Prepare For Climate Collapse – Part II
Please read Prepare For Climate Collapse – Part I if you have not done so already. I’ve outlined what climate collapse really means. In Part II, I’m going to outline steps you can take to prepare yourselves whether you are a business or a family.
Extreme Weather Events
Climate collapse means more extreme weather events, seasonal disruptions and unusual weather phenomenon increasing in frequency and severity. Human civilization has been designed around predictable weather patterns. Our cities, businesses, industry, homes and infrastructure were built to endure normal weather and climatic events. We’ve also organized our agricultural practices and harvests around the seasons, which since time immemorial have also been reasonable predictable. “Bad years” usually meant bad weather, sometime it meant pestilence. Insect infestations are also heavily affected by weather patterns. A dry winter or warmer then usual will mean more insects and their larvae will survive. Food production has usually been able to account for these weather variations – but not always.
Both infrastructure and agriculture will be directly affected by inclement weather; the worse the weather / season is, the greater the impact will be on our civilization. 2015 has now already broken all previous records for highest number of hot days in recorded human history, this is expected to get worse every year as higher and higher temperatures are reached. The hottest year on record killed many thousands of people through heat stroke.There were also quite a few extreme weather events that killed many more people (flooding, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes) and lightning strikes caused some of the biggest fires in history.
Climate scientists are expecting hotter, drier and longer summer temperatures each year. Winter variations will be abnormal, with droughts extended through the expected rainy season, and other regions receiving huge levels of rainfall and snow. No longer can the normal weather patterns be expected to remain the same. Abnormal is now the new normal – and it will be worse then what we have experienced before.
Excess heat creates excess evaporation (water vapor), which in the form of clouds and precipitation events (rain and snow) will come down in greater intensity then before. We are already experiencing at least 7% more atmospheric water vapor then before, for every 1°C in temperature increase, there is a corresponding 7% increase in water vapor, which is also a heat trapping gas. More atmospheric water vapor also means higher temperatures.
Buildings, businesses, homes, roads, bridges, power lines, virtually anything above (and below) ground will be required to withstand extreme weather events. Dry weather, and even drought conditions will be the easiest of all to endure structurally speaking. Roads don’t wash away or flood out in dry weather, but dust storms can and will occur and the high risk of fires. Fire fuels can be reduced provided it is extensively done, yet as recent events have just shown, it will be very hard to deal with these things if the response is too little or too late, or if entire regions and states are impacted by drought year after year. This means it will burn – and there isn’t much we can do about it except get ready.
Fire and Water
Fire and water represent the greatest threats to infrastructure, property and lives. These two opposites, in large quantities are the hardest to manage and plan for. Many of our homes, towns and cities are built where either fire or too much water or even both will be a huge problem.
Brush fires and forest fires can progress extremely rapidly and infrastructure in a region affected by drought will be at extreme risk. Embers can fall miles away in high winds making fire suppression efforts to the fire itself nearly useless. Drought conditions exacerbate fire risks dramatically. Lightning, accident and arson fire starts have burned millions of acres in 2015 and caused billions in damage.
Wet weather events will be the most difficult for structures. Excessive moisture in the form of rain, snow, even sleet and hail can cause enormous amounts of damage costing billions of dollars lasting months or even years. Water events and their effects generally last longer then fire events and are generally more extensive then fire events, due to their nature, affecting soils, farms, buildings, infrastructure and personal property on a greater scale. Fires are more selective due to the need for burnable fuels and how they are protected (or not), where precipitation will usually blanket an entire area and the resulting flooding will seek out low lying areas.
The existing infrastructure, whether bridge, home, building or road, needs to be considered and its associated risk in its topographical location. Lowland locations, river bottoms, creek bottoms, ravines, flood plains and even locations miles away from mountains and other collection points for rainfall and snow melt (and downstream from dams) are all at increased risk. The Boulder, Colorado floods proved just how dangerous it was to move into neighborhoods that were downhill from a series of creeks and rivers and mountain valleys that once they were overwhelmed with water, burst upon the downstream neighborhoods and businesses.
Unfortunately, these events are all too common. Humans have built quite a lot of their infrastructure in some really bad locations. Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans in part because the city has been built right at sea level (and in part because the protective low-lands from storm surges were dredged out). The city would have been severely impacted in any case, but the point being, much of our infrastructure is simply poorly located to withstand anything abnormal.
This will be a huge issue in the years ahead. Dry weather creates droughts and brush fires and forest fires are far worse in drought conditions then in normal conditions. Many neighborhoods have been heavily built-up throughout the country on brush covered hillsides. Fires run uphill very fast (you cannot outrun one) and brush also burns very hot and quickly. Once a fire burns the existing cover, the next seasons rainstorms will turn the hillsides into mudslides.
Storm surge and sea level rise are also extreme weather related events, although we don’t think of sea level rise as ‘weather’. Glaciers and the polar caps are melting quite rapidly now because of warmer temperatures and warming oceans, raising worldwide ocean levels. Freshwater injections from melting ice have caused a stupendous slowdown in the thermohaline ocean currents, which have had a dramatic affect upon global weather patterns. Globally, all low-lying coastal cities, towns, villages, roads, farms and even those in the water, such as docks, platforms and aquaculture are now at risk from storm surge and sea level rise.
Freshwater aquifers and wells are having to be abandoned in such areas with increasing frequency, driving human habitation away from the coast and increasing the number of failed farms, homes and businesses. In turn, the number of climate refugees goes up as more ice melts and the higher the oceans get.
Low Lying Infrastructure
Protection of low lying infrastructure will mean attempts to redirect water away from buildings, roads, farms and houses. Many will have to be abandoned or left to be destroyed if such efforts cannot economically be performed. Due to topographical considerations, some low lying infrastructure will be relatively safe with proper drainage, dams, or diversionary canals. Many overflow ponds, drainages and canals have already been built in many of our neighborhoods and cities, but they’ve only been designed for limited amounts of water, which when exceeded, will result in flooding and damage to infrastructure.
Ask the city engineers and the country planning office to explain exactly how much these diversionary projects are designed to handle in terms of rainfall. Ten inches? Twelve? Over what time span? How far upstream are the other collection points for water, such as mountain valleys, rivers, streams and dams? What if any of these locations (or more then 1) received 12″ of water in ten or 24 hours? Most locations are not designed to handle such amounts of precipitation in a short time span. Remember, infrastructure has all been designed for normal risk patterns, but extreme weather and climate collapse isn’t normal. Double, triple or even five times the normal rainfall could be experienced a very short time span.
If your home or business is in an area topographically that does not naturally drain excessive water away, you will need to consider its risk. Are there sufficient mitigation efforts already in place? Is the building on high ground or in a low-lying area? Are there valleys or ravines that will collect water from many miles away and send it all cascading downhill? What about mudslides and landslides? After forest fires, this is very common because the plant life has been burned off and the roots which stabilize the hills and slopes is now gone. Replanting and stabilizing hillsides is essential for human safety.
Soil, once saturated is more easily shifted. It’s not essential for the forest to be burned for this to happen either. Entire hillsides can be shifted once saturated. We like to build our homes in pretty locations, but there is also an associated risk with the activity. Review these pictures to see a few of them.
If your buildings (business or home) are not naturally protected by topography (best), and if there isn’t sufficient man-made protection in the form of dikes, diversionary canals and places for water to run off (second-best), then you have to accept the fact that an extreme precipitation event could happen.
There are still things you can do: direct water away from buildings with french drains, rain gutters and piping into storm sewers, low-lying areas and collection points. Keep water away from building foundations if possible. Examine nearby hillsides and slopes for slippage and mitigate if possible. Engineer for possible ground movements by using plants with root systems to stabilize. There are also stabilization fabrics, retaining walls and ground anchors that can be employed. Soil and erosion control are pretty well understood now, you can contact the county or an engineer for specific advice.
Hillside infrastructure, and cliff-side infrastructure is also at risk for soil slippage and ground saturation. Slope slippage can be mitigated, but not entirely prevented because you’re always dealing with gravity, weight and the potential for water saturation and lubrication. Wiki says:
“Stability is determined by the balance of shear stress and shear strength.”
“Triggering factors of a slope failure can be climatic events can then make a slope actively unstable, leading to mass movements. Mass movements can be caused by increase in shear stress, such as loading, lateral pressure, and transient forces. Alternatively, shear strength may be decreased by weathering, changes in pore water pressure, and organic material.
There will be many locations that are not economically “fixable” (before or after) should extreme weather events affect them. They will always pose a risk due to the fact that humans built where they should have not. They will also pose hazards to buildings, people and property down below. The Earth is always changing and other events such as earthquakes can trigger hill slides. If you’re in snow country like I am, avalanches are also events you can do nothing about – except don’t live there. Don’t build there, don’t go there. These are danger zones whether we care to admit it or not.
Coastal areas will also be affected by storm surge and sea level rise. These low-lying areas are probably the largest in terms of risk and size, affecting millions of people worldwide. Once again, humans built where they should not and never really planned for rising sea levels or extreme storms. Category 5 storms (hurricanes) are now exceeding the highest measurements ever recorded in terms of energy and wind speeds. This amount of energy and wind will cause massive storm surges, overwhelming sea walls, diversionary canals and pumping systems. The danger that hurricanes and cyclones represent to coastal regions and even many inland areas should not be underestimated.
The 2015 hurricane season, while less in number, was not less in strength (there is no strong correlation between the number of hurricanes in a season and their strength). These extreme wind events also create extreme water events and will affect low-lying locations the most. Steps you can take are already covered here and many other places on the Internet.
Yes, that’s over half of the United States. Counter-intuitively, tornadoes are thought to cause more damage uphill then downhill.
They reported that the photos showed less damage on hill slopes on the leeward sides; that tornadoes seem to favor higher elevations and move in that direction when they can, and, most controversially, in areas with hills and valleys, tornadoes will skip over the valleys and concentrate the damage on the hills.
That would be good to know if true, because “every place in the world that has flat land has tornadoes,” Selvam said.
In areas with flat-land are where you will find the most tornado strikes – but tornadoes are known to skip over these valleys. However, tornadoes can strike anywhere, and are most known to affect the eastern states and flatter land. Surface roughness has been documented to show an increase or even in the creation of tornadoes. This article has a lot of good information that should be read. Sheltering below ground to avoid flying debris is safest; but infrastructure damage if struck by a tornado is simply not preventable, some damage or even total destruction will occur.
Heat waves are deadly to humans, animals and wildlife, killing thousands of people each year and are considered more deadly in terms of human life then hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and lightning combined, affecting agriculture, livestock, roadways, bridges, airplanes, transportation, and power transmission systems.
The warming climate will mean more and more of these events and a corresponding death toll:
As the climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe in recent decades, with increases in extreme heat, intense precipitation, and drought. Heat waves are longer and hotter. Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. In a wide swing between extremes, drought, too, is more intense and more widespread.
Average summertime temperatures are increasing – and increasingly uncomfortable, requiring more energy expenditure to stay cool. But it is also affecting infrastructure and causing millions of dollars in damage.
What you can do
Extreme weather events are on the increase worldwide due to climate change and its affects. Prepare in advance for weather extremes is the only logical response in a warming world. Precipitation, heat, fire, lightning, high winds, flooding, cold weather and drought will have serious impacts upon our infrastructure and lives. Here are just a few of the steps you can take to help increase your survivability:
- Relocate. Perhaps the most extreme step of all, but it’s also the most certain step of all. Moving from high-risk areas removes the high risk problem, but it does not remove the climate extreme problem, everyone globally is at risk. Many areas are simply not suitable for mitigation or adaption and moving is really the only long-term effective solution. This would include areas affected by sea level rise, storm surge, forest and brush fires and flooding. These are the most difficult extreme weather events to mitigate, some are virtually impossible.
- Reduce your risk by dealing with topographical effects (runoff), removing forest and brush cover, and preparing for excessive water. Protective barriers and hillsides can help, elevation gains (if possible) can also increase your safety but this may require moving too. Remember the danger of drought, increase fire risk and hillsides, being high up does not always mean “safe”. Large protective cleared areas free of brush, grass and debris is essential. You need lower fuel loads as much as you can. See Reducing Fire Risks for ideas and information.
- Examine in detail the entire area. Topographical considerations taken into account for runoff, rainfall or snow, ice, dams or water storage ponds and drainage, ravines, valleys, creeks, fuel loads, population density and buildup of infrastructure, hillsides and other features that would increase your risk in an extreme weather event. Most of these things aren’t anything you can change except mitigate your risk on your own property by dealing with runoff and fire potential. You may need to move.
- Plant soil stabilizing plants if you live on a hillside and aren’t willing to move. You also need to reduce fire risk by ensuring that dead and dry plants aren’t increasing your probability to be burned out. The “Green Zone” around each home will greatly assist you surviving a brush fire. Drought resistant plants are always a good idea.
- Water storage in the form of ponds, containers or cisterns can help. Drought resistant plants will endure longer then those that aren’t and may not require any additional water from you.
- Underground shelter for high wind events is essential. Basements, root cellars or reinforced buildings. Don’t forget supplies.
- Keep emergency supplies on hand, including food, water and medical supplies. You may also need to evacuate quickly, so don’t be caught with a vehicle low on fuel. Know what you will need to take and where to find it. Practice a family evacuation plan. Have alternative communication methods available (walkies, cell phones or emergency contact through friends, family). Know where your going and how your going to get there, including alternative routes.
There is much, much more to be considered. Mitigation and adaption for climate extremes on an individual level is not the same thing as mitigation and adaption on a regional or city level. Individuals can insulate their homes against hot and cold, install cooling systems or heating system as required, but cities can do little about temperature extremes except plant more trees and reduce the amount of heat island effects through painting rooftops and increasing natural spaces. But this will not prevent climate extremes or extreme weather events, it will only help a tiny bit in making things more tolerable and only as long as they might last.
Reducing water consumption is a huge topic. Drought and it’s affect upon water consumption, agriculture, cities and urban spaces and the countryside is a stupendous problem already being dealt with by local and federal planners. My opinion however, is it won’t be enough because nothing is being done about population, density and overbuilding of infrastructure in places where it really doesn’t belong. Drought will wipe out a lot of agriculture and tree plantations no matter what we do. Aquifers will be depleted impacting everyone. The lack of snowfall in the high country won’t be prevented because water management is now somehow “better” down in the cities.
Learn to use less by reducing your own water use. There are tons of sites and information on how to do this, just know that this doesn’t change the weather or the likelihood of extremes. Each family and each home, and each business and each industry, and each farm, plantation and ranch, will need to find ways to adapt and mitigate their risk by accurately assessing what can happen; what is happening (thereby learning from recent events); and taking the necessary steps to reduce them.
You’re looking for wind, water, fire and drought and how it may be (or will be) increasing in your locality and region. Pay attention to the little things such as tree stress which is absolutely not normal. While pollution and ozone are major factors now, it’s obviously also drought. The environment is dying around us and we’ve all grown accustomed to what it looks like, unfortunately forgetting what it really means. The increasing risk this represents needs to be in our minds and how we intend to go on living.
I’ll write more as time permits.