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Don’t look now, but the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could break records

Parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans saw record-high temperatures last month. Meanwhile, the average ocean temperature worldwide came in just shy of the record set in 2016.

On Saturday morning, a tropical depression formed in the eastern Pacific Ocean — the earliest tropical cyclone in that area since reliable record-keeping began in the early 1970s.

These two facts are related: Warming water is changing the size and frequency of tropical storms. And new forecasts show that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which will take place between June and November, is shaping up to be among the worst we’ve ever experienced.

Last week, Penn State’s Earth System Science Center released its predictions for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The team of scientists, which include renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann, said we could be looking at between 15 and 24 named tropical storms this year. Their best estimate is 20 storms. It could be one of the most active hurricane seasons on record.

That’s assuming there’s a La Niña — a weather pattern that blows warm water into the Atlantic and helps dredge up cooler water in the Pacific, sometimes leading to more tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean and fewer in the Pacific. If a La Niña doesn’t develop, then the scientists predict slightly fewer Atlantic hurricanes this year: between 14 and 23 storms. But signs are pointing toward cooling ocean temperatures in the Pacific over the next several months, which could prevent an El Niño — La Niña’s opposite half, which suppresses storms in the Atlantic — from forming. That portends a busy Atlantic season ahead.

In order to get their results, Mann and his team looked at El Niño–Southern Oscillation — the periodic back-and-forth between El Niño or La Niña — in addition to Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies in April and climatic conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. The scientists relied on a statistical model that considers the relationship among a large number of climate factors (water surface temperature, humidity, water vapor, etc.) and the historical Atlantic tropical cyclone record. The actual number of named tropical storms has either fallen within the model’s predicted range or exceeded it every year that the scientists have made a prediction since 2007.

Mann’s model isn’t the only Atlantic hurricane forecast out there predicting a busy season. The Weather Company’s outlook predicts 18 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes (category 3 or higher). Colorado State University also predicts a busy season, with 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. The 30-year average is 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration will release its official outlook in late May.

Just because the forecast says the Atlantic is going to have an active hurricane season doesn’t mean that each of those predicted storms will hit land — there’s no way to predict that this far out. But we do know that the storm-suppressing El Niño looks like it’s going to take a sabbatical this year. The news couldn’t come at a less opportune time. The United States and other countries bordering the Atlantic already have their hands full with the coronavirus pandemic. Another disaster on top of that could strain our already-buckling disaster response system.

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Don’t look now, but the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could break records

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Goodbye, January — goodbye, another heat record

If you found last month unusually balmy for the middle of winter, you’re not alone. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, January was the hottest one of its kind on record, squeaking past the previous record holder, January 2016.

Temperature records have become a fixture of 21st-century life under climate change. Last year, June and September all broke records for global temperature, and July took claimed the hottest month ever recorded. And of course, the last five years have ranked among the hottest years in history.

In some ways, these records seem trivial: After all, last month was just 0.03 degrees Celsius (0.054 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than January 2016. But averages have a way of belying the intensity of temperature changes. Nobody experiences the “global average” increasing temperature; instead, you feel particular anomalies depending on where you live.

Last month, the most extreme temperatures were felt in parts of Northern Europe and Russia, where temperatures were up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Some Scandinavian cities were without snowfall in January for the first time ever; Helsinki, Finland, had less snow than Washington, D.C.

The record warmth threatens livelihoods and pastimes. Skiing areas in Norway and Sweden have been forced to bring in artificial snow to compensate. Meanwhile, in Australia, record-high temperatures and severe drought combined to devastate local wildlife and destroy thousands of homes. Some fires are still burning.

The sobering thing is that these heat records, and even extreme weather events, may soon become so regular that they no longer grab your attention. The steady drumbeats of higher temperatures become background noise, as passing or matching a record every other month becomes the new normal. That’s the problem with broken records: We’re always breaking them.

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Goodbye, January — goodbye, another heat record

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Airbnb wants to send you to the Bahamas for free ⁠— but there’s a catch

Airbnb — the online marketplace for travel lodging and touristy experiences — is searching for five people to drop everything and take a free two-month trip to the Bahamas.

The catch? You have to want to help save the environment. Selected applicants will assist researchers and local experts in preserving the Carribean’s natural and cultural resources by restoring coral reefs and learning about ethical fishing and agricultural practices. The sabbatical will help Bahamians create new eco-friendly experiences for future tourists to book through Airbnb when visiting the islands.

The Bahamas are at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Last September, Hurricane Dorian battered the northern islands with up to 220 mph winds for 40 hours straight, killing at least 70 people and causing more than $3.4 billion in damage. Like other recent powerful hurricanes, Dorian was fueled by high ocean temperatures caused by climate change, and Bahamanians can expect more severe storms in the future as the world warms.

This isn’t the first time Airbnb has offered a “sabbatical” opportunity to help the environment. Last month, the company sent five people to Chile and Antarctica to help study the effects of microplastics on the region. This latest sabbatical initiative — which was developed in partnership with the Bahamas National Trust, a nonprofit that manages the country’s parks and works to protect its natural habitat — will send people to the islands of Andros, Exumas, and Eleuthera, which were not badly affected by Hurricane Dorian.

In the first three weeks of the sabbatical, the chosen applicants will focus on coral reef restoration in the Andros Barrier Reef, the third-largest barrier reef on the planet. Over the years, coastal development and illegal and unsustainable fishing have threatened the Bahamian coral reefs — but climate change has been the biggest threat of them all. The selected applicants will build and care for coral nurseries to foster new growth on the reef.

The Bahamas is made up of more than 700 islands stretched over 750 miles, and its economy relies heavily on tourism. After Dorian hit, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism urged tourists not to cancel their trips to the unravaged parts of the country.

Eric Carey, the executive director of the Bahamas National Trust, echoed that sentiment in a statement about the Airbnb initiative. “The Bahamas is open for business and while we work to restore parts of the archipelago devastated by Hurricane Dorian, the vast majority is ready for visitors,” he said.

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Airbnb wants to send you to the Bahamas for free ⁠— but there’s a catch

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Wildfire smoke is a silent killer — and climate change is making it worse

As the Kincade Fire burned through some 80,000 acres in Northern California, Ismael Barcenas, felt his lungs burning and “knots in [his] throat.” Barcenas, a farmhand at a vineyard in Santa Rosa, has asthma but kept showing up to work and choking through the smoke. After a few days, Barcenas left the county for cleaner air and checked into a hotel.

With strong gusts of wind blowing east, smoke from the Kincade Fire spread all the way to Sacramento last week, about 60 miles from where Barcenas works. There, Michal Borton, a student at Cosumnes River College, found it difficult to breathe as a well-ventilated chemistry lab let smoke in. Borton ended up leaving in the middle of the class.

Several hundred miles south near Long Beach in Southern California, Demetria Maldonado called in sick from her job as an aide for students with special needs. Smoke from the Getty and Castlewood fires had her coughing all day.

Monster fires in California have killed at least three people so far and burned tens of thousands of acres over the last couple of weeks. At least five fires are burning in the state; the Kincade Fire — which began two weeks ago — is still just 88 percent contained. The blazes have closed schools and businesses, forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate, and left behind charred rubble where entire communities once stood.

The effects have also been felt by people out of the path of the fires. Smoke from the Kincade Fire hung over the Bay Area for days, resulting in school closures and a “Spare the Air” alert — a call to avoid driving in order to reduce pollution. In Oakland, Fresno, Visalia and other cities, local public health officials have reported “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” levels of air pollution and asked residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

Of primary concern is particulate matter, specifically PM2.5 — fine particles of soot and dust that are about 30 times smaller in diameter than a strand of human hair. They can burrow their way deep into the lungs, causing asthma and cancer. As wildfires burn through towns, spurred on by a warmer and drier climate, that soot and dust also picks up toxic chemicals from burning buildings.

“Things like lead or other toxins can attach on to that particular matter,” said Mary Prunicki, a pollution biologist at Stanford University. “When that’s inhaled, these other heavy metals or toxic pollutants hitchhike on the PM2.5.”

Researchers expect that particulate matter from wildfires will rise dramatically in the Western U.S. as the planet warms. One study estimates that between 2046 and 2051, wildfire-related PM2.5 levels will likely increase by 160 percent on average if temperatures continue to rise. Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and forests in the northern Rocky Mountains will experience the worst of it, the researchers concluded.

Hotter and longer fires, especially those burning through towns with plastic and chemical materials, may also mean more toxic particulate matter, Prunicki said. “It may make things combust that otherwise wouldn’t, and when that’s put into the air, it can attach on to the particulate matter.”

Barcenas, the farmworker, has been working at the same vineyard for over two decades but said that the fires this year had him reaching for his inhaler more often than when blazes swept Northern California in 2017 and 2018. Leaving the county means missing work and less money for his family. “To me the worst thing about this fire is I’ve been without work for six days, and now four more days,” he said. “In the last fire, I was out only for one day.” He fears that if the fires continue like this, year after year, it could shutter farms in the region and put him out of work.

Barcenas and other asthma sufferers who’ve struggled to breathe the last couple of weeks may discover new health problems months from now. Researchers have found that wildfire smoke can trigger cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses months after the initial exposure, sometimes leading to premature deaths.

One study found that smoke from the Camp and Woolsey fires in California last year contributed to the premature deaths of as many as 1,400 people. That’s excluding the 88 people who died during the fires. A separate analysis last year by Reveal, a nonprofit news organization, concluded that in the months after the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Northern California that left at least 22 dead and burned about 37,000 acres, emergency rooms saw a 20 percent increase in visits by patients for cardiovascular diseases.

That spike in health problems is felt most acutely by the young, elderly, and people of color — in part a function of where they live. When researchers looked at Medicare hospital admission data between 2004 and 2009 for the Western United States, they found that more than 70 percent of black patients were exposed to more than one smoke wave, compared to just 56 percent of white patients. Overall, black residents in the West had a higher risk of hospital admissions as a result of respiratory illnesses.

A lot about wildfire smoke and public health remains unknown. Though many people wear masks as a protective measure, research on their effectiveness is scant, Prunicki said. It’s a question that she and a colleague are hoping to tackle along with looking into whether air purifiers can help people avoid breathing difficulties and other illnesses.

“There’s very little data when you try to guide people on who should be putting on masks,” said Prunicki. “That just makes it hard to make recommendations on what people should do because there’s not research to back it up.”

People also have different levels of comfort with masks. While Maldonado, the special education aide in Southern California, said that using a mask and putting a scarf across her mouth helped her breathe better, Borton, the college student, said that he found wearing a mask suffocating. He relied instead on two daily medications for asthma. “If I wear a mask, then I’m mostly just breathing in the air that I breathed out,” he said. “I just have to suffer through it.”

Jorge Rodriguez contributed reporting to this article.

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Wildfire smoke is a silent killer — and climate change is making it worse

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When wildfires sweep through California, who gets left behind?

Over the past several days, 16 different wildfires have forced hundreds of thousands of Californians to evacuate their homes. Millions have gone without power for days, and more will experience planned outages as Pacific Gas and Energy, the state’s bankrupt power utility, scrambles to make sure its power lines don’t spark yet another wildfire.

The wildfire crisis, one that is expected to get worse in the Golden State in the coming years as the full effects of climate change kick in, illuminates a glaring disparity. When fires rip through a community, its most vulnerable members — the old and sick, domestic workers, construction workers, and incarcerated folks — get left behind. Stories emerging from the fires this year shed unflattering light on the way America treats its poor, old, and working class when climate catastrophe comes knocking.

On Monday, as the Getty Fire was tearing through Los Angeles, the L.A. Times reported on a housekeeper named Carmen Solano who showed up to work in Brentwood, one of the wealthiest areas in L.A., to find that the owners of the house had evacuated hours earlier. They failed to notify her that the neighborhood was under mandatory evacuation.

The Times also spoke to a police officer who said that, when he told many of the laborers he saw working in Brentwood that day that they needed to leave, they told him, “I have to finish.” Some who knew about the fire still made the commute because they couldn’t afford to miss a day’s wages. Fifty-year-old gardener Chon Ortiz mowed lawns while people evacuated around him on Monday, even though the owners hadn’t asked him to come to work. “If they say I have to evacuate, I will,” he told the Times’ Brittny Mejia in Spanish. “But I need to work.”

Poor residents in Northern California, where 200,000 people had to evacuate this week and 2 million are still without power, are facing similarly dire straits. When Governor Gavin Newsom traveled to a mobile home park in American Canyon on Saturday, a woman with a pulmonary heart condition told him that she didn’t have the money to stock up on the medication she needed before the power got shut off at her pharmacy. Her insurance wouldn’t cover refills until her current supply ran out, so her only option was to pay out of pocket. “You could get it if you have the money,” Constantine said. “But I can’t afford that right now. It’s a month’s rent.”

Perhaps no one is more marginalized during wildfire season than incarcerated firefighters. These firefighters get the same training and endure the same dangerous conditions as the state’s wildland firefighting department, CAL FIRE. But they only get paid around $1 an hour, and when they’re done fighting fires, they’ll go back to prison.

Since 1983, at least six of these incarcerated firefighters have died on the job. A new bill introduced in the California state legislature last month would allow prisoners to find careers in firefighting after they’re released, but it’s been met with resistance from the state’s biggest firefighters union.

Lest we forget the gaping disparity between those with means and those without in the fiery West right now, a growing number of rich people are hiring private firefighters to protect their property, the New York Times reports. One company near Sacramento offers “on-call” services for homes in Northern California and Eastern Washington. The price? Up to $3,000 per day. Welcome to the pyrocene, where we’ve set everything on fire and only some of us have the means to stay safe.

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When wildfires sweep through California, who gets left behind?

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Climate change means wild weather. Does that include snowstorms?

If it seems like just last week that summer ended, you are correct — so why does the first day of October look like the dead of winter in the Northern Rockies? Over the weekend, Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued a state of emergency after an unusually intense “winter” storm dropped 48 inches of snow on some parts of the state.

This year has already included a slew of record-setting weather events in the Northern Hemisphere, all courtesy of climate change. Heatwaves across Europe and the Arctic made this the hottest summer ever recorded, the midwestern U.S. is still recovering from terrible floods, and we’re currently in the middle of an unusually intense hurricane season.

So where does Montana’s pre-Halloween winter wonderland fit into all that? If you’re reading this, you probably know that weather and climate are not the same thing, and extreme winter weather doesn’t refute the existence of climate change. (Seriously, y’all, it’s 2019 — don’t be that senator who brought a snowball into Congress to disprove global warming.)

But could the Montana storm have been caused or exacerbated by climate change? Yes. Meteorologists and atmospheric scientists caution that more research is required to know exactly how big a role climate change played in this weekend’s storm, specifically. But it’s possible, and even likely, that climate change contributed to, and intensified, the conditions that made a storm this big possible.

The first mechanism by which climate change could have affected the storm is pretty basic: Warming temperatures lead to evaporating water, which leads to a wetter atmosphere, which leads to more precipitation.

“[A]ll storms are influenced to some degree by climate change because the environment is warmer and moister than it used to be,” said Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Since weather events are determined by factors specific to each situation, Trenberth didn’t think it was accurate to say the storm’s strength was entirely due to climate change — however, “the potential for bigger snowfalls in spring and fall is one of the signatures of climate change.” (Heavy snowfall in Montana this early in the fall is unusual, but not entirely unprecedented — the first snow of the season in 1992 in Great Falls was on August 22.)

There might be another, slightly more convoluted way climate change is affecting the weather that basically boils down to this: Rising Arctic temperatures are messing with the jet stream.

Jet streams are currents of wind way up in the atmosphere (at the altitude planes fly, hence the name) flowing west to east along the boundaries between hot and cold air. There’s one above the northern U.S., and it’s a key player in determining a lot of the region’s weather.

Jennifer Francis, a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, studies how Arctic warming affects the weather in the rest of the northern hemisphere. She said a “contorted jet-stream configuration” was “a less direct connection” between climate change the storm — “and much more controversial, but a topic of active research.”

It’s normal for jet streams to have some north-south fluctuation. But with the melting of cold-retaining sea ice, the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the hemisphere, which researchers like Francis think is making the jet stream slower-moving and wavier as the difference in temperature between the Arctic and land further south decreases.

Francis explained that “unusually warm ocean waters off the west coast and around Alaska” — the result of melting sea ice — helped caused the jet stream to dip so far south, setting up the conditions for this weekend’s wet, heavy storm.

“An early snowstorm like this could have occurred through random chance, but there’s no question (in my mind) that climate change has made it worse,” Francis said.

Scientists have long warned that climate change will bring more frequent, wetter, and slower-moving storms. If this weekend’s storm shows us anything, it’s that that doesn’t just mean hurricanes. “I’d say the dice are loaded in favor of more unusual weather events this winter,” said Francis, “but it’s hard to say who will be affected the most.”

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Climate change means wild weather. Does that include snowstorms?

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The Midwest braces for yet another major storm

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It’s been less than a month since a bomb cyclone hovered over parts of the Midwest, dumping a mix of snow, sleet, and rain on the region. The system wreaked havoc on people, animals, infrastructure, and destroyed over $440 million in crops in Nebraska alone. Now, a similar weather event is headed that way again.

Wyoming and Colorado will get a healthy coating of snow in the mountains tonight and tomorrow, but the storm won’t get really worked up until it moves into the central portion of the country midweek.

Forecasters aren’t yet sure if we can call this storm bomb cyclone 2.0, but it will bring snow, high winds, and possibly thunderstorms to the Plains and Upper Midwest starting on Wednesday. Winter storm watches are in effect in six states. Folks in the High Plains, Northern Plains, and upper Midwest are bracing for what could amount to more than 6 inches of snow, though models show the heaviest band of snow potentially delivering upwards of 30 inches in some places.

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While the snowstorm itself is certainly cause for concern, it’s the snowmelt that will occur after the system dissipates that’s truly troubling for a region still struggling to recover from the March deluge.

Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. has experienced twice the usual amount of precipitation. More than 50 flood gages — devices that monitor water levels — across the country are at moderate or major flood stages. Many of those are located in the Midwest. (For reference, moderate flooding as defined by the National Weather Service is when some buildings, roads, and airstrips are flooded or closed.) April temperatures will quickly melt snow brought in by the storm, adding more water to already-saturated areas.

“This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities,” Ed Clark, director of NOAA’s National Water Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, told CBS News.

An April storm on the heels of a March downpour isn’t just a bad coincidence. Research shows that spring flooding is one of climate change’s many disastrous side effects. As warmer springtime temperatures arrive earlier in the year, the risk of damaging floods worsens. Case in point: Over the past 60 years, “the frequency of heavy downpours has increased by 29 percent over the past 60 years” across the Great Plains, my colleague Eric Holthaus writes.


The Midwest braces for yet another major storm

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TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline was flailing. Trump just revived it.

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Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline was in hot water. Decades of activism, protests, and court cases were paying off, big league, as delays harmed the financial viability of the project. On Friday, the president revived the project with a stroke of his executive pen.

TransCanada had been losing in U.S. courts for the past few years: Obama-appointed federal judge Brian Morris ruled in November that President Trump failed to consider climate change when he approved the pipeline in 2017. In response, TransCanada turned to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to override the ruling, which had required the Trump administration to draw up a new environmental impact report. But that court sided with Morris, a decision that threatened to cause the company to miss out on the 2019 construction season.

Luckily for TransCanada, the company has a friend in the White House. Trump just signed a presidential permit that allows it to sidestep the courts and “construct, connect, operate, and maintain” the line between the U.S. and Canada, in addition to maintaining a facility in Montana that will ship tar-sands crude oil into the United States.

Like many Trump administration decisions, the move is considered highly unusual. If Trump’s decision holds up, it revokes a previous permit granted by Trump — the one that had been found insufficient by Morris — and reissues it.

“Our first response upon seeing this White House communication was that it must be an April Fools joke,” a spokesperson for the Northern Plains Resource Council, a plaintiff in the ongoing lawsuit against Keystone XL, said in a press release. “This new effort appears blatantly illegal on its face and is an unprecedented effort by a United States president to supersede the judicial branch of the United States government.”

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TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline was flailing. Trump just revived it.

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RIP Wallace Broecker, the scientist who changed the way we think about the climate

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Wallace Broecker, the geochemist who popularized the phrase “global warming,” passed away on Monday at 87. His research changed our understanding of oceans and how we think and talk about climate change.

“The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks,” he said some 20 years ago.

His landmark 1975 paper “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” was one of the first to use the term “global warming.” In it, he predicted the rise in average global temperature over the next 35 years with stunning accuracy.

Broecker, who wrote roughly 17 books and 500 research papers over the course of his career at Columbia University, conducted groundbreaking research on the “ocean conveyor belt,” a pattern of currents that circulates water around the globe and regulates heat. He suggested that it’s the “Achilles heel of the climate system,” as even a small rise in temperatures could snap it.

Ever seen the movie The Day After Tomorrow, where global warming plays havoc with that conveyor belt, a tidal wave engulfs Manhattan, and much of the Northern Hemisphere turns to ice? It’s based on Broecker’s ideas — though, granted, it’s a wild exaggeration.

After some credited Broecker for coining “global warming” in 1975, he offered $200 to any student who could find an earlier citation. One postgrad took him up and tracked it down in a 1957 editorial in Indiana’s Hammond Times. Alas, the term is slightly older than that: The Oxford English Dictionary traces its usage back to a 1952 article from the San Antonio Express.

In any case, “global warming” was certainly catchier than “inadvertent climate modification,” a clunky phrase used by Broecker’s contemporaries in the 1970s. So global warming it was. The usage became widespread in the late ’80s, when NASA climate scientist James Hansen famously warned Congress of the risks of rising greenhouse gases.

Broecker “warned that he would turn over in his grave if someone put ‘global warming’ on his tombstone,” according to an article from Columbia’s Earth Institute. Instead, he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the ocean he spent his life studying.

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RIP Wallace Broecker, the scientist who changed the way we think about the climate

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California’s Camp Fire was the most expensive natural disaster worldwide in 2018

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This story was originally published by the HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Camp Fire, which killed 86 people and burned the Northern California town of Paradise to the ground in November, was last year’s most expensive natural disaster worldwide, according to a report from German-based global reinsurance company Munich Re.

The fire, which was the deadliest and most destructive in the state’s modern history, tore through nearly 14,000 homes around Paradise, a rural community about an hour and half north of Sacramento.

Now the blaze holds another devastating record, according to the report released Tuesday: the costliest natural disaster in 2018. Each year the reinsurer tracks major natural catastrophes and estimates the losses incurred, including to insurers, in its natural catastrophe loss database.

Natural disasters worldwide in 2018 cost a total of about $160 billion — significantly higher than the average over the last 30 years of about $140 billion (adjusted for inflation).

The Camp Fire was the costliest last year, at $16.5 billion in losses, including $12.5 billion of insured losses. The next most expensive disaster was Hurricane Michael, which barreled through Florida in October, killing nearly four dozen people and wrecking entire communities.

“Our data shows that the losses from wildfires in California have risen dramatically in recent years,” Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s head of climate, said in a press release. “We have experienced a significant increase in hot, dry summers, which has been a major factor in the formation of wildfires. Many scientists see a link between these developments and advancing climate change.”

The Camp Fire was just one of several record-breaking natural disasters around the world last year that were an indicator of climate change’s effects coming home to roost.

Multiple hurricanes in the U.S. last year — including Michael and Florence hitting within a month — and typhoons tearing through Japan and the Philippines were among the major catastrophes that came at a high cost in 2018, according to the Munich Re report.

The Camp Fire could come at a serious cost to power company PG&E. Dozens of Camp Fire victims have sued the utility for its alleged role in the blaze, saying it did not properly maintain its power lines. Their lawsuit points to PG&E documents that indicated a failing transmission line was in the area where the massive blaze was believed to have started.

Last month California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the company could face charges as serious as murder or manslaughter for its alleged role in the blaze as well as other wildfires it may be connected to around the state over the past couple of years, The Sacramento Bee reported.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump threatened to cut off wildfire aid to California from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said in a now-deleted tweet that state officials had to “get their act together, which is unlikely” and improve forest management.

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California’s Camp Fire was the most expensive natural disaster worldwide in 2018

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