Viridian Note 00164: Disaster Catalog

Bruce Sterling <>
Thu, 1 Jun 2000 13:11:47 -0500

Key concepts
Climate Hot Map, Greenhouse disasters, catalogs, criteria

Attention Conservation Notice: Even though it has been severely truncated for this Note, this is a remarkably long and tiresome list of really awful things.

Entries in the Greenhouse Disaster Symbol contest: This contest is now closed. A winner will be announced soon.

Bob Morris's Viridian Contest Repository: Includes one new entry without its own website! See if you can find it!


(((Oh yes, we know these disasters are here, and more are coming. New Mexico now has another giant wildfire, this one without any federal scapegoats handy. But what kind of weather event really deserves the grave term "Greenhouse Disaster"?

(((We Viridians like to keep track of disasters, but properly selecting, compiling and footnoting them is a lot of hard work. We arty Viridians really don't like to work that hard; it consumes too much energy. However, the public-minded folks at the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund have pooled their expertise and united to compile a brand-new list of harbingers and catastrophes. They even have a map. I just ordered one of these maps off the climatehotmap website. If it lives up to the high graphic-design standards that we Viridians fastidiously demand, I may order fifty.)))


"Hotspot Selection Criteria

"The map is designed to stimulate interest in, and concern for, the impacts of global climate change on the environment and society. To ensure the integrity and usefulness of this product, the researchers/writers made every effort to conform to sound scientific principles in its research and categorization.

"The basic criterion for inclusion of an event or trend on the map was its consistency with global climate model projections of a world with increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Second Assessment Report (IPCC, 1996). (...)

"Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather

"1. Llasa, Tibet == Warmest June on record, 1998.
Temperatures hovered above 77 degrees Fahrenheit for 23
days. Reference: GISS. 1998. Goddard Institute of Space
NCDC. 1998. National Climatic Data Center.

"2. Christchurch, New Zealand -- Warmest February on record, 1998. Daily temperatures averaged near 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Reference: GISS. 1998. Goddard Institute of Space Studies. NCDC. 1998. National Climatic Data Center.

"3. Cairo, Egypt == Warmest August on record, 1998.
Temperatures reached 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit on August 6,
Reference: GISS. 1998. Goddard Institute of Space Studies.
NCDC. 1998. National Climatic Data Center.

"4. Edmonton, Canada == Warmest summer on record, 1998.
Temperatures were more than 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit higher
than the 116-year average.
Reference: GISS. 1998. Goddard Institute of Space Studies.
NCDC. 1998. National Climatic Data Center.

"5. Southern Africa == Warmest and driest decade on
record, 1985-1995. Average temperature increased almost 1
degree Fahrenheit over the past century.
Reference: Arntzen, J., T. Downing, R. Leemans, J.
Malcolm, N. Reynard, S. Ringrose, and D. Rogers. 1996.

Climate Change and Southern Africa: An exploration of some potential impacts in the SADC region. 104 pp. World Wildlife Fund, Climatic Research Unit.

"6. Central England == Cold days declining, hot days
increasing, 1772 to present. 1995 brought 26 days above 68
degrees Fahrenheit versus an average of 4 days per year
since 1772.
Reference: Hulme, M. 1999. Climatic Research Unit at the
University of East Anglia, personal communication.

"7. Glasgow, Montana == No sub-zero days, 1997. For the
first time ever, temperatures remained above zero degrees
Fahrenheit in December. The average temperature was 10.9
degrees Fahrenheit above normal.
Reference: Weathervane Magazine, May/June 1998.

"8. Little Rock, Arkansas == Hottest May on record, 1998.
Reference: NCDC, 1998. Climate of 1998-June Extremes.
National Climatic Data Center.

"9. Texas == Deadly heat wave, summer 1998. Heat claimed
more than 100 lives in the region. Dallas temperatures
were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 straight days.
Reference: NCDC, 1998. 1998 Summer Heat and Precipitation
Extremes. National Climatic Data Center.

"10. Florida == June heat wave, 1998. Melbourne endured 24
days above 95 degrees Fahrenheit; nighttime temperatures
in Tampa remained above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 days.
Reference: NCDC. 1998. Florida Wildfires and Climate
Extremes. National Climatic Data Center.

"11. USA == Late fall heat wave 1998. An unprecedented
autumn heat wave from mid-November to early December broke
or tied more than 700 daily-high temperature records from
the Rockies to the East Coast. Temperatures rose into the
70s as far north as South Dakota and Maine.

Reference: NCDC, 1998. Top weather and climate stories of 1998. 6 January 1999 Climate Prediction Center.

"12. Eastern USA == July heat wave, 1999. More than 250
people died as a result of a heat wave that gripped much
of the eastern two-thirds of the country. Heat indices of
over 100 degrees Fahrenheit were common across the
southern and central plains, reaching a record 119 degrees

Fahrenheit in Chicago. Reference: NCDC, 1999. Climate-Watch, July 1999. National Climatic Data Center.

"13. New York City == Record heat, July 1999. New York
City had its warmest and driest July on record, with
temperatures climbing above 95 degrees Fahrenheit for 11
days == the most ever in a single month.
Reference: Zielbauer, P., 1999. Sweaty July in New York

City goes down as worst ever. August 1, 1999, New York Times, New York City; NCDC, 1999. Selected U.S. city and state extremes-July 1999.


"Downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding

75. New South Wales, Australia == Wettest August on
record, 1998. On August 15-17, a storm dumped nearly 12
inches of rain on Sydney, over 8 inches more than what
normally falls during that entire month.
Reference: 1999. Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

"76. New England == Double normal rainfall, June 1998.
Rainfall in Boston on June 13-14 broke a 117-year-old
record, closing Logan Airport and two interstate roads.
Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts
each received more than double their normal monthly

rainfall. Reference: New England Regional Climate Center. Climate Impacts- 1998.; 1998. From Yosemite to the east, it's sloshing, soaking wet. Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, Florida.

"77. Korea == Heavy rains and flooding. Severe flooding
struck during July and August, 1998, with daily rainfall
totals exceeding 10 inches.
Reference: NCDC. 1998. Severe flooding in North and South
Korea--July-August 1998 National Climatic Data Center.
(go to "Data Files:Severe Events")

"78. Black Hills, South Dakota == Record snowfall, 1998.
At the end of February, the Black Hills received 102.4
inches of snow in five days, almost twice as much snow as
the previous single-storm record for the state.
Reference: Kocin, P., W. Gartner, and D. Graf. 1998. The
1996-97 snow season. Pages 47-54. Weatherwise.

"79. Texas == Record downpours, 1998. Severe flooding in
southeast Texas from two heavy rain storms with 10-20 inch
rainfall totals caused $1 billion in damage and 31 deaths.
Reference: NCDC, 1998. Billion dollar U.S. weather
disasters, 1980-1999. National Climatic Data Center.

"80. Santa Barbara, California == Wettest month on record,
1998. 21.74 inches of rain fell in February, the most rain
in a month since record keeping began.
Reference: NCDC, 1998. California Flooding and Florida
Tornadoes -Feb 1998. National Climatic Data Center

"81. Mount Baker, Washington == World record snowfall,
1999. 1,140 inches of snow fell between November 1998 and
the end of June 1999, a world record for most snowfall in
a single winter season.
Reference: NOAA, 1999. Mt. Baker holds snowfall record,

NOAA Reports.

"Droughts and fires

"82. Florida == Worst wildfires in 50 years, 1998. Fires
burned 485,000 acres and destroyed more than 300 homes and
Reference: NCDC. 1998. Florida Wildfires and Climate
Extremes. National Climatic Data Center.

"83. Mediterranean == Intense drought and fires. Spain
lost more than 1.2 million acres of forest to wildfires in
1994, and 370,000 acres burned in each of Greece and Italy
in 1998.
Reference: IFFN, 1995. Spain: 1994 Forest Fire Season,

International Forest Fire News 12, (January 1995). Forest Fires in Italy 1998, International Forest Fire News 21, (October 1999). welcome.html#International Forest Fire News

"84. Florida, Texas, Louisiana == Driest period in 104
years, April-June 1998. San Antonio received only 8
percent of its normal rainfall in May. New Orleans
suffered its driest and hottest May in history.
Reference: WMO, 1999. WMO statement on the status of
the global climate in 1998. World Meteorological

"85. Mexico == Worst fires season ever, 1998. 1.25 milion
acres burned during a severe drought. Smoke reaching Texas
triggered a statewide health alert.
Reference: Rodriguez-Trejo, D., and S. Pyne. 1999. Mexican
fires of 1998. International Forest Fire News 20 (January

1999). NRDC. 1998. Scorched Earth: impacts and implications of the 1998 fire disaster in North and Central America. Natural Resources Defense Council.

"86. Nicaragua == 2.2 million acres burned, 1998. Over
15,000 fires burned in 1998, and the blazing acreage
included protected lands in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve.
Reference: NRDC. 1998. Scorched Earth: impacts and
implications of the 1998 fire disaster in North and

Central America. Natural Resources Defense Council. A.J. de Dixmude, S.Flasse, I.Downey, P.Navarro, C.Searm, P.Ceccato, J.Williams, R. Alvarez, F.Uriarte, A.Ramos, I.Humphrey, and Z.Z'niga . 1999. Country Notes: Nicaragua: A Survey of Three Successive Recent Fire Seasons. International Forest Fire News 20 (March 1999).

"87. Indonesia == Burning rainforest, 1998. Fires burned
up to 2 million acres of land, including almost 250,000
acres of primary forest and parts of the already severely
reduced habitat of the Kalimantan orangutan.
Reference: International Forest Fire Management Program

"88. Khabarovsk, Russia == Wildfires threaten tiger
habitat, 1998. Drought and high winds fueled fires that
destroyed 3.7 million acres of taiga and threatened two
important nature reserves that are habitat for the only
remaining Amur tigers.

Reference: BBC. 1998. Russian fires are 'world disaster.' BBC News. asia-pacific/newsid_190000/190654.stm Forest Fires on the Island of Sakhalin and the Khabarovsk Krai - UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) Mission Report. September - October 1998.

"89. Eastern USA == Driest growing season on record, 1999.
The period from April-July 1999 was the driest in 105
years of record-keeping in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland,
and Rhode Island. Agricultural disaster areas were
declared in fifteen states, with losses in West Virginia

alone expected to exceed $80 million. Reference: NOAA, 1999. Four States in Northeast Have Driest Growing Season on Record.

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