistan.

Then, on June 20 in Death Valley, California, the thermometer read 52.5C, making it the highest temperature measured in the Western Hemisphere, so early in the year.

Hot days are more bearable if the nights are significantly cooler. Indeed that differential is often what determines the existence of a deadly 'heatwave'. Temperatures this high are rarely accompanied by cool enough nights and on June 17, Khasab in Oman set another world record: 44.2C became the highest night minimum temperature on record.

From a human point of view, such hot weather is only survivable if the humidity of the air is low enough for the body to cool by evaporation of sweat. Luckily for us, this always the case on this planet, in normal circumstances. Sometimes the humidity is extraordinarily low as it was this month in Iran and the desert US.

Safi-Abad Dezful in Iran measured less than 0.4 percent relative humidity on June 27 with a temperature of 46.5C. This effectively ties with Needles, California for the lowest known relative humidity reading on earth. The California reading was made in May 2014 but on June 20 this year Needles was as dry as 0.8 percent.

For readers in the Middle East, when the temperature is in the middle 40s during the summer, the typical RH is around about 10 percent. That is why it is possible to be outside even though that heat is above body temperature. Perspiration works to keep us cool enough in those conditions. This is often called 'dry heat'.

Relative humidity, RH, is the measure of how much water vapour is in the air compared with how much would be needed to saturate that air and form fog.

Hot air can carry more water vapour than cold air so using relative rather than absolute humidity allows a comparable figure at any temperature.
[END REPORT]
*********

Saturday, June 24

Europeans catch U.S. lawmakers with their hands in cookie jar

The situation has been building for a long time; it finally started to come to a head less than two weeks ago, when the U.S. Senate imposed additional sanctions against Russia in an amendment to a bill to impose sanctions on Iran. The new sanctions against Russia would hurt German and other European energy companies. The reaction from German and Austrian politicians was the strongest against the United States I've heard in my lifetime. Although the White House is trying to get the sanctions in the bill watered down, this hasn't mollified the Europeans.    

The Final Straw: Germany Mulling Over Sanctions -- This Time Against the US
June 24, 2017 - 12:32
Sputnik

[...]

In a joint statement, Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern slammed the decision by the US Senate to impose new sanctions on Moscow over its alleged interference in the US presidential election as well as the ongoing situations in Ukraine and Syria.
"Threatening German, Austrian and other European enterprises with penalties on the US market only because they take part in the gas supply projects such as the Nord Stream 2 together with Russia or finance them, is adding an absolutely new and highly negative aspect in relations between the US and Europe," the joint statement reads.
For his part, the leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, lambasted US senators' move and called upon German Chancellor Angela Merkel to oppose it.
"We have seen that the US is pursuing a course in energy policy that is dangerous and is directed against Germany," Schulz told the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI).
[...]
***
Lots more in the report.

********



Daylight gonna catch me up again

Around 1974-1975 a young aspiring songwriter named Harold Payne met Bobby Womack and together they created the song "Daylight." Released in 1975 with background vocals by the Pointer Sisters, the song became a hit and a perennial anthem for night people.

Harold Payne once recounted the story of how the song was created:
After receiving a call from [his brother] Larry Payne, Harold Payne flew from Los Angeles to San Francisco and met with Bobby Womack at the Wally Heider Recording Studios, where after hashing over musical ideas with Harold, Bobby devised a rhythm track. Harold then completed the lyric for "Daylight" at his home in Los Angeles, which he described as "a notorious party house."  
"The lyric took on the story of what went on at the house and it meshed well with what Bobby had in mind."
[Wikipedia] 
Thus launched a musical collaboration that spanned 37 years, right up until Bobby Womack's last album, in 2012.  He died in 2014, at the age of 70. 

"Daylight" Lyrics 
        
Well, look like I'm goin' again
I can't seem to believe myself
Here I go again, here I go again, here I go again
Listen to me now

It's five o'clock AM but the party is still going strong
There's a conversation over in the corner
Big cats all on the lawn *
And the FM music is groovin'
Folks getting down, getting down in their stocking feet
Sleepy eyes are peeping from the window across the street

And it looks like daylight gonna catch me up again
Most people are getting up when I'm just getting in
Oh it's the only only time, it seems to be the only time
That I can unwind

Swore to myself time and time and time again
That I would give up the nightlife, start layin' in
But it ain't easy, no no, sayin' no to my friends
‘Cause the real, cause the real set don't get started **
Till everyone else is in

And it looks like daylight gonna catch me up again
Most people are getting up when I'm just getting in
It's the only only only time when I can unwind
Daylight, daylight gonna catch me up again ...
- - - 

* Every website I've looked at that publishes the lyrics to the song has the lyric as, "Big Ed all on the lawn." So one website must have copied from another without anyone actually listening to the lyric. It's very clearly "Big cats all on the lawn." The big cats in this context are the professional musicians relaxing after a hard night's work at a club or recording session.

** The word "set" refers to a musical number or group of numbers. The "real" set, within the context of the rest of the lyrics, refers to the musical numbers played by musicians who gather to 'jam' -- improvise music together. These jams often happen in the wee hours, when professional musicians ("big cats") have finished their performances for pay and gather somewhere to exchange musical ideas and improvise. 

"The real set don't get started till everyone else is in;" i.e., not until all the professional musicians have arrived to jam.  


********

Friday, June 23

739,000+ Somalis displaced by drought since 11/16; 6.2m now food 'insecure'

This report isn't only about drought and displacement of human populations, it's also about the ongoing destruction of pastoralism, as huge numbers of livestock die from starvation and lack of water. 

There's a helpful interactive map accompanying the article below at the News Deeply website, which shows region-by-region "displacement flows" and "food insecurity" and its level of severity. A lot of information at a glance. 

Now is it possible for pastoralists to beat the devil by staying in place -- giving up, at least for a time, their nomadic way of life -- and growing their own grass for their livestock? It's being tried in Kenya. See this U.S. News & World Report article, which I'll also be featuring in a separate post.  
Amid Drought, Somali Pastoralists Watch Their ‘Sources of Life’ Perish
June 20, 2017
News Deeply/Refugees Deeply

With 17 million people crippled by drought in the Horn of Africa, Samuel Hall researchers and photographer Ashley Hamer explain the realities of climate-induced displacement in Somalia on World Refugee Day.

PUNTLAND, SOMALIA – “Our world of plenty today faces an unprecedented four famines,” anti-poverty group Oxfam said in late May, as the leaders met for the G7 summit in Sicily, which is once again the gateway for most refugees to Europe.

Along with northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, Somalia is faced with a particularly dire situation, which highlights the growing nexus between climate change and displacement.

Somalia has consistently produced one of the largest refugee and internally displaced populations in the world, due to a combination of conflict, environmental degradation, drought and famine.

With over half of the country’s population experiencing food and water shortages, the Somali president declared the ongoing humanitarian crisis a “national disaster” in February.
Displaced by Drought

In April this year, while traveling through the Dangoroyo district in Eastern Puntland, an autonomous region in Somalia, our research team at Samuel Hall met Ahmed*, a pastoralist, though this job description barely applies to him these days.

Having been a herdsman all his life, Ahmed, who knows no other means of making a living, lost 90 percent of his 150 animals as a consequence of the current drought in the Horn of Africa.

“The drought forced me to move from the place where I lived and herded my livestock … just look at the scale of devastation and deprivation,” said Ahmed, who is the head of his household. “We are up against one of the worst situations I have witnessed or even heard of.”

The result of three years of failed rains, the current drought, deemed the worst to hit the region in decades, forcibly displaced Ahmed to a nearby village where he is barely surviving.

The scenes of helplessness among pastoralist families as they watch their sources of sustenance waste away reveal extraordinary suffering. In a country where livestock is the largest contributor of livelihoods that engages at least 65 percent of the population, the perishing of 80 percent of animals in the country has brought devastation.

Some people have lost every single animal, and there are reports of suicide among hopeless herders. The rapidly deteriorating situation is reminiscent of the 2011 drought in Somalia, which resulted in a famine that claimed 260,000 lives.

[...]

****
There's lots more in the report, and lots more reports about the refugee/migration crisis, at News Deeply  

********

Ethiopia: "Starvation looms as food runs out in drought"

by Chris Stein
June 22, 2017
Phys.Org

The Somali people of Ethiopia's southeast have a name for the drought that has killed livestock, dried up wells and forced hundreds of thousands into camps: sima, which means "equalised".

It's an appropriate name, they say, because this drought has left no person untouched, spared no corner of their arid region. And it has forced 7.8 million people across the whole of Ethiopia to rely on emergency food handouts to stay alive.

But by next month, that food will have run out, aid agencies say.

Droughts are common in Ethiopia, and in past years the government and international community have mounted impressive efforts to curb starvation.

This year though, Africa's second most-populous country is struggling to find the money for food aid, say aid agencies.

"We're looking at the food pipeline actually breaking, so the food is running out in about a month's time," said John Graham, country director for Save the Children. "After that, we don't know what's going to happen."

Distracted donors

Once a global byword for starvation and poverty after a famine in 1984-85 killed hundreds of thousands, Ethiopia has seen its economy grow rapidly in the last decade. Health indicators such as infant mortality and malaria deaths have also improved.

stronger economy allowed Ethiopia to spend an impressive $766 million (683 million euros) fighting one of its worst droughts in decades in 2015-16.

This year however, things are different.

Economic growth has slowed, due in part to protests spurred by long-simmering grievances against Ethiopia's one-party state.

Donors have also been distracted by other regional crises.

To the southeast, Somalia is suffering from severe drought, with warnings it could tip into famine.

Ethiopia's western neighbour, South Sudan, has suffered four months of famine, and extreme hunger is at its highest levels ever after more than three years of civil war.

Ethiopia by contrast has a strong central government and is relatively free from conflict.

But with the situation so desperate in the region, donors aren't responding to the country's emergency as they have in the past, said Mitiku Kassa, head of Ethiopia's National Disaster Risk Management Commission, Mitiku Kassa.

"They are stressed with the needs, especially from those countries which (have) declared famine," Mitiku said. "That is why it is underfunded."

'Skipping meals is common'

Even though Ethiopia has contributed $117 million of its own money this year and the international community $302 million, a funding gap of $481 million remains, according to the United Nations.

In the drought ravaged town of Warder, the hundreds of displaced families crowding a ramshackle camp say handouts of rice and sugar are becoming less frequent.

"Skipping meals is common," said Halimo Halim, a grandmother living with her children in a shelter made of sticks and pieces of plastic. "Skipping is the order of the day."

Families of nomadic herders such as Halimo's are central to the economy of Ethiopia's southeastern Somali region.

The drought has deprived goats, sheep and donkeys of water, killing them or making them so weak that by the time the rains come they perish in the cold.

Around 465,000 people who have lost their livestock have migrated to an estimated 250 camps in the region.

The settlements are often located near water sources, but that presents its own problems.

In Warder, workers are present around the clock at nearby wells to make sure people drawing water chlorinate it before they drink it, lest they contract "acute watery diarrhoea", which has broken out in the region.

Some aid workers say this is actually cholera, which Ethiopia has long been accused of covering up to protect its image.

Paying the bill

Aid agencies have turned to so-called "non-traditional" donors like the Gulf countries for funding.

At the same time they are keeping a nervous eye on budget negotiations in top funder the United States, where President Donald Trump has proposed slashing the aid budget.

But some humanitarians privately complain that the Ethiopian government isn't doing enough to call attention to its plight.

They argue that Addis Ababa does not want to distract from its development gains or resurrect the old image of Ethiopia as a place of mass starvation.

"There is no shortage of funds to combat drought," communications minister Negeri Lencho insisted earlier this month.

If the international community doesn't send more money, Mitiku said the government would be "forced" to tap its development budget for drought relief in July.

But with a lead time of about four months required to procure emergency food, the UN says that may be too late.

In Warder, those uprooted by drought, like Sanara Ahmed, are wondering how long they can survive on unreliable food handouts.

"Some support was there, but it cannot substitute for our dependability on our livelihood," Sanara said.

Thursday, June 22

"Champs Elysees attacker had been in Turkey and had huge arsenal of weapons: official"

Reuters
June 22, 2017 - 10:27am EDT

The man behind this week's attempted attack in Paris's Champs Elysees avenue had been to Turkey several times in 2016 where authorities questioned him over large amounts of gold and jewelry in his possession, and he had a huge arsenal of weapons, said the Paris prosecutor.

Paris public prosecutor Francois Molins added at a news conference on Thursday that the attacker - whom he named as French national "Adam D" - had also wanted to go to Syria and had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On June 19, the individual had rammed a car carrying weapons and explosives into a police van as it drove in a convoy down Paris's Champs Elysees, and subsequently died.

"The arsenal of weapons discovered in the vehicle highlights the scale of the terrorist act that was being prepared, which - if it had succeeded - would have had terrible consequences [for] human life," said Molins.

Molins said authorities had not yet identified the nature of orange smoke coming out of the car after the attack. In his car were an assault rifle, two pistols, ammunition and two large gas canisters, authorities had previously said.

Adam D was married to a Tunisian and had two children, added Molins.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Michel Rose)

[END REPORT]

Estimated 600 high-rises in England have flammable cladding. Grenfell Tower disaster fallout continues

Also from The Guardian:
Grenfell Tower: 16 council inspections failed to stop use of flammable cladding
Exclusive: Officials tasked with enforcing strict fire regulations didn’t prevent use of material effectively banned on tall buildings

Rehousing of Grenfell Tower families in luxury block receives mixed response
While some residents welcome the families to Kensington Row others are less positive with concerns over future property prices

Six hundred high-rises in England thought to have flammable cladding
By Peter Walker and Robert Booth
22 June 2017 - 5:30am EDT, updated 07.09am
Thee Guardian

Councils in England estimate that about 600 high-rise buildings have similar flammable exterior cladding to that used on Grenfell Tower.

The estimate, revealed by Downing Street, came as Theresa May told parliament that urgent tests were taking place around the country to see how many tower blocks might be at risk following the devastating fire in west London.

Making a statement to the Commons about the fire last week in which at least 79 people died, the prime minister said initial test results had shown other blocks had seemingly used flammable cladding.

Speaking after May’s statement, a No 10 spokeswoman said that after councils were told to provide the government with details of cladding, a “small number” of samples were tested, and three of these were found to be combustible.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was coordinating the process and facilities to allow for 100 samples a day to be tested, the spokeswoman said.

“So far, three samples have been found to be combustible,” she said. “In terms of how many buildings and how many homes have this type of cladding, the estimate provided to us by councils is that there are approximately 600 high-rise buildings with similar cladding.

“We are in touch with all the local authorities to encourage them to urgently send us the samples and then we will carry out the checks that we need to see where we are with that.”

In blocks where the cladding was found to be combustible further tests would be done to ensure the building was safe and residents could be rehoused.

“Obviously nobody will be living in buildings that are unsafe. They will be rehoused if they need to be and landlords will be asked to provide alternative accommodation where that’s possible,” the spokeswoman said.

The Guardian has learned that the London borough of Camden will immediately remove cladding from five tower blocks because it is similar to that which burned rapidly on Grenfell Tower.

Following independent testing of cladding on the Chalcots estate by the Building Research Establishment, the council leader, Georgia Gould, revealed the outer cladding panels on the blocks were made up of aluminium panels with a polyethylene core.

“The panels that were fitted were not to the standard that we had commissioned,” said Gould. “In light of this, we will be informing the contractor that we will be taking urgent legal advice.”

She said: “Camden council has decided it will immediately begin preparing to remove these external cladding panels from the five tower blocks on the Chalcots estate. Camden council will do whatever it takes to ensure our residents are reassured about the safety of their homes.”

Speaking in the Commons, May had said that some people might need to be moved. She said: “We cannot and will not allow people to live in unsafe homes.”

Answering questions from MPs after the statement, May said she could not yet say whether the cladding used on Grenfell Tower complied with relevant fire and building regulations, in part because of possible criminal charges.

May said the fire service and the Building Research Establishment were looking into the matter of the cladding’s compliance.

“They have been looking at the cause of the fire and any contributory factors to the fire. They are testing the cladding on the building and they expect to make the results of this public, I think in the next 48 hours,” she said.

Pressed on whether she could say the Grenfell Tower cladding met fire regulations, she said: “This is part of the criminal investigation.”

One tower currently being tested as part of the nationwide checks is Clements Court, a 13-storey block of 78 flats in Hounslow, west London.

“We are still going through the testing,” a spokeswoman for Hounslow council said. “We haven’t been told how long it takes for the results. We are monitoring on a daily basis.” The tests were being carried out with the support of the DCLG, she said.

Describing the fire as “one of the most unimaginable tragedies our country has seen in many years”, May said it was correct that the chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, Nicholas Holgate, had resigned, because the authority had not coped with the fire aftermath.

In his response, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, asked why the council’s political leaders were not “taking responsibility for this terrible event”.

Corbyn said the government must do more to assist “overstretched and understaffed” fire services, and asked whether cuts to councils meant many did not have the staff to carry out proper fire checks.

“From Hillsborough, to the child sex abuse scandal, to Grenfell Tower, the pattern is consistent: working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power,” he said.

“The Grenfell Tower residents and north Kensington community deserve answers, and thousands and thousands of people living in tower blocks around the country need very urgent reassurance.”

Harriet Harman, in whose south London constituency six people died in 2009 in the Lakanal House apartment block, said May should accept ministers did not act on the recommendations of the resulting inquest.

Harman said of the Grenfell Tower fire: “She said that it was an unimaginable tragedy and that those deaths should not have happened. They would not have happened if the government had acted on the Lakanal coroner’s inquest rulings.”

May concluded her statement with an impassioned pledge to pay more attention to the needs of poorer people in social housing.

“As we move forwards, we must recognise that for too long in this country, under governments of both colours, we simply haven’t given enough attention to social housing. And this itself is a symptom of a more fundamental issue,” she said.

“It shouldn’t take a disaster of this kind for us to remember that there are people in Britain today living lives that are so far removed from those that many here in Westminster enjoy.

“In this tower, just a few miles from the Houses of Parliament in the heart of our great city, people live a fundamentally different life, do not feel the state works for them and are therefore mistrustful of it.

“So, long after the TV cameras have gone and the world has moved on, let the legacy of this awful tragedy be that we resolve never to forget these people and instead gear our policies and our thinking towards making their lives better and bringing them into the political process.”
[END REPORT]

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Wednesday, June 21

Where do we go from here?



"Bring down the government" - Day of Rage over Grenfell Tower issues


Inadvertently funny headline from RT: 

‘Day of Rage’ protesters target Queen’s Speech to ‘bring down the government’

Happily we learn from the report that the Queen didn't speak about bringing down the government.


"Get your skates on." More hilarity, this time deliberate,  about the Queen's impatience to get through the speech quickly so she can attend the Ascot races. And her consort is in the hospital. So, there was no shilly-shallying about today in Parliament. Plus the Beeb has a good analysis of the speech.

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Historic heat wave in Asia, Middle East, Europe now hits US southwest

The last week of May 2017 and first week of June brought one the most extraordinary heatwaves in world history to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

**
The oven is fueled by a persistent dome of high pressure parked over the western United States, the National Weather Service said. The system is expected to remain there at least through the weekend, with any cooling later this week expected to be "almost unnoticeable" ...

In conditions like that, everyday objects can become branding irons — "hot enough so that anybody touching something can get a second-degree burn in less than a second" ...

Paw protectors against the blazing-hot sidewalks in Tempe

Photo: Angie Wang for AP (via NBC News report below)

Here I'm featuring reports on both record-shattering heat waves:  

Can’t Take the Heat? Stay Out of the West
by ALEX JOHNSON, MIGUEL ALMAGUER and STEVEN LOUIE

June 20, 2017 - 9:06pm EDT
NBC News

LOS ANGELES — The heat smothering the western United States has become so extreme that the National Weather Service warned Tuesday of a major potential for heat-related illnesses "and even death."

Sidewalks and roadways buckled in Northern California, the water was too hot for horses to drink in Southern California and more than 40 flights were canceled in Phoenix as temperatures approached 120 degrees in parts of Arizona, California and Nevada.

Excessive heat warnings and advisories stretched the length of California, across all of Arizona, north into Utah and Nevada and east into New Mexico on Tuesday.

"We are talking really hot temperatures," said Domenica Davis, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel. "This is actually the peak of the heat that we're seeing in the desert Southwest, where we're talking all-time record highs that can be broken."

Records were smashed across Arizona. The high of 120 degrees in Yuma broke the previous record by 4 degrees. Highs of 119 in Phoenix and 116 in Tucson also set new marks, according to the National Weather Service.

Extreme temperatures in the Sacramento, California, area, where the high hit 105 on Tuesday and was expected to reach 108 on Wednesday, expanded moisture in the soil after an unusually wet winter, causing sidewalks and parts of U.S. Route 50 to break apart and sink.

The state Transportation Department said it had responded three times since Sunday to repair cracked pavement on Route 50, shutting down parts of the heavily traveled road for several hours at least twice.

We're having high temperatures and we're not even in summer yet," Gilbert Montessori-Chan, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, told NBC affiliate KCRA. "We don't know what Mother Nature will bring."

In Indio, in Southern California near Joshua Tree National Park, the water is so hot that some of the horses at Coachella Valley Horse Rescue can't drink it. Indio reached 118 degrees on Tuesday, breaking a record that had stood for 87 years.

Annette Garcia, the shelter's rescue director, told NBC station KMIR of Palm Springs that staffers have to go stall by stall dropping blocks of ice in the horses' drinking water.

[...]

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, more than 40 regional departures were canceled Tuesday. Bret Jensen, a spokesman for Boeing Co., told CNBC that the problem isn't with the airplanes themselves, it's with the air, which becomes too thin to provide lift for smaller jets.

The oven is fueled by a persistent dome of high pressure parked over the western United States, the National Weather Service said. The system is expected to remain there at least through the weekend, with any cooling later this week expected to be "almost unnoticeable," it said, warning of a "major potential for heat-related illness and even death" in the days to come.

In conditions like that, everyday objects can become branding irons — "hot enough so that anybody touching something can get a second-degree burn in less than a second," said Dr. Kevin Foster, director of the Arizona Burn Center at Maricopa Integrated Health System in Phoenix.

"Touching the silver handle to a car door or sitting down into black upholstery in a car or even touching the steering wheel in a car can cause burns," Foster told NBC News.

And if you want to use your garden hose to cool off? Think twice, Foster said.

"The hose itself can be very hot," he said. "And the water coming out of the hose can be close to boiling."

Alex Johnson reported from Los Angeles. Miguel Almaguer and Steven Louis reported from Phoenix

[END NBC REPORT]

Historic Heat Wave Sweeps Asia, the Middle East and Europe
Dr. Jeff Masters
June 6, 2017, 4:04 PM EDT
Weather Underground

The last week of May 2017 and first week of June brought one the most extraordinary heatwaves in world history to Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The mercury shot up to an astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) at Turbat, Pakistan on May 28, making it Earth’s hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of May—and one of Earth’s top-five hottest reliably-measured temperatures on record, for any month. Both Pakistan and Oman tied their all-time national heat records for any month during the heat wave, and all-time national heat records for the month of May were set in Iran, Norway and Austria. International weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera details the great heat wave in this guest post.

Middle East and Southwest Asia heat wave

During the last week of May, an impressive dome of overheated air with an isotherm of 35°C (95°F) at 850 hpa (approximately 5,000 feet) extended across the Strait of Hormuz near southern Iran and southwestern Pakistan. In places where this air was being forced downward, the extreme heat allowed for strong compressional warming that produced exceptional surface temperatures.
On May 28, after a minimum temperature of 34.5°C (94°F), the high temperature in the Western Pakistani town of Turbat reached 53.5°C (128.3°F) in mid-afternoon. This tied the all-time highest temperature ever recorded in Pakistan, and the world record of highest temperature for May--both set in Moen Jo Daro on May 26, 2010 (not May 27 as wrongly reported in some media.)
There is a controversy about the correct maximum temperature in Turbat, though. It was reported by the Pakistan Meteorological Department as 53.5°C (the precision of the thermometer is 0.5°C, like in most Pakistani stations), but the temperature was later rounded to 54.0°C (129.2°F.) If that is correct, it would tie the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in the planet, the 54.0°C reading set on July 21, 2016 in Mitribah, Kuwait. 
Regardless, the 53.5°C reading at Turbat on May 28, 2017, ranks as one of Earth’s top five hottest reliably-measured temperatures on record; see Wunderground weather historian Chris Burt’s July 22, 2016 post, Hottest Reliably Measured Air Temperatures on Earth, for more information. The World Meteorological Organization, which is currently checking the reliability of the Mitribah thermometer, will also carry out an investigation on the reliability of the Turbat reading--and to find out whether this rounding from 53.5°C to 54.0°C makes sense.
In nearby eastern Iran, the temperatures peaked at 52.8°C (127°F) at the military base of Konarak, and 52.6°C (126.7°F ) in the village of Renk, destroying the record of the highest temperature ever recorded in May in Iran (50.5°C in Bostan in May 1999), and approaching the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Iran, 53°C.
In the following days, the intense heat moved down to Oman, where nearly half of the stations set their all-time highest temperatures. The most important of these records were the 50.8°C (123.4°Frecorded on May 30 at Qurayyat and on May 31 at Joba. These readings tie the national record of highest temperature ever recorded in Oman (previously set at Buraimi in July 1990 and at Sohar Majis in May 2009.)
In Saudi Arabia, after a wind shift, an exceptional value of 48°C (118.4°Fwas recorded in the port of Wejh (Al Wahj), tying the highest temperature ever recorded in the Northwestern coast of Saudi Arabia (facing the Red Sea); the same value was recorded in June 1978.

In the United Arab Emirates, the difference of temperature between the atmosphere and the sea, together with the intense sea breeze, caused impressive differences in weather. Coastal areas were affected by thick fog, and even mist, but temperatures were very high on the mountain peaks. At one point, the temperature of the weather station on the Burj Al Khalifa Building in Dubai (625 meters above sea level) was 15°C (27°F) higher than that of coastal Dubai.
[See website for Figure 1]

European heat wave

A dome of high pressure from Morocco extended over Western Europe beginning on May 24, then moved north and then east. As a result, monthly records of highest temperatures were widespread in Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Germany and Austria. Very high temperatures were also set in the Alps, with an amazing 5.8°C (42.4°F) on May 27 on the top of Italy’s Col Major (elevation 4750 meters or 15,584 feet), just at the side of Mount Blanc. In particular, two national records for the month of May were broken: in Norway with 32.2°C (90°F) at Tinnsjø on May 27, and in Austria with 35.0°C (95°F) at Horn on May 31.

Vietnamese heat wave

An intense heat wave caused by downslope winds from the Laotian mountains towards the Vietnamese coast affected the area around Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi in early June, particularly between June 2 - 4. The central observatory of Lang on June 4 recorded 41.5°C (106.7°F), destroying its previous all-time record of 40.4°C, set in 1971. On June 4, the district of Ha Dong (which hosts an international weather station representative of Hanoi) recorded 42.5°C (108.5°F), by far the highest temperature ever recorded in the Hanoi area. (During the colonial times, unusually high values were recorded with stations affected by overexposure conditions, including the infamous record of 42.8°C in May 1926, which is believed to be unreliable--just like similar values recorded in Indochina in those years.) In the central area of Hanoi, near Hoan Kiem Lake, the humidity is usually higher than its surroundings, and the combination of temperatures as high as 41°C (105.8°F) with humidity values near 50% made the heat index an unbearable 55°C (131°F).

[END REPORT]
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Saudi King appoints son Mohammad Bin Salman as New Crown Prince: UPDATED

UPDATE
A Reuters report published at 1:25am EDT today has an analysis of the elevation of MbS to Crown Prince, although more extensive analyses are sure to follow within the next few hours. While not entirely unexpected, the suddenness of the change, and at this very delicate juncture (given the Qatar situation), and the fact that MbN, the now-former Crown Prince, has been relieved of all his duties suggests a big shakeout in the kingdom -- and while Reuters doesn't say this, perhaps in the military as well.  

As to whether MbN and his faction were against the kingdom laying sanctions on Qatar -- I don't know, but if so that might explain the timing of the shakeout.

Keep in mind the shakeout is happening against the backdrop of the continuing slide in the price of oil.  

From the Reuters report:
...[MbS] has assumed a startling array of powers [even before he was elevated to Crown Prince].
He is Defence Minister, a role that in Saudi Arabia gives its incumbent command of one of the world's biggest arms budgets and makes him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia's unprecedented military adventure in Yemen.
He also heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), a group of cabinet ministers who meet weekly and which oversees all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education, health and housing.
Prince Mohammed chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.

But perhaps most importantly, he also holds the critical position of gatekeeper to his father, King Salman, who in Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy retains the final say in any major decision of state.
[...] 
END UPDATE

Sputnik
06:44 - 21.06.2017 (updated 07:07)

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has fired crown prince Muhammad Bin Nayef, replacing him with own son Mohammad Bin Salman, according to the king's decree.

Mohammad Bin Salman, 31, the deputy crown prince and Saudi Arabia's defense minister, was named the new crown prince instead of Muhammad Bin Nayef.
The Al-Arabiya broadcaster reported that Muhammad Bin Nayef has also lost the post of the interior minister. The post was filled with Prince Abdelaziz bin Saud bin Nayeff, according to media reports.
The news comes amid the ongoing standoff between a number of Gulf states and Qatar. On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing the latter of supporting terrorist organizations and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East.
Yemen, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mauritania and the eastern-based government in divided Libya also announced a break in relations with Doha, while Jordan and Djibouti said they would lower the level of diplomatic contacts with Qatar. Senegal, Chad  and Niger recalled their ambassadors from Doha.
MORE TO FOLLOW
[END REPORT]
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