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Archive for October, 2009

Could Sydney, Australia Be Buried by Dust Storms

Posted by edro on October 19, 2009

How Large Is Your Dust Storm?

On September 23, 2009 our colleagues at FEWW posted the following on their blog:

FEWW entry summarized a phenomenal dust storm which had started a day earlier ( September 22),  sweeping across Australia’s eastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (Qld), reaching Sydney, the country’s largest city, and Brisbane.

The dust plume measured about 500 kilometres wide and at least 1,000 km long, covering dozens of communities, towns and cities in both states.

Recently, they posted details of another dust storm

They have now asked EDRO Moderators the following questions:

‘How much dust would it take, and under what circumstances could it make Sydney uninhabitable?’

Desertification of farmlands, villages and small communities have been commonly occurring throughout history. In recent times, countries like China have experienced accelerated rates of desertification. Up to 3 million km² of land in China have already desertified.  The country’s annual desertification rates have  more than doubled to 3,400 km²  since the 1970s (1,560 km²) and have increased by 62 percent compared with the 1980s (2,100 km²). Thousands of villages have been lost to encroaching deserts.

According to a report by the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), “some 24,000 villages, 1,400 kilometres of railway lines, 30,000 kilometres of highways, and 50,000 kilometres of canals and waterways are subject to constant threats of desertification.”

“Dust-laden blasts have buried villages before blowing into cities and suffocating urban residents.”

Historic examples are abound about large cities in Africa, Asia, Near and middle East that were lost to desert.

Chilean town of Chaitén is one of the latest examples of a town lost to [human-enhanced] natural phenomena, namely lahar caused by volcanic ash deposits, and other pyroclastic materials.

Well, Could it Happen to Sydney, Australia?

The short answer is yes!

Given  copious supplies of dust [or sand,] sufficiently strong winds,  as well as extremes of climatic and atmospheric conditions conducive to precipitating large amounts of airborne dust on the ground, dust storms could bury any village, town or city in their path and make them partially or completely uninhabitable.

Under the said conditions, one or more dust storms blowing within a critical period of time, with wind forces lasting long enough to deposit significantly large amounts of dust over a critically large portion of the city could trigger a partial or total collapse of Sydney [or other cities in eastern Australia.]

How Much Dust?

Australia’s CSIRO estimated that the September 22-24 storm carried a record-breaking 16 million tons of dust from the deserts in the heart of Australia [The Lake Eyre Basin was reportedly the main region, where the dust came from.] Interestingly enough, the media boasted how the benevolent storms had dumped a million tons of iron-rich topsoil from Australia’s outback into the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean.

Most of the dust spread over a vast area precipitating on the continental Australia, Indian ocean to the west,  and Tasman Sea to the east, reaching as far as the North Island, New Zealand.

EDRO Team designed a basic model and, using the available data, ran  a few dozen simulations. The  simulations showed that the amount of dust needed to ‘bury’ central Sydney [an area about 100 km²,] so as to make the entire city mostly uninhabitable, would be about 10-12 times the dust blown off in the Septemeber 22-24 dust storm.

Notes:

  1. The simulations were based on optimally extreme climatic and atmospheric conditions conducive to precipitating large amounts of airborne dust in a relatively small area.
  2. Dust diameters of (i) less than 60 micrometer, and (ii) 62 – 65 micrometer, were used in the simulations.
  3. The maximum air particle concentration levels reached over 45,000 micrograms/m³ of air.
  4. As the air particle concentration levels rose above about 25,000 micrograms/m³ of air, the number of casualties dramatically increased.

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Posted in australian coal, carbon-intensive economy, Chaitén town, climate change, collapsing cities, desertification, drought, ghost towns | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Has Dallas Found its Nemesis?

Posted by edro on October 13, 2009

Dallas: The First Major US City to Collapse?

Air, water and soil contamination may cause collapse of population centers

For more information see: The First Wave of World’s Collapsing Cities

Dallas

  • Estimated population:  1.3 million
  • State ranking: Third largest city in Texas [After Houston and San Antonio]
  • National ranking: Main city and economic hub of the 12-county metropolitan area [Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington]  with a population of 6,500,000
  • Population Growth: Fourth largest and number one fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States in2008.

Continued…

Contaminants in air around Texas gas town: study

By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS (Reuters) – High concentrations of harmful compounds have been found in the air in a north Texas town that is in the heart of the region’s gas industry, according to a report released this month by an environmental consultancy.

The study by Wolf Eagle Environmental Engineers and Consultants found high concentrations of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds in the atmosphere at seven locations around the rural town of DISH, which is about 50 miles northwest of Dallas.

Carcinogens are linked to cancers while neurotoxins are toxins that act on nerve cells.

The report said the levels of several of the substances exceeded those that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) uses as benchmarks or triggers that could prompt it to investigate or take action.

The TCEQ is conducting its own studies in the area.

DISH is on the Barnett Shale, a large geological formation in north Texas that contains vast amounts of natural gas. In and around the town are pipelines, wells and several compressor stations owned by a number of energy companies including Chesapeake, Atmos and Crosstex.

The town hired the consultancy to do the study.

“The chemicals and concentrations that we found are consistent with other facilities that we have tested in and around the Barnett Shale. Many of these chemicals are related to the scenting process of natural gas because natural gas has no odor,” said Alisa Rich, president of Wolf Eagle.

“I’m extremely confident that this is linked to the gas industry,” she told Reuters in an interview. The data was collected over a 24-hour period in August.

She said the compressor stations were a special cause for concern because of the volumes of gas pumped through them.

“Atmos Energy does not believe that its operations in the DISH area make any significant contribution to the emissions of the chemicals listed in the Wolf Eagle Engineering study,” Atmos said in response to an e-mail query from Reuters.

“Atmos Energy is aware that the TCEQ is planning additional emissions testing in this area in the near future and will cooperate fully with those efforts,” it said.

Chesapeake and Crosstex declined to comment.

DISH’s Mayor Calvin Tillman told Reuters he would like to see the compressor stations shut down “until we can know with confidence that they are not emitting these toxins.”

The report is the latest to link environmental and health hazards with America’s booming gas industry.

In August, U.S. government scientists announced that they had found for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Christian Wiessner)

http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE59B5AS20091012

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Posted in Atmos Energy, Barnett Shale, chemical contaminants, Chesapeake, collapse mechanisms, Crosstex, drinking water, energy, energy dinosaurs, natural gas, nerve cells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

East Africa Driven to the Verge of Catastrophe

Posted by edro on October 6, 2009

Drought, Hunger and Destitution Are Driving East Africa to the Verge of Collapse

Severe drought threatens 23 million east Africans in seven countries

More than 23 million people in 7 countries in East Africa including the worst affected nations of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, face starvation amid a 2-year drought.

“The Ethiopian government puts the number in need at 5.3 million. Pastoralist communities in the country’s southern Borena area have been particularly hard hit by the lack of rain.” Reuters reported.

“Some 6.2 million Ethiopians hit by two-year recurrent drought are facing starvation and need emergency assistance,” a charity organization spokeswoman told Reuters.

India

Floods triggered by more than a week of heavy rains have left 2.5 million Indians homeless.The flooding, described as the worst in living memory, has killed more than 250 people in south India, in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and

More than five million people have taken shelter at temporary government relief centers.

Millions of hectares of cropland, including sugarcane plantations have been flooded by torrential rains, prompting worries about a fall in sugar output in Karnataka, one of the country’s top three producers.

Philippines

An estimated one million people have been severely affected after Tropical Storm Ketsana (locally known as Ondoy) triggered epic flooding in the Philippines.

The storm brought in sever rains and caused the worst flooding in living memory, leaving 80 to 90 percent of Manila completely submerged in floodwater. The official death toll stands at about 300, with another 50 or so missing. The worst problems in the affected areas are

  • Access to Food and medicine
  • Disruptions in the supply of power and telecommunications
  • Shortages of drinking water
  • Sanitation concerns and threat of supply shortages

Cambodia

Meanwhile, 60,000 people have been affected as a result of flooding and landslides caused by storm Ketsana, with about 20 deaths including a pregnant woman and up to 100 injuries including 20  serious cases and up to 50,000 hectares of crops and rice fields destroyed by flood waters.

According to a report by  an aid organization, some 1,519 houses, 55 public buildings, 160 irrigation systems, channels, dams, embankments, 40 km of roads  and 3 bridges were damaged, or destroyed, causing major disruptions throughout the flooded areas.

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          Posted in Andhra Pradesh flooding, Borena drought, Cambodia flooding, desertification, food shortages, hunger in east africa, Karnataka flooding, Karnataka sugar output, Ketsana death toll, ketsana land slides, Manila flooding, mud slides, Ondoy storm, Tropical Storm Ketsana | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »