Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 15, 2010

UPDATED: Cataclysmic (?) conditions in Pakistan

Filed under: Catastrophes,Risk Assessment,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on August 15, 2010

UPDATE: Wednesday, August 18:

Recently a few of us have been discussing whether there is any benefit distinquishing between a disaster and a catastrophe and a cataclysm.  Too roughly, a disaster is very bad.  A catastrophe is a disaster from which there will be no real recovery.  In our personal lexicon, a cataclysm is an almost total washing away of what previously existed.

It is, perhaps, appropriate that the Greek kataklysmós means a thorough, complete, degenerating flood.

Desperation grows over Pakistan flood damage (New York Times)

Pakistan floods could sweep away weak government (CBS News)

Taliban will not be allowed to take advantage of crisis (DAWN)

Following is the original post from Sunday, August 15.  This was intended to build on the two prior posts.

Asian Jet Stream as of August 15

Weather Underground Forecast for Monday, August 16, 2010. A long front that will initially extend from the eastern Sea of Japan through southeast China will be the biggest weather producer in eastern Asia as it moves slowly eastward throughout the day. Steady precipitation is expected through southeast China, but farther inland than the normally hard hit areas due to the monsoons. The monsoons themselves will be weak in nature with only scattered showers and thunderstorms likely along the southeast coast of China.”

See current conditions and forecast for Peshawar, Pakistan.

See current conditions and forecast for Moscow, Russia.

See current conditions and forecast for Gansu, China

From Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog:

“The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is one of the most intense, widespread, and long-lasting heat waves in world history. Only the European heat wave of 2003, which killed 35,000 – 50,000 people, and the incredible North American heat wave of July 1936, which set all-time extreme highest temperature records in fifteen U.S. states, can compare. All of these heat waves were caused by a highly unusual kink in the jet stream that remained locked in place for over a month. The jet stream is an upper-level river of air, between the altitudes of about 30,000 – 40,000 feet (10,000 – 12,000 meters). In July over Europe and Asia, the jet stream has two branches: a strong southern “subtropical” jet that blows across southern Europe, and a weaker “polar” jet that blows across northern Europe. The polar jet stream carries along the extratropical cyclones (lows) that bring the midlatitudes most of their precipitation. The polar jet stream also acts as the boundary between cold, Arctic air, and warm tropical air. If the polar jet stream shifts to the north of its usual location, areas just to its south will be much hotter and drier than normal. In July 2010, a remarkably strong polar jet stream developed over northern Europe. This jet curved far to the north of Moscow, then plunged southwards towards Pakistan. This allowed hot air to surge northwards over most of European Russia, and prevented rain-bearing low pressure systems from traveling over the region. These rain-bearing low pressure systems passed far to the north of European Russia, then dove unusually far to the south, into northern Pakistan. The heavy rains from these lows combined with Pakistan’s usual summer monsoon rains to trigger Pakistan’s most devastating floods in history.”  MORE.

The historical record suggests these events are atypical, but recur.  We cannot precisely predict time and place, but we can anticipate the recurrence of such extremities.  We cannot prevent.  But we can make choices that exacerbate or mitigate the experience of harm when they do recur.

Monday Update:

Pakistan: Authorities warn of new floods as heavy rain falls (DAWN)

Pakistan: Food related inflation (DAWN)

China: Torrential rains forecast for August 16 and 17 (AFP)

Chinese economy surpasses Japan (Financial Times)

Russia: Fires shrink (Wall Street Journal)

Gale force winds hit St. Petersburg (Moscow Times)

More bread for your daily loaf (The Sun)

Tuesday Update:

Pakistan: Mother of all disasters: Second wave of death feared (Sydney Morning Herald)

China: Torrential rains leave 36 dead, 23 missing (Xinhua)

Russia: Industry output growth slows in record heat (Reuters)

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4 Comments »

Comment by Art Botterell

August 15, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

“Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 16, 2010 @ 3:43 am

Prediction! The power of the computer continues to grow and eventually climate models will be very very accurate. In 1936 the computer did not really exist anywhere near its present power. So by 2050 we will have in place knowledge of climate never before available. Will this be weaponized? The Climate protection treaties need negoiation starting now. Kyoto had no portion dealing with weaponizatio of climate but this could be the future if no one pays attention. And of course all know that climatology and meterology are very different sciences. Did you know that DHS employs neither? Nor does DOD employ a single climatologist! Ignorance may not be bliss.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 16, 2010 @ 7:22 am

An apology: The headline I assigned to this post was/is misleading. On Sunday the weather had temporarily cleared over Pakistan and the forecast was, briefly, for continued clearing. Even as I typed the headline I knew the human conditions would only get worse, but so did the weather.

Comment by 66

August 16, 2010 @ 9:12 am

Russian fires headed toward nuke plant. Morgues storing bodies upright because of a lack of space. This could stall and delay fueling of Iranian plant. More spoiled plans ahead. Murphys Law at work. Today is the first day of the rest of the mess.

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