The nights will flame with fire
July 25, 2018 11:52 AM   Subscribe

The death toll from a fire that ripped through a Greek coastal town stood at 80 on Wednesday as frantic relatives tried to track down people missing from the inferno and coroners began the grim task of identifying bodies. While the source of the devastating fire in the resort town of Mati is unknown, the fires now (or were recently) burning in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, and elsewhere are wildfires encouraged by hot, dry weather.

According to Reuters, the Greek anti-terrorist service was investigating suggestions that the blaze - one of several throughout the Attica region - was started deliberately, a security source said. Arson is often thought to be behind some fires in a crude attempt to clear forest land for building. But it's just as possible that the resort area was destroyed by a wildfire.

According to Vox, "while warm temperatures and dry conditions crop up sporadically throughout Europe during the summer, it’s highly unusual that so many places are experiencing such hot, dry conditions for so long at the same time. ... As for the rest of the world, heat this summer has already proved deadly in countries including Japan, Pakistan, and Canada. ... There are also ongoing wildfires in Colorado, Oregon, and California."

As the climate changes, the fire season is getting longer, now stretching from June through October in Europe. We saw this play out late last year as Hurricane Ophelia sent stiff winds through Portugal and Spain, driving wildfires that killed more than 100 people. The European Environment Agency reported that “an expansion of the fire-prone area and longer fire seasons are projected across Europe.”

The intense heat and the lack of precipitation is also causing the drought scenario to worsen, according to the Weather Network. Sweden, Norway, Germany, Holland, Poland, the British Isles, and the Baltic Republics are living some of the most extreme conditions.

According to Vox, these heat waves comport with what scientists expect from climate change. The body of evidence shows that the world will face longer, more intense heat waves as average temperatures go up, and that they will be deadly. Already, at least 70 people have died in Canada from the recent heat. Record temperatures in recent weeks killed more than 40 people and injured more than 2,000 in Japan. In May, a heat wave killed 65 in Karachi, Pakistan. ... Heat waves are often most dangerous not necessarily where it’s hottest, but where it’s hardest to cool off.

People not directly affected by the wildfires may still be affected by heatwaves across the globe. Recently a published study "demonstrated the detrimental cognitive effects of indoor temperatures during a heat wave in a group of young healthy individuals," and highlighted "the need for sustainable design solutions in mitigating the health impacts of extreme heat." TL:DR: It's not just the elderly, the young, and the impaired who suffer in high heat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people at greatest risk for heat-related illness can take the following protective actions to prevent illness or death:

Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area. Air-conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death. If a home is not air-conditioned, people can reduce their risk for heat-related illness by spending time in public facilities that are air-conditioned, and using air conditioning in vehicles.

Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.

Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.

Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.

Don’t use the stove or oven to cook—it will make you and your house hotter.

Finally, the Greatest offers 24 tricks for surviving hot summer nights without air conditioning.
posted by Bella Donna (50 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The front page of Reddit today has a picture of reindeer in Finland that are too hot and thirsty to wait for dusk to drink in the river.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:02 PM on July 25, 2018 [6 favorites]

Great. The rest of the world is now like California. Hopefully this means whenever the latest California megafire starts there will be less *hyuk hyuk shouldn’t live in CA* nonsense. Our worst month is yet to come also.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:32 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't see how so many people could die when the ocean is right there...

Climate change is going to keep wildfire deaths increasing for a long time. What a nightmare this sounds like...
posted by Windopaene at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2018

A contributing factor to the tragedy in Mati is that the EU-mandated austerity budget for Greece cut 34 million Euros from the country's fire departments just in the last year.
posted by Copronymus at 1:01 PM on July 25, 2018 [12 favorites]

Well, eventually we'll run out of flammable vegetation.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2018

I mean, “fire season” is not my favorite California export, but you guys do start trends.

This is for real pretty scary, though. So much is going to have to change.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:11 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

And the EU is going to face the same crisis we’re facing: how do you deal with an enormous inertial institutional kleptocracy that’s perfectly willing to watch you die for money?
posted by schadenfrau at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
So is this basically saying you have to get A/C?
posted by billjings at 1:15 PM on July 25, 2018

I can't see how so many people could die when the ocean is right there...

the news coverage I caught last night reported that there was basically twenty minutes between the smoke getting thick and the actual fire hitting. That's not much time to get your stuff organized and get the hell out. A lot of people then got caught in a traffic jam, and a number of bodies were found huddled together mere meters from the water, the assumption being that they probably got lost in the smoke and didn't realize how close they were. Absolutely heartbreaking stuff.
posted by philip-random at 1:18 PM on July 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

Windowpaene - when fires like this get going they can move REALLY fast (they start making their own weather, also they race up hills - Never end up uphill from a wildfire) - I was talking with a group of people with rural fire experience last night discussing a fire in Canterbury NZ last year where the firefront was travelling at 100kmh / 60m/hour.
posted by unearthed at 1:20 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

living in california I can tell you there is nothing that scares me like fire. earthquakes? big storms? serial killers? thats nothing compared to our annual fire fest. I hate to see the rest of the world going california-style as the climate change chickens come home to roost...

we have a camping trip in the sierras in august and word just came down from the rangers: no campfires or bbq on the grill, we can use propane stoves for cooking only. its just too high risk to do things any other way.
posted by supermedusa at 1:23 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device during an extreme heat event.
So is this basically saying you have to get A/C?

a DIY swamp cooler can make a huge difference, dont rely on that fan alone, get some bowls of ice, wet sheets etc., to cool whatever breezes you can catch or make.
posted by supermedusa at 1:25 PM on July 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Not again.

There are some idiots that are trying to take political dividends out of this, particularly since we sent two airplanes to help on Sweden a few days ago and they're secretly rooting for another Pedrogão. I kinda wish that those dolts were also reminded that the 146 people that died were on two of the countries hit hardest by austerity they cheered on, and maybe them and Brussels should own up to the brilliant "cut the public sector" advice their bureaucrats gave, and consider forming a proper European civil protection unit instead of just "coordination". This is only getting worse for everyone, North to South.

July was exceptionally mild around here (I think the coldest in 30 years or so), and August might be on the same path, so we've been spared. So far. Wouldn't be surprised if September turns out to be abnormally hot and all hell breaks loose.
posted by lmfsilva at 1:43 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Last time I looked, the availability of air conditioning in British dwellings was around 2%. Meanwhile, England is due to hit 35℃ tomorrow. We're a couple of days off making the UK's all-time hottest ever recorded July, and we're almost certainly going to do it unles the temperature drops like a stone within the next couple of days.

We often don't get weather hot enough to need aircon at all, from one year to the next.

Meanwhile lost in the noise is the news that Northern and Central Europe is facing one of the most severe droughts in living memory this summer, with serious crop failures forecast. Climate change: it's in your food chain, destabilizing your farm produce.
posted by cstross at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2018 [17 favorites]

I can't see how so many people could die when the ocean is right there...

One factor, I believe, is that some people who were actually in the sea died of smoke inhalation.
posted by Segundus at 2:20 PM on July 25, 2018

The key contributing factor behind the deadliness of the fire on Attica's East Coast was not the heat (it was very hot but not abnormally hot for the season) but the wind: a very rare westerly wind gusting at 124 km/h on mount Penteli where it started. This was apparently the highest wind speed on record for the month ever measured. The firemen on tv said that by the time the first helicopter reached the initial site of the blaze, perhaps a few minutes since it was spotted, the forest fire had spread beyond control. A witness said that as he saw the fire and hit the pedal to reach the sea, the fire was chasing him, at phenomenal speed.
The other reason for the deadliness of this fire was the totally random way that the area has been built, which made it very difficult for people close to the sea to find their way to the sea, especially as they were enveloped very fast by raging fires. The fact that fires were started that day at dozens of sites in the middle of Attica's forests continuously - making people very suspicious of their origin - obviously didn't help as well...
posted by talos at 2:29 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

re aircon - As a child growing up in the UK I just heard constant mutterings about this strange thing the Americans were doing with their air and I didn't have a clue what they were on about - how could air be conditioned?! - As the UK moves so slowly I'd imagine it is the same now. Glad I left decades ago.
posted by unearthed at 3:01 PM on July 25, 2018

I dunno, didn't you wonder why it was always cold in McDonalds, whatever the weather was like outside?

(That's what I remember about that first wave of US burger chains in the UK in the 70s - they were cold.)
posted by Grangousier at 4:02 PM on July 25, 2018

I used to spend quite a bit of time in Greece for work, and an ongoing issue was the tendency of people to clear forest using fire for development. (A combination of Greek property & development laws, old customs, etc.) I remember being in Athens years ago and talking to a Greek friend who said that at some point, this practice was going to end in tragedy.

While nobody can prove what happened, I understand why the Greeks are suspicious of the cause.
posted by frumiousb at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sorry-- hit enter too quickly. Might be worth explaining what I mean. Greek law prevents development on designated forest land. It is viewed as allowed to get around this rule if the forest land is cleared accidentally by fire. Greece also doesn't have a robust (I'm being kind) national land registry.
posted by frumiousb at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if this is against MeFi rules, but I'd like to spread the word of help.

- There's a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign by Hellenic American Leadership Council for the wild fire relief.
- The Hellenic Red Cross has the donation account information on its website, if you can do bank transfer, preferably in EUR.
posted by runcifex at 5:09 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Great. The rest of the world is now like California.

Or Australia. Or Canada. Or South Africa, parts of Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Spain, Portugal etc. Lots of places in the world are just like themselves and have been grappling with challenges of fire for a long time; we don't need to compare everything to America.
posted by smoke at 5:28 PM on July 25, 2018 [10 favorites]

California is where *I* live. Am I not to compare places to my own lived experience or I’m somehow insulting other nations? We are still recovering from the Somona fire and there is still a fire burning up north in the state. Every year when it burns here people make dumb comments about how no one should live in California, and I was hoping that now that we see how widespread and multi-factorial fires are (before climate-change) that maybe those comments should stop. But hey- I’ve learned my lesson. No more comments about my own lived experience and the country I live in. How about no comments ever? Because that reaction is just SWELL.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:45 PM on July 25, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hey there, I'm not trying to give you a hard time, but as someone who lives outside the US, it can be a little tiring in threads about other countries to see people bringing the discussion back to America - and it happens a lot here.

You're totally allowed to talk about your lived experience, I think it's good to talk about your experiences of living in parts of California that grapple with regular fire challenges. But it's also great to be mindful; the rest of the world is not like California; it's like itself. Forest fires have been a part of life in many parts of the world for thousands and thousands of years.
posted by smoke at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2018 [18 favorites]

According to Reuters, the Greek anti-terrorist service was investigating suggestions that the blaze - one of several throughout the Attica region - was started deliberately, a security source said. Arson is often thought to be behind some fires in a crude attempt to clear forest land for building. But it's just as possible that the resort area was destroyed by a wildfire.

Well yes, but wildfires start somehow. Lightening strikes are no ones fault but most other causes are. We have this every year. "The state is a tinder box" comments. Forecasts of endless dry and then extra hot and windy and we hold our breaths because we know by sunset it will be bad, somewhere. But it doesn't start spontaneously - it generally comes out that some idiot did it, whether maliciously or stupidly. Cigarette out the window of their car... dozens of people dead. Not exactly terrorism but hideously stupid and foreseeable if people just think. Then there are those who do it for fun :-(
posted by kitten magic at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2018

So maybe a better comment would be “the rest of the world was always like california and California was always like the rest of the world.” Not quite as pithy. AU and CA have always had much in common when it comes to fires- since early white settlers in CA decided somewhat unwisely to plant Eucalyptus trees in the state we have also been prone to their explosive tendencies during conflagrations. People are trying to dig them up, but as you probably know, getting rid of eucalyptus is much much harder than planting them.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:32 PM on July 25, 2018

but wildfires start somehow

Also related to this- we think we know what the proximate cause of the Sonoma mega fire was- and it’s what some people thought it was from the start- faulty PG&E wiring and lack of groundskeeping around the wire towers IE no one cut back the bushes and leaf litter nearby. People are suing PG&E like crazy because wine country was just destroyed. PG&E is steeling itself because it may not have a defense. I wonder if Greece has a predatory power monopoly that isn’t taking care of its infrastructure. Downed wires on poorly maintained ground is apparently more common a fire starter than you think.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:13 PM on July 25, 2018

A/C has never been a thing here in the UK for the same reason that snowplows aren't (except in Scotland) - it's needed too seldom to be worth the expense. An American friend living here a few years ago refused to believe me when I told her that you just couldn't get those window-mounted A/C units here and spent ages in a fruitless search.
Shops and some restaurants have it, but not everywhere - I called up a local cinema last year to see if they had A/C and was told "no, but we haven't got the heating on".

It has, by our standards, been bloody hot. The grass in all the parks and gardens is dead and straw-like (and covered with half-naked white people giving themselves sunstroke). I'm coping by getting up at dawn, doing any tasks I have before about 10 am, then spending the rest of the day alternately showering and lying down with a wet cloth over my head. When I do go out, covered in sunblock and with long sleeves, because I am a pale Irish person, I've been spending a lot of time lingering wistfully by the open doors of supermarket freezer cabinets.

We have had some wildfires here too, with a lot of small grass fires including a big one in south London, but the worst have been on moorland, where the underlying peat soil can catch and stay burning for weeks. Friday is supposed to be the hottest day so far, but with thunderstorms later, but they said that about last Friday and no thunder appeared. Thor is clearly slacking
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:44 PM on July 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

Good point about downed wires. We've also had fires started by maintenance on pipes - sparks from welding set it off.

IMO still comes under 'stupid' but in these cases it's a corporation's lack of care.
posted by kitten magic at 9:21 PM on July 25, 2018

My wife's family lives in Avlida, about 45 minutes north of Mati - the whole country is dry as a bone.

From local coverage (we're visiting the family and have been since last week) the people who died within meters of the sea were trapped on a cliff face, very close to the concrete steps that are used to access the beach. Much of the Greek coastline is very rocky/cliffed.

Tragic. Thankfully none of our family were killed, but I'm sure friends of the family were impacted.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 10:29 PM on July 25, 2018

Just supporting Homo neanderthalensis above, whereever we live, that's our baseline so home is always what we compare with.

I see great value from everyone's home comparisons as the finger of climate change is increasingly inscribed across mefi. I imagine some clever person scraping it to spot climate trends and effects beyond the official (and obvious).
posted by unearthed at 12:16 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

At least ten people died at sea when a boat with tourists from the resort overturned because there was no-one who actually knew how to steer it. They included a Polish woman and her son - her husband and the other son remained on the beach and survived.

Poland's getting the edges of the heatwave, though we're supposed to have a stable 30-31C over the next week (urgh), with thankfully low humidity, and a wet spell in mid-July meant no fires so far. The upside is that we've been able to send firefighters to Sweden and aid is being prepared for Greece as well. Of course, after summer heat come summer storms - hopefully not as bad as last year. I'm researching AC, probably multisplit because our windows are not set up for window units, and grumbling about lack of snow in the winter too...
posted by I claim sanctuary at 5:18 AM on July 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

the Greek anti-terrorist service was investigating suggestions that the blaze - one of several throughout the Attica region - was started deliberately

The reason this gave me chills, though, is that I immediately thought they would blame it on migrants.

Fuck this timeline.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:24 AM on July 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've spoken to two people in as many days who are convinced this is the end times.

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water but the fire next time

How do you get people to realize that we can do something before it's too late when they think this is some kind of divine judgment?
posted by domo at 10:12 AM on July 26, 2018

I just read this article about cuts to fire services. As always, more could have been done to ensure people's safety.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 3:26 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anhydrous, that's heartbreaking. We can't just sit back or allow ourselves to become despondent. We can and must enact policies to save lives. Irrigation sprinklers, defensible spaces, and other preventative measures are important.
I can't believe we still don't have broad support for even these policies, let alone carbon reduction policies.
posted by domo at 7:17 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

How do you get people to realize that we can do something before it's too late when they think this is some kind of divine judgment?
posted by domo 22 hours ago [+] [!]

I just read this article about cuts to fire services. As always, more could have been done to ensure people's safety.

This is man's mess. God's keeping out of it.
posted by philip-random at 8:25 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm in the Netherlands (yes, that's what it's called, Weathernetwork!), and it's incredibly dry here. First they said it was as dry as it was most recently in 1976, now it's drier than that. We've been asked to use less water; we catch the water from the shower in a bucket while the shower warms up, and every day, I distribute that water to the garden plants that seem to need it most. I still see folks watering their lawn in the daytime, when a lot of the water will evaporate right away... Farmers have been made to do their watering during the night, which helps; apparently, that's possible and I'm not sure why they're doing it only now when it's been ridiculously dry all month.
But we're being told there is no danger of tap water running out.

We do not have AC; not because we move slowly here, but because it's usually not needed here. We keep everything shut during the day and ventilate once it cools down. We have just moved our bed to the cooler side of the house and that helps too.

Stupid weatherforecast still gives today's weather a rating of 9 our of 10. What's so good about weather that makes trees, birds and old people die?
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

From the Guardian 20 July: Farmers across northern and central Europe are facing crop failure and bankruptcy as one of the most intense regional droughts in recent memory strengthens its grip. States of emergency have been declared in Latvia and Lithuania, while the sun continues to bake Swedish fields that have received only 12% of their normal rainfall.

The abnormally hot temperatures – which have topped 30C in the Arctic Circle – are in line with climate change trends, according to the World Meteorological Organization. And as about 50 wildfires rage across Sweden, no respite from the heatwave is yet in sight. Lennart Nilsson, a 55-year-old cattle farmer from Falkenberg near Malmo and co-chair of the Swedish Farmers Association, said it was the worst drought he had experienced.

Last February Quartz wrote on the expected effects of climate change on Europe based on a new study. "In every outcome, Europe gets battered by more intense droughts, floods, and heat waves." I am seeing headlines about crop failure, potential food shortages, and rising food prices.

In all seriousness, what do individuals need to do in order to get nations and captains of industry to put on the brakes when it comes to all the things that contribute to climate change? My housemate is gone for a few days so I picked up the mail off the floor today. It included sale papers for cheap-ass stores advertising things like super inexpensive one-time use plastic party glasses. I used to buy and use such things. Now their very existence enrages me.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

In the U.S. politics thread people were emphasizing the fault of capitalism in all this, which is true, but I think it should be observed that for example the Soviet Union was really bad with environmental stuff, readily doing things like strip mining and simply dumping entire used nuclear reactors into the ocean, and there are still people today in Russia and other former Soviet Republics who live in places that would be Superfund sites in the U.S. (Of course, there are people who live in places that should be designated Superfund sites in the U.S. today, too, it's just that in the USSR just everyone was treated the way residents of the Navajo Nation near uranium mines and residents of other poorer marginalized communities are treated here.)

If we make it past capitalism that won't be enough by itself, we will have to bake in to society mechanisms to oppose rapacious destructive exploitation of resources and poisoning of the Commons and address negative externalities from any large-scale enterprise, not just capitalist endeavors.
posted by XMLicious at 12:00 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Always happy to see more sources of greenhouse gases that accelerate over time:

Plastic pollution: How one woman found a new source of warming gases hidden in waste: While the amounts of methane and ethylene being produced right now from plastics are very small, Dr Royer is concerned about the future and the fact that as plastic breaks down, more surface area is exposed, increasing the amount of the gases that drifts into the atmosphere.

posted by ragtag at 1:40 PM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Climate Change's Looming Mental Health Crisis (Matt Simon for Wired, Aug. 2, 2018)
For the Inuit of Labrador in Canada, climate disaster has already arrived. These indigenous people form an intense bond with their land, hunting for food and fur. “People like to go out on the land to feel good,” says Noah Nochasak in the documentary Lament for the Land. “If they can’t go out on the land, travel a long ways to feel good, they don’t feel like people.”

The Inuit’s lands, though, are warming twice as fast as the global average, imperiling the ice they rely on to travel. In the fall, hunters tend to get stuck in the community, because ice hasn’t fully formed up—and again, in the spring, when things are melting. Climate change is making these ice transition periods even longer.

“During those times historically, there has been some increases in suicide or suicide attempts or ideation in the communities,” says Ashlee Cunsolo, a health geographer who has studied the region. “There is a lot of concern among the mental health practitioners. What does that mean if this time is lengthened from two weeks to eight weeks?”

It’s known as ecological grief—the mourning of ecosystems and species and ways of life that are disappearing as the planet warms. But it isn’t just hitting the Inuit. As our planet plays host to rising seas, more intense storms, and higher temperatures, those conditions will support a growing international mental health crisis.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on August 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

There was an interesting study in Nature recently about the correlation between increased heat and suicide (unrelated to that due to livelihood and habitat loss).

Climate Change May Affect Mental Health In A Serious Way, A New Study Finds [, links to access controlled article on Nature]

It finds that there is an increase in suicide rates with increased temperature that doesn't appear to be affected by gender / wealth / adaptation (aircon, etc.) / frequency of exposure / gun ownership, thus:
Although the absence of heterogeneous effects across subpopulations and countries suggests that the mechanism(s) linking suicide to temperature are similar across contexts, isolating specific responsible mechanism(s) in our mortality data is difficult. Alternative data, however, allow us to indirectly explore certain potential mechanisms. One hypothesis is that high temperatures alter the mental well-being of individuals directly, perhaps due to side effects of thermoregulation (for example, altered brain perfusion) or other neurological responses to temperature. Notably, this hypothesis is consistent with suicide responding to very short-run (for example, daily or monthly) variation in temperature, as well as with the finding that depressive disorders are implicated in over half of all suicides.
From their data they predict
we calculate an increase in the suicide rate by 2050 of 1.4% (95% CI: 0.6%–2.6%) in the United States and 2.3% (95% CI: −0.3%–5.6%) in Mexico. The larger uncertainty for the effect in Mexico is due to the larger uncertainty in that country’s regression estimates once temporal displacement is accounted for. Combining our estimated changes in the suicide rate with projections of future population change in the two countries, we estimate that, by 2050, climate change will cause a total of 14,020 excess suicides in the United States (95% CI: 5,600–26,050) and 7,460 excess suicides in Mexico (95% CI: −890–18,300)
[quotes are from the paper itself, not the linked article, as I have access to it via the Open Uni library].

There was also a similar study done in India last year [ - don't think there's access control, so it's the full paper].

It obtained similar results with regards to adaptation and wealth, although crop failure was a larger factor in terms of the overall increase.
More than three quarters of the world’s suicides occur in developing countries, yet little is known about the drivers of suicidal behavior in poor populations. I study India, where one fifth of global suicides occur and suicide rates have doubled since 1980. Using nationally comprehensive panel data over 47 y, I demonstrate that fluctuations in climate, particularly temperature, significantly influence suicide rates. For temperatures above 20 °C, a 1 °C increase in a single day’s temperature causes ∼70 suicides, on average. This effect occurs only during India’s agricultural growing season, when heat also lowers crop yields. I find no evidence that acclimatization, rising incomes, or other unobserved drivers of adaptation are occurring. I estimate that warming over the last 30 y is responsible for 59,300 suicides in India, accounting for 6.8% of the total upward trend. These results deliver large-scale quantitative evidence linking climate and agricultural income to self-harm in a developing country.
posted by Buntix at 4:36 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

In all seriousness, what do individuals need to do in order to get nations and captains of industry to put on the brakes when it comes to all the things that contribute to climate change?

Hello! I work at a climate change research institute (I, uh, do IT, not climate research) so I do have an answer for you on this!

The genius of the Paris Agreement is that it set a global limit for carbon emissions to avoid >2 degrees warming that could be reasonably decomposed into national limits - but the same process means it can be decomposed further into state and city limits. This was intentional. Individual action, while noble, won't save the planet. It's a lot easier to get wide-scale change moving by starting at a city or state level, and those regulations give cover to other cities and states to do the same thing, and you get incremental movement where a federal government is dragging its feet.

So! If you want to get change happening, talk to your local government. In big cities, they're more likely to be liberal, and thus probably also concerned about climate change; in small towns, the climate message sounds very different when it's coming from Jane, who grew up here and we see around town, than when it's coming from Al Gore And The Liberals On TV. Solar farms are a great place to start - China's made solar very cheap, Elon Musk has made battery storage very cheap, and in a lot of places it's within reach for a small community to build a solar farm and subsidise their own power. In some bigger cities in the US, there are solar 'gardens' which allow renters to own part of a solar farm and have their share go towards their power bill.
posted by Merus at 1:40 AM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

Thank you, Merus! FYI to all, I have also posted an AskMe on this topic.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:02 AM on August 3, 2018

Local, visible impacts of climate change: hotter and colder temperatures will damage crops (NPR, August 1, 2018), and for apples, that may mean more discolored fruit. It's fine to eat, but isn't as visually appealing, which is how produce is sorted, at least in the U.S.

Which will worsen an existing problem: Half of all US food produce is thrown away, new research suggests -- The demand for ‘perfect’ fruit and veg means much is discarded, damaging the climate and leaving people hungry (The Guardian, Wed. 13 July 2016; last modified Sat. 2 Dec. 2017)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:45 AM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

143-mph 'fire tornado' that cut a path of destruction is an ominous sign of the future (Rong-Gong Lin II, Joseph Serna and Louis Sahagun for Los Angeles Times, Aug. 3, 2018)
As authorities sifted the rubble from the fire that burned more than 1,000 residences in Shasta County, they were startled by what they encountered.

A soaring transmission tower was tipped over. Tiles were torn off the roofs of homes. Massive trees were uprooted. Vehicles were moved. In one spot, a fence post was bent around a tree, with the bark on one side sheared off.

This was not typical wildfire damage. Rather, it was strong evidence of a giant, powerful spinning vortex that accompanied the Carr fire on July 26. The tornado-like condition, lasting an hour and a half and fueled by extreme heat and intensely dry brush as California heats up to record levels, was captured in dramatic videos that have come to symbolize the destructive power of what is now California’s sixth-most destructive fire.
“Depending on the final number, this might actually be the strongest ‘tornado’ in California history, even if it wasn’t formally a tornado,” UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain said by email. There have been a couple of marginal EF-3 twisters in California’s past, “but this fire whirl was almost certainly longer-lived, larger in spatial scope and perhaps even stronger from a wind speed perspective.”

The vortex could be a factor in the deadly ferocity of this blaze, which killed six. And with climate change playing a factor as California enters a worsening era of wildland fires, last week’s fire vortex adds a layer of unpredictability and danger.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:57 AM on August 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

it's pretty crazy that the entire fire was started from sparks caused by a tow truck pulling a car incorrectly. official sources say "mechanical failure of a vehicle", which sounds super vague.
posted by numaner at 1:25 PM on August 3, 2018

numaner: it's pretty crazy that the entire fire was started from sparks caused by a tow truck pulling a car incorrectly. official sources say "mechanical failure of a vehicle", which sounds super vague.

Growing up in Southern California, I'm familiar with the beautiful, dry summer landscape. So much dry vegetation, and all it takes is a spark to set it off.

A warmer world means a greater risk rain lands on snow, triggering floods -- And that means changing rules for flood management. (Cathleen O'Grady for Ars Technica, Aug. 12, 2018)
At drier and higher elevations, rainfall on snow isn’t so much of a problem, either because there’s not enough rain or not enough snow for it to matter. But when the conditions are just right, heavy rainfall can combine with snowmelt to produce floods that are more catastrophic than the rainfall alone would cause.

When Musselman moved to work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), his colleagues there had also identified this as something they wanted to study—and “they had a great dataset,” Musselman says. “We used that to understand how rare these large flood events are.” Work has been done on this before, but this team was able to use more fine-grained data to build up a detailed picture.

They built a simulated world of weather systems that would produce rain-on-snow floods in the same places and with the same frequency as the 13 years of historical data they used. Once they were sure that the simulation matched the historical patterns of snowpack, snowmelt, and other factors, they used it to build up a picture of how those kinds of events might change in the future.

The model showed shifting patterns: areas that currently have a high risk of flooding will see a decrease, as precipitation will occur more frequently as rain than snow. But at higher elevations, where once there would have been snow falling on a snowpack, rising temperatures will now cause rain to fall on that snow. The Sierra Nevada, Canadian Rockies, and Colorado River headwaters saw the highest increases in risk, with floods twice as likely in some cases.

Philip Mote, who studies climate-related snowpack change and wasn’t involved in this work, points out that the starting rate of floods might not be particularly high, so a doubling of the risk might not necessarily mean a region suddenly awash with floods. The shifting landscape will nonetheless demand a rethink of flood management—but for that, more data will be needed.
Add to those considerations: increased floods on fire-scorched landscapes, which makes flooding all the worse, as there is no vegetation to slow down the water. That seems to be the norm here in New Mexico, where dry and extra-fire prone years are followed by some good rain, but this pairing of rain on snow is extra scary.

Researchers suggest we could tip into a hothouse Earth—here’s what that means -- Multiple tipping points may do far more than eliminate glacial cycles. (John Timmer for Ars Technica, Aug. 10, 2018)
We tend to use "ice age" to mean a period where large ice sheets push south to what are now temperate regions. But from a geologist's perspective, even current conditions are part of an ice age, since large ice sheets exist at the poles. The term provides a contrast to what are called hothouse conditions, which the Earth has experienced for periods that were long enough to entirely melt the poles. The planet hasn't seen hothouse conditions for more than 2.5 million years.

But this week, headlines were full of discussion (Google news search) of a possible return of a hothouse Earth courtesy of climate change. The sudden worries weren't the product of any new research; instead, they were simply the product of a perspective some researchers had written on our current understanding of the climate, plus some potential risks associated with it. The perspective argued that there are multiple tipping points in the climate, and we can't rule out shooting past them even if we get emissions under control within a few decades.

♪ Again last night I had that strange dream
Where everything was exactly how it seemed
Where concerns about the world getting warmer
The people thought they were just being rewarded
For treating others as they'd like to be treated
For obeying stop signs and curing diseases
For mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November
posted by filthy light thief at 9:51 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Halfway to boiling: the city at 50C
Not long ago, 50C was considered an anomaly, but it is increasingly widespread. Earlier this year, the 1.1 million residents of Nawabshah, Pakistan, endured the hottest April ever recorded on Earth, . In neighbouring India two years earlier, the town of Phalodi – the country’s hottest ever day.

Dev Niyogi, professor at Purdue University, Indiana, and chair of the Urban Environment department at the American Meteorological Society, witnessed how cities were affected by extreme heat on a research trip to New Delhi and Pune during that 2015 heatwave in India, which killed more than 2,000 people.

“You could see the physical change. Road surfaces started to melt, neighbourhoods went quiet because people didn’t go out and water vapour rose off the ground like a desert mirage,” he recalls.

“We must hope that we don’t see 50C. That would be uncharted territory. Infrastructure would be crippled and ecosystem services would start to break down, with long-term consequences.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:04 AM on August 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

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