28 August 2012

Special Infographics: NOLA Hurricane Protection

Following on the two infographics posted yesterday (here and here), and seeing that Tropical Storm Isaac is still forecast to strengthen to hurricane status (NOTE: Isaac was upgraded to hurricane status just as I posted this) and is still aimed at New Orleans LA, I wanted to post one more graphic regarding the current status of hurricane protections around the city. Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government authorized $14.6B in US Army Corps of Engineers repairs and upgrades to levees, seawalls, bridges, locks and flood gates, and pump stations throughout the New Orleans area. TS/Hurricane Isaac does not quite promise the same level of destructive power as Katrina showed, but Isaac is forecast to pass over New Orleans rather slowly. While wind damage and any surge against levees along the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Ponchartrain are likely to remain smaller, and the city even better protected from them, the rainfall amounts within the city's "bowl" may still bring localized flooding away from the protection of levees.

The graphic that I've reproduced below was published yesterday (27 August 2012) in The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune. The graphic is very large and is not legible in a standard screen size here, so you'll need to right-click (depending on your computer) and choose "View Image" (depending on your browser) to see it full-sized. You can also download the original (pdf format) from Nola.com.

27 August 2012

Bonus Monday Infographics: A Hurricane in New Orleans

Following on last night's post, and with Tropical Storm Isaac still on a forecast track that brings it across New Orleans in the next 36 - 48 hours, I wanted to post another infographic from that great series from 2002 in The Times-Picayune regarding hurricane preparations and defenses in New Orleans and coastal Louisiana. As I mentioned last night, in 1998 Hurricane Georges was on a similar forecast track when it veered shortly before making landfall, heading toward the Mississippi coast instead of directly over the Louisiana coastal wetlands. The reporters and contributors for the "Washing Away" series considered what might have happened in New Orleans had Hurricane Georges made that direct hit on the city. I have reproduced here a portion of the massive infographic published on 23 June 2002 that was the justifiable centerpiece for that series in The Times-Picayune; the left side of the original graphic included information on Hurricane Betsy, which also passed near the city in 1965 and prompted much of the hurricane preparations now in place around New Orleans, and the right side included a great deal of information on why the city and its surroundings had become so vulnerable to hurricanes by that time. You can also download the full jpg graphic (1.3 MB) or a pdf version (24 MB) from the archived copy of the "Washing Away" series at Nola.com.

This graphic via Nola.com, originally published on 23 June 2002 in The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune.

Monday Infographics: Hurricanes in Southern Louisiana

At the time of this posting (~1:30 am CDT), Tropical Storm Isaac is located near Key West FL and is projected to strengthen to hurricane status by the time it makes landfall on the coast of Louisiana just south of New Orleans. A number of tropical storms other than Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita (both in 2005) have threatened southern Louisiana, one of the most vulnerable locations on the Gulf Coast. These are in addition to the 2011 Mississippi River floods, among others previously, that have threatened the Delta region. Much work and money goes into the levee system that protects the Delta and many cities along the rivers, bayous, lakes and coastline. New Orleans itself is protected to some extent by a blend of federal, municipal, and local efforts to maintain levees along the Mississippi River and the shores of Lake Ponchartrain, as well as numerous canals and ship channels, to ward off river floods and coastal storm surges. Much of the federal work in southern Louisiana to protect against flooding from tropical storms came in response to Hurricane Betsy, which struck the region in 1965.

Until this latest report from the National Hurricane Center (advisory #24), TS Isaac had been forecast to make landfall east of the New Orleans area, most recently on the coast of Mississippi. The forecast track has been moving progressively westward, but at this time has TS Isaac making a direct hit on the city early Wednesday morning. In 2002, prior to the civil engineering disaster, extensive finger-pointing, costly levee rebuilding, and still-unfunded coastal restoration initiatives that emerged from Katrina and Rita in 2005, reporters for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans assembled an impressive series titled "Washing Away" on the vulnerabilities of that city to such an occurrence. The city had, at that time, just recently been threatened by the near-approach of Hurricane Georges in 1998. That storm had been forecast to strike New Orleans directly, but then turned northeast and eventually passed east of the Mississippi Delta. The forecast tracks of Hurricane Georges in 1998 and TS Isaac this week, from Key West to New Orleans across the warm Gulf of Mexico, are remarkably similar. This infographic on the effects of Hurricane Georges was published as part of that series on 24 June 2002 and has been archived by Nola.com.

This graphic via Nola.com, originally published on 24 June 2002 in The [New Orleans] Times-Picayune.

23 August 2012

Recent Reports on Water and Related Issues

I've collected a number of recent announcements of report releases from public and private sources regarding water and related issues, and wanted to share all of these with you. All of these are available in pdf format for free. In no particular order:
Enjoy your reading!

13 August 2012

Monday infographics: US drought

For your now-regular infographic this week, I was looking for something that showed relationships between the current drought in the US and related issues in water use, agricultural production, food prices, etc. However, the only infographic that I could find with a number of those topics together was not adequate as a stand-alone information source; specifically, it had a lot of data relevant to the current conditions in the US, but no sources listed at the designer's site or on the graphic itself. What's the point of that?

So, for today, I pulled graphics from two sources: the US Drought Monitor (the map below) and the USDA Economic Research Service (the two bar graphs below). For consistency of the data below, I've included here the map corresponding to the date of the analysis from which the ERS produced these graphs. The US Drought Monitor map dated 24 July 2012 corresponds to the approximate maximum geographic extent of drought conditions to date this summer, covering approximately 64% of the continental US. Subsequent maps indicate that the drought has essentially deepened (become more severe) in the central US and possibly eased slightly in spatial extent around the northern edges over the past couple of weeks. The most up-to-date map can be obtained from the US Drought Monitor site.

From the US Drought Monitor.
From the USDA Economic Research Service.

12 August 2012

A double-shot for the Philippines

Total event rainfall in the northern Philippines based on the
NASA TRMM Multi-sensor Precipitation Analysis (MPA).
One of the major stories in international news this past week was the end of eleven (yes, 11) straight days and nights of torrential rains in metropolitan and suburban Manila on the northern Philippine island of Luzon. The island, especially its southwestern portions, was stuck in the midst of a rare combination of tropical cyclones and monsoon rains at two different times. The results have been devastating for the area of 12 million people around Manila as well as vast farming areas to the north of the metropolitan region. The city received as much as 700 mm (27.5 inches) of rain according to satellite-based precipitation analyses released by the NASA Precipitation Measurement Missions project and the NASA Earth Observatory.

NASA Terra image of typhoon Saola in the
vicinity of the Philippines on 30 July 2012.
Typhoon Saola (known as "Gener" in the Philippines) whipped up in the western Pacific Ocean around the last week of July and passed just northeast of Luzon around 30 July on its way to Taiwan and the coast of China, where it made landfall on 1 August. The NASA Terra satellite captured the picture at left around the time of Saola's closest approach to Luzon on 30 July, though by that time the storm had already caused damage and power outages in the northern islands of the Philippines. The BBC provided a video report on conditions in Manila soon after the storm passed. At least 37 fatalities in the Philippines were attributed to this storm and its effects. In particular, the monsoon season had already begun in the northern portion of the South China Sea, and Saola's position and strong storm circulation at the edge of that region served to enhance the southwesterly monsoon flow across the Philippine islands. The direction of this flow led to its interaction with the Sierra Madre and other mountain ranges that run north-south through the northern islands, especially those around the Manila metropolitan region. The low-level flow off of the warm ocean, directed upslope across the city and enhanced in strength by the typhoon circulation, led to massive rainfall amounts and extensive flooding in the area. At least 40,000 people on Luzon were affected by Saola and its interaction with the monsoon system.

Flooding following typhoon Haikui in Rodriguez town, an eastern suburb
of metropolitan Manila. The overflowing Marikina River is visible in the
background. Photo provided by the Department of National Defense
and republished by Reuters and The Atlantic.
As if that wasn't enough, typhoon Haikui began in the western Pacific Ocean around 1 August and also moved westward, eventually making landfall in China as well. Although Haikui remained farther east and north of the Philippines than Saola, the monsoon winds were already in place and strengthened by that time, and Haikui's storm circulation again served to enhance the southwesterly flow across Luzon and the northern Philippine islands. The storm was devastating for the metropolitan region and nearby farming areas, resulting in widespread flooding of Manila, its suburbs, and the river valleys surrounding Manila Bay and Laguna de Bay.
Flooding following typhoon Haikui in Bulacan, a suburban and agricultural
province to the north of metropolitan Manila. Photo provided by the
Department of National Defense and republished by
AFP/Getty and The UK Telegraph.

The Philippine Department of National Defense provided aerial photographs of flood impacts that were reprinted by Reuters in The Atlantic (example at right) and AFP/Getty in The UK Telegraph (example at left).

This is considered the worst flooding event since tropical storm Ketsana in 2009, which led to 464 fatalities. At least 85 fatalities have been reported for this event thus far, and at some point flooding conditions covered 80% of metro Manila with at least 250,000 city residents displaced and at least 3 million affected overall. Blame regarding flood and disaster preparation continues to fly between the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), which had already been working on hazard maps for Luzon and Manila, and the National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC). In the meantime, clean-up and relief efforts have begun, even as the full scope of the disaster and the total damages from the combination of these two storm and flooding events are still being tallied.

NASA Terra image of tropical storm Helen/Kai-Tak
in the vicinity of the Philippines on 13 August 2012.
Updated 16 August 2012

Make that a "triple-shot" for the Philippines. Adding insult to injury, tropical storm Helen/Kai-Tak crossed the northern island of Luzon this week, bringing yet more rain to still-flooded and recovering urban and agricultural areas. This latest storm made landfall on Luzon and led to at least seven more fatalities in the Philippines. A brief video report from Reuters is also available regarding this latest storm event.

A number of local and international organizations are involved in disaster recovery efforts, including the Philippine Red Cross.

06 August 2012

The Energy-Water Collision

It struck me this weekend that I've seen a great number of fairly accurate infographics about water that have been produced in the past few years, so maybe these will become a weekend thing here... The graphic below from the Union of Concerned Scientists was recently posted by Twitter friend @_ColinS_ at his new gig for Smithsonian.com. Make sure to see my NOTEs at the bottom here as well.

NOTE 1: While thermoelectric (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) power plants in the US account for 41% of our national freshwater withdrawals, only approximately 2.5% of that cooling water is "consumed" by conversion to steam. The remainder is discharged from the plant to receiving waters, where thermal pollution (as shown in the graphic) is one of the principal impacts of thermoelectric energy generation on surface water resources in the US. See also the 2003 National Renewable Energy Laboratory Technical Report No. 550-33905, "Consumptive Water Use for U.S. Power Production" (pdf).

NOTE 2: While wind turbines and photovoltaic solar panels do not require water for operation, their manufacture/construction process requires much water and energy. Ultra-pure water, used for silicon-based PV panels, is generated by an energy-intensive process. Both technologies use heavy metals and rare-earth elements in their manufacture; metals-laced mining and manufacturing wastes remain a water quality issue in the US. Wind turbines also require mechanical lubricants and other dielectric materials that necessitate proper disposal practices.