Human pressure has changed the physical and ecological characteristics of coastal zones for centuries. For nearly 40 years, there have been concerted efforts to improve management of the diverse human pressures that have led to deterioration of coastal environments. Since 1992, Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) has been a dominant policy paradigm for bringing together relevant sectors of society to overcome conflicts of resource use and to pursue sustainable development. There is growing evidence that, with some exceptions, these efforts were not much effectives due to extreme climate events and lack of integration with water resources management. Another reason is economic and social changes to people. There are also issues with the way the process has been interpreted, often with soft recommendations and guidelines and unclear overall goals. The time has come to take a fresh look at the future of our coastal zones integrating water resources, balancing economic development, conservation and adaptation to inevitable change. Reexamination of system scales and adoption of ‘Ridge to Reef” approach offers real perspectives for finding a way forward.

Many coastal areas and river basins worldwide are flood prone due to heavy rainfall and cyclonic storm surge. Keeping the risk of flooding at an acceptable level is an ongoing challenge. Nowadays the range of options to mitigate flood risk is becoming more diverse, varying from non-structural measures, such as early warning systems and zoning, to traditional structural measures, such as levees, dams, flood detention areas and pumping stations. The impact of structural measures on natural processes is large and often results in undesirable side effects, such as land subsidence or disturbance of ecosystem functioning and a loss of ecosystem services, with large consequences for local communities. Therefore, the potential of more nature-based flood defense solutions, such as oyster reefs salt marshes and mangroves, that are thought not to have such negative effects on the natural environment, is actively being explored. Studies should explore strong case for application of nature-based defenses and integrating water, coastal and livelihood based defenses.

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Sand and dust storms (SDS) are quite common in the central and the eastern regions of the Kingdom and affect the daily life for short time intervals, (Maghrabi et al, 2009). Over the last decade, scientists have come to realize the impacts on climate, human health, the environment and many socio econimic sectors due to sand and dust storm (WMO, 2016). The most important issue with sand storms is the reduction of visibility that increases the incidence of traffic accidents and may increase the occurrence of vertigo in aircraft pilots, (UNEP, 2016; Davan et al., 1991; Kutiel and Furman, 2003).

Sand and dust storm are usually caused by thunderstorms – or strong pressure gradients associated with cyclones – which increase wind speed over a wide area. These strong winds lift large amounts of sand and dust from bare, dry soils into the atmosphere, transporting them hundreds to thousands of kilometres away. Some 40% of aerosols in the troposphere (the lowest layer of Earth’s atmosphere) are dust particles from wind erosion. The frequency of sandstorms increases during the months of March, April and May. The dust originates mainly from the arid areas across the Arabian Peninsula and transported by the southwesterly winds towards the east (Abdulaziz et al., nd). A brief life cycle of a dust storm, and how one can fuel itself, is described in Figure 1.

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Figure 1 Dust Storm Life Cycle. This simplified diagram of the life cycle of a dust storm and its impacts illustrate how a dust storm can fuel itself (UNEP, 2013)

Recognizing the importance for multiple societal sectors around the world to better understand and monitor atmospheric sand and dust, in 2007, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) endorsed the launching of the Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System (SDS-WAS). It has the mission to enhance the ability of countries to deliver timely and quality sand and dust storm forecasts, observations, information and knowledge to users through an international partnership of research and operational communities (Terradellas et al. 2015). The SDS-WAS works as an international, global network of research, operational centres and users, organized through regional nodes and coordinated by the SDS-WAS Steering Committee (WMO 2015). Three regional nodes are currently in operation: (i) Northern Africa, Middle East and Europe, (ii) Asia and Central Pacific, and (iii) Pan-America.

Early warning systems create the opportunity to not only communicate a severe event, but also its anticipated impact, cost of impact and the overall level of uncertainty. With early warning people could better prepare for a dust storm by taking cover, sealing doors and windows, vacating the streets thus preventing car accidents and securing outdoor assets such as vehicles and manufacturing equipment. Forecasts enable scientists and others to observe how sand and dust storms are forming and moving over space and time. Policymakers can also use this information to determine whether or not disease outbreaks were the result of transported sand and dust or the result of human transport when taking action against health risks (Stefanski and Sivakumar, 2009; UN, 2009). A sampling of institutions and organisations from around the world that offer some forecast or warning support.

Long-term sea level rise driven by global climate change presents clear and highly consequential risks to the United States over the coming decades and centuries. Today, millions of people in the United States already live in areas at risk of coastal flooding, with more moving to the coasts every year (Melillo et al., 2014). Rising seas will dramatically increase the vulnerability of this growing population, along with critical infrastructure related to transportation, energy, trade, military readiness, and coastal ecosystems and the supporting services they provide (Parris et al., 2012; Hall et al., 2016). One recent study estimates that 0.9 meters (m) of sea level rise would permanently inundate areas currently home to 2 million Americans; 1.8 meters would inundate areas currently home to 6 million Americans (Hauer et al., 2016).
Global mean sea level (GMSL) has increased by about 21 centimeters (cm) to 24 cm (8–9 inches [in]) since 1880, with about 8 cm (3 in) occurring since 1993 (Church and White, 2011; Hay et al., 2015; Nerem et al., 2010). In addition, the rate of GMSL rise since 1900 has been faster than during any comparable period over at least the last 2800 years (Kopp et al., 2016a). As is discussed in detail in this report, scientists expect that GMSL will continue to rise throughout the 21st century and beyond, because of global warming that has already occurred and warming that is yet to occur due to the still-uncertain level of future emissions. GMSL rise is a certain impact of climate change; the questions are when, and how much, rather than if. There is also a long-term commitment (persistent trend); even if society sharply reduces emissions in the coming decades, sea level will most likely continue to rise for centuries (Golledge et al., 2015; DeConto and Pollard, 2016).

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Multi-year empirical (smoothed) distributions for daily highest water levels in Norfolk, Va. (Sweet and Park 2014) for the 1960s and 2010s, showing extent that local RSL rise has increased the flood probability relative to impact thresholds defined locally by the National Weather Service (http://water.weather.gov/ahps) for minor (~0.5 m: nuisance level), moderate (~0.9 m) and major (~1.2 m: local level of Hurricane Sandy in 2012) impacts, relative to mean higher high water (MHHW) tidal datum of the National Tidal Datum Epoch (1983–2001). b) Due to RSL rise, annual flood frequencies (based upon 5-year averages) in Norfolk for recurrent nuisance tidal floods with minor impacts are accelerating, as shown by the quadratic trend fit (goodness of fit [R2]=0.84). Flood rates are rapidly increasing in similar fashions along dozens of coastal cities of the U.S. (e.g., Sweet et al., 2014; Sweet and Park, 2014; Sweet and Marra, 2016).

The maritime transportation network is one of the critical infrastructure systems whose disruption significantly impacts the economy, security, and overall well-being of society.  Lessons learned from geo-hazards like earthquakes, tsunami, liquefaction, storms and severe climate events and other natural disasters due to climate change have dramatically demonstrated the vulnerability of seaport structures and the severe damage that can be caused. These fragile and critical nurseries for port infrastructure and the environment demand a high level of protection from the effects of multi-hazards.

Aon NZ Ltd commissioned Tonkin & Taylor Ltd to carry out a tsunami characterisation assessment for ports in New Zealand owned by The Port Collective to assist in the determination of whether their existing insurance cover is sufficient for a significant local tsunami.  The study assessed the critical nearshore tsunami amplitude, momentum and velocity for ports within The Port Collective for New Zealand for two near field earthquake scenarios using boundary condition information of maximum tsunami amplitude at the coast and the empirical methods proposed by ASCE 7 (2016).  Information has been provided along transects perpendicular to the tsunami wave crest to use damage and loss estimation for the Port infrastructure.

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Natural hazards can cause serious disruption to societies and their transport infrastructure networks. The impact of extreme hazard events is largely dependent on the resilience of societies and their networks. Resilience of critical transport infrastructure to extreme weather events, such as flood, heavy rainfall or drought, is one of the most demanding challenges for both government and society. Extreme weather is a phenomenon that causes threats to the well-functioning of the infrastructure. The impacts of various levels of extreme weather on the infrastructure varies throughout globe. These impacts are witnessed through changes in seasons and extreme temperatures, humidity, extreme or prolonged precipitation or drought, extreme wind, and thunderstorms. The extreme weather events may result in disasters such as flooding, drought, or wild fires. These present a range of challenges to the operational resilience of critical transport infrastructure.

Since 1970, the term “resilience” into the study of ecosystems, resiliency-related research has been exponentially increasing. The concept of resilience has expanded to different disciplines, including (1) engineering resilience, or the ability of the system to resume normal functionality after shock; (2) social resilience, or capacity of humans to anticipate and plan for the future; (3) ecological resilience, or the speed of return to stability domain; (4) material resilience, or the ability of material to absorb energy when elastically deformed; and (5) psychology resilience, or the ability of an individual to withstand stress and bounce back or recover from traumatic situations. However, engineering resilience will be important when discussing drainage or transport infrastructure systems. Resilience, when applied to infrastructure systems, implies the ability of such infrastructure systems (including their interconnected ecosystems and social systems) to absorb disturbance and recover after a disturbance.

The economic and societal relevance of the dependency and resilience of critical transport infrastructure is obvious: infrastructure malfunctions and outages can have far reaching consequences and impacts on economy and society. The cost of developing and maintaining critical transport infrastructure is high if they are expected to have a realistic functional and economic life (i.e. 50+ years). Hence, future extreme weather events have to be taken into account when considering protection measures, mitigation measures and adaption measures to reflect actual and predicted instances of critical transport infrastructure failures.

Over the last decades, climate change and the constant growth of cities and urban areas have had a considerable impact on urban drainage system. With fast increase in population and infrastructures, the infiltration capability of rainwater reduced subsequently making the urban areas more vulnerable to urban flood in the presence of heavy rain events. Climate change have increased the vulnerability more by changing/increasing the frequency, intensity, and duration of rain events. All these circumstances have caused considerable increments in both wastewater and rainwater within cities, thereby increasing the risk of combined sewer overflow and flood events. This could be a major catastrophe for water quality as well as overall water resources manage. The urban water cycle is composed by different stages that include collection, transport, purification and conditioning for human needs, distribution, consumption, wastewater collection, depuration, and finally reuse or disposal in the natural environment. The lessons learned paper focuses an integrated model for real time control design and its application to consider the uncertainty of climate change and extreme weather events and strength and weakness of existing real time control model for urban drainage models.

This great little video succinctly demonstrates why we keep on trying to approach river and water problems on a catchment scale.

22 Nov Earthquake!

Japan Earthquake

us_navy_110315-n-2653b-148_a_tug_boat_is_among_debris_in_ofunato_japan_following_a_9-0_magnitude_earthquake_and_subsequent_tsunamiOn Tuesday the 22nd of November the residents of Fukushima experienced a significant day. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan’s Honshu island on Tuesday. Japan has sent out tsunami warnings across the areas of Fukushima and Miyagi, the residents brace for the worst after the 2011 Japan tsunami. It is expected that the waves could be as high as 3 meters in height. Believe it or not some locals are still left living in temporary shelters from 2011’s disaster, most thought they wouldn’t survive this time.

New Zealand Earthquake

On Tuesday evening places not far from Christchurch we rocked by a 5.7 magnitude earthquake.The quake which struck at 6:13 pm had 4300 reports from around the area saying they had felt the earthquake within 30 minutes. The aftershocks appeared in the night leaving families with no sleep and some with not much shelter. A lot of houses have been damaged in a way, most in places like North Canterbury have been severely damaged.

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The Sendai Framework, a landmark international framework adopted in 2015, calls for a shift from managing disasters to managing risks. This requires a more holistic approach to risks and a stronger focus on risk-creation processes, and it presents opportunities to approach disaster risk reduction (DRR) as an integral part of sustainable development.

12552996_10206144906243762_6994267657060727511_nThe UNISDR Science and Technology Conference in January 2016 on the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) is a major event to move to the implementation phase of the framework. The event promotes a global conversation among scientific institutions and policymakers on priorities for science and technology, and on coordination for effective implementation. More than 1,000 participants from the science and technology communities, policymakers, practitioners, and researchers from all geographical regions at local, national, regional, and international levels get together to endorse the road map and share knowledge for the SFDRR implementation.AAEAAQAAAAAAAARzAAAAJGEwZTRjMjg4LTdiMTItNDdlZS04ZDMwLWU2Mzk1ZGY2M2E4ZQ

The SFDRR was endorsed last March 2015. There has been much discussion on what the SFDRR encompasses, and it is obviously difficult to cover all aspects of DRR in short documents. There has been discussion what would be the next after the SFDRR. The journey started with the Yokohama Declaration (1994) and moved onto the Hyogo Framework (2005). Perhaps for the next 15 years it will be the SFDRR.

In my opinion it is a never-ending process that is always evolving. For example, following a tsunami in Hawaii in 1868, experts observed that a key problem was the lack of communication from the Civil Defense to end users. As someone working on natural hazard early warning systems in this century, that same problem still exists in most countries, and we still keep playing our blame games like musical chairs.

Prof Glanz mentioned in his “Spirit of Sendai”:

“The caveat ‘as appropriate’ is, to me, the proverbial ‘fly in the soup’ that allows actors responsible in theory at least for effective DRR to see the SFDRR as a permit to continue along the ‘business as usual’ pathway until the next climate, water, weather, or geohazard reminds them that maybe developing a ‘culture of prevention’ was a more appropriate pathway to have chosen.”

Science has gone though a highly advanced stage but there is still more to go. Unfortunately much of the scientific information is never incorporated into the operational domain for decision-making, and very little has been incorporated down to the community level to respond to disaster risks. There is and will be uncertainty in scientific knowledge. Similarly uncertainty exists in all aspects of human decision-making. People take chances in every decision-making process. Thus there is no harm to applying uncertain scientific knowledge for decision-making. If the probability is 60%, the uncertainty is 40%. But by using 60% certainty, many disaster impacts could be avoided. In the law there is a concept of “foreseeability”. It refers to actions for which the outcomes could and therefore should have been foreseen. Foreseeability is a qualitative expression of probability.

The conference organized a high-level panel to introduce the UNISDR Science and Technology road map for the implementation of the Sendai Framework. Discussions on the scientific and technical partnership to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework included:

  • understanding disaster risk, risk assessment and early warning;
  • leveraging science through capacity development and research; and
  • use of science, technology and innovation tools, methods, and standards to support the implementation and reporting of the Sendai Framework to develop recommendations and an action plan to implement the S&T roadmap.

The road map presents the expected outcomes under each of the four priority actions outlined in the Sendai Framework, and proposes key actions that the UNISDR Science and Technology Partnership will undertake to fulfill the expected outcomes and to achieve the goal of Sendai Framework. It also highlights ways for monitoring progress and reviewing needs.

The SFDRR recognises the importance of science and technology for disaster risk reduction. There is a strong call for science in the Sendai framework. It particularly calls for access to reliable data, capacity building to interpret and use this data, and promoting better understanding of the components of risks – vulnerability, exposure and hazards. It also asks for the development of regular risk assessments, capacities to analyse risk and use data and information in policy planning, and for the promotion of a strong interface between science, policy and practitioners for evidence-based decision-making.

We believe under the SFDRR we will able to see the application of broad-range generation and integration of hazard risk information of all timescales between early warning information providers and users. Multi-hazard early warning systems, through sustained multi-stakeholder dialogue with the participation of mass-based organizations, should ensure that early warning information products, including their uncertainties and limitations, are understood by and communicated to users. We will encourage climate and hydrological forecast applications for mitigating risks in various climate-sensitive sectors, including but not limited to, agriculture, irrigation, and health. Users should be able to evaluate the potential impacts and develop a plan of action in response to the climate and hydrological outlooks. Inter-agency coordination should promote sharing information, integrated policies, sectoral plans, and programs for dealing with potential impacts of hydro-meteorological and geological hazards. There is a process of understanding risks posed and the opportunities brought about by past, current, and future climate.

This report is a summary review on recommended practice, law and policy on hydro meteorological activities in the global context. The World Meteorological Organization, which is the international leader of the development of law and policy on hydrology and meteorology. They provide recommendations and suggest good practices through a manual and a guide for different sectors on water and weather concerns. This report focuses on law and policy on hydro meteorological activities in Vietnam and discusses the general law and policy developed through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) according to five thematic areas of hydrometeorology cited below.

  • Issues related to the systematic management of hydro-meteorological activities, with a focus on the basis of international best practices and upcoming trends in the context of climate change. A unified and systematic state management issues of the hydro-meteorological activities;
  • Recommended options and solutions for management of hydro-meteorological forecasts, the roles and responsibilities of the state hydro-meteorological agencies in warning and forecasting natural disaster, and socialization of common weather forecast services provided by different organizations and individuals;
  • Regulations on hydro-meteorological technical safety sites to ensure conformity with the social-economic development and sharing of international experiences in hydro-meteorological state management to ensure the technical conditions for the meteorological operations;
  • Recommend management of hydro-meteorological data and information sharing in accordance with international common practices and trends;
  • Review and analyze organizational systems of forecast and regulation of hydro meteorological data management in national hydro-meteorological agencies and their state management agencies from the central to local levels.