Saturday, August 6, 2022
Friday, August 5, 2022
Photo: Patrick Kelley
Subsea cables are essential parts of infrastructure, in that they serve to transmit all Internet data.
For something so critical to our modern life they are well hidden in the depths of oceans and seas.
Subsea cables have recently made headlines.
The volcanic eruption in Tonga cut the fiber optic cable connecting the archipelago to the rest of the world.
Underwater cables are vulnerable to natural disasters and the consequences are felt both locally and globally.
However, it is not only natural disasters but also security risks that may affect the functioning of the subsea cables.
The Arctic Svalbard archipelago experienced a subsea cable disruption in January 2022 that would require repair, but the underlying reasons for the problem are unclear, with some media quickly suggesting cable sabotage as part of military stance.
Connectivity in the Arctic is the cornerstone for sustainable development, promoting commercial development, addressing social concerns, and advancing transportation infrastructure in Arctic regions.
Much of the Arctic is remote as a region, with low population density and harsh climatic conditions making it one of the last areas to gain broadband connectivity.
Historically, development of connectivity infrastructure in the Arctic has been hampered by difficult terrain, climate, distances, and the need to serve sparsely populated regions.
Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can affect the reliability of communications equipment and require special measures to mitigate risks.
In addition to these factors, higher costs and staffing challenges affect the deployment of network infrastructure in some Arctic regions.
Costs of deploying and maintaining connectivity infrastructure in areas without road access and electrical grids were identified as risk factors in a report by the Arctic Council Task Force on Improved Connectivity in the Arctic. Due to the low population density and harsh environment, businesses in the Arctic have historically been unable to make strong cases for connectivity infrastructure investment and have relied on public investment through programs and grants. Access to modern subsea cable infrastructure can be considered an essential human right due to the provision of broadband services.
Yet many Arctic settlements are still deprived of it.
This article addresses the status of Arctic cables projects that are currently in flux.
Bringing security and geopolitical considerations into the analysis, it traces the evolution of recent subsea cables projects in the Arctic, and focuses on the Arctic Connect, a Trans-Arctic subsea cable project that was jointly developed by Finland and Russia and is currently on hold indefinitely.
Additionally, it will analyze the role of the Russian-led Polar Express subsea cable project from Murmansk to Vladivostok with landing lines to the largest ports and settlements along the Russian Arctic zone and a new project, Far North Fiber Express Route, that will connect Europe with Japan and Asia via the Northwest Passage in the Arctic.
History of Arctic cables development
Since their origination, subsea cables projects in the Arctic have developed along shipping routes in both the North-East and in North-West directions.
Already in 2011 in the North-East direction, Russia initiated the state-owned project ROTACS (Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable System).
In April 2012, the Russian owned Polarnet Project Company signed an agreement with the US-based Tyco Electronic Subcom (TES) for the construction of the ROTACS.
The project was put on hold and later terminated as a consequence of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Severe sanctions on Russia, especially on high-tech exports, also contributed to the project termination. Later, the Arctic Connect project was initiated on the North-East corridor to cover connectivity needs in the Arctic.
In the North-West direction, the US-based company Quintillion was the first company to launch a Trans-Arctic project through the North-West passage.
Due to financial challenges this project ended.
The newest Trans-Arctic cable project along the North-West route is the Far North Fiber Express Route project that is analyzed further in the article.
International cooperation and Arctic Connect
The Arctic Connect subsea cable was an initiative led by Finland, starting from 2015, that planned to link Europe and Asia through a subsea fiber optic cable on the seabed along the Northern Sea Route (NSR).
The initiative was led by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications and was carried out by the Finnish state-owned fiber infrastructure operator Cinia Ltd.
In March 2016, Cinia Ltd announced that it would build the Arctic Connect undersea data cable, connecting Europe with Asia.6)The Arctic Connect project mission was partly meant to improve the connectivity in Arctic areas, in line with the objectives of the Arctic Council.
Previously, Cinia had already completed the fast and cyber secure C-Lion1 submarine cable connection between Finland and Germany.
The Arctic Connect cable aimed to meet the current availability of and additional needs for fiber-optic connectivity that was planned from Southern Finland to Kirkenes, Norway to Murmansk, Russia.
The total length of the Arctic Connect subsea cable was estimated to be 13,800 km, using the shortest path between Asia and Europe, compared to the numerous existing subsea cable systems that are currently connecting Asia and Europe via the Arabian/Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Arctic Connect subsea cable project was planned to be finished between 2022-2023 with an estimated cost of 0.8 to 1.2 billion USD.7)
Arctic Connect would link Europe with Russia and Asia and provide a better internet connection with lower latency, thanks to the shorter distance.
Additionally, the lower shipping traffic along the NSR as compared to the south shipping corridors was anticipated to make Arctic Connect cable less prone to disruptions caused by human activities.
A preliminary study for Arctic Connect was launched in 2015, followed by a political feasibility study conducted the next year.
In order to operate in the Russian controlled Arctic waters, Cinia needed a Russian partner.
In June 2019, Cinia and one of the largest Russian telecom operators, MegaFon, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Arctic Connect subsea cable project.8)
In December 2019, MegaFon agreed to create the split-ownership joint venture Arctic Link Development Oy with Cinia for the construction of the Arctic Connect submarine cable.
The first marine survey work for the project was started in August 2020 and was finished in November 2020.
In 2020, the Arctic Connect project became even more international with new partners from Japan, Norway and Finland.9) At the same time the project was clouded by non-transparent financial and cost structures, the uncertainty of foreign investor engagement, and evolving geopolitical threats.10) Finally, in May 2021, MegaFon announced that the structure and economy of the project was to be reconsidered, and subsequently the project was halted.11) Taking into consideration the current geopolitical context with growing economic isolation of Russia from the West, it appears to be unlikely that the cooperation between Cinia and MegaFon would ever resume.
Moreover, Cinia is now committed to the Arctic Express cable through a MoU.
Russian-led Polar Express cable
A Russian regional subsea system, Polar Express, was announced in April 2021, which featured a 12,650km subsea cable and cost 1 billion USD, running along Russia’s entire Arctic coastline, from Murmansk to Vladivostok.
This subsea cable project is being developed by the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, the Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport (Rosmorrechflot), and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) Rosmorport.
Polar Express is promoted by the Russian state as a digital component of the development of the Northern Sea Route and to support oil and gas and environmental projects in the Arctic.
The shortest fiber optic link between Europe and Asia is an alternative to satellite communications in northern latitudes, providing widely distributed, affordable communications and fast Internet in the Arctic.
Polar Express will include a series of offshore, auxiliary, and research cables that will be used for different purposes.
The project is expected to be completed by 2026.12)
Starting in August 2021, the project is already underway with more than 400km of subsea cable being deployed.
Interestingly, given the size and complexity of this project the cable system is supplied solely by Russian suppliers and equipment manufacturers.
The first batch of cable was manufactured at the Office of Advanced Technologies plant which was recently opened in Murmansk.
In total, nine vessels will participate in the work of laying the cable: four survey vessels, three support vessels, and two cable-laying ships.
Closely linked to Polar Express are plans to connect it to terrestrial cables in the Russian Arctic region.
In December 2021, the largest digital services provider in Russia, Rostelecom, announced a joint venture, which proposed to build a terrestrial route between Asia and Europe, traversing the Russian Federation.
Rostelecom’s ambitions to build a new terrestrial system have been known in the market for a while, and the potential competition from this project would likely put more stress on the commercial viability of the Arctic Connect project.
But what was likely the most important issue to resolve for Russian authorities was to maintain sovereignty, economic development, and national interests through fully Russian-owned and operated critical infrastructure.
It is unlikely that any geopolitical risks would affect this project because the cable has already been manufactured and has started to be laid, using Russian owned capabilities.
Far North Fiber Express
With the Arctic Connect project being halted, Cinia has been searching for other Arctic subsea cable projects to partner with.
In December 2021, Cinia signed a MoU with Far North Digital/True North Global Networks for developing a Pan-Arctic cable system.
This system, named Far North Fiber Express Route, will run from Japan via the Northwest Passage to Europe.
In Europe, the cable system will branch off and land in Ireland and in Northern Norway.
The cable design will provide express fiber routes via Asia to Europe, as well as serve local settlements in US and Canadian Arctic territories.13) The system is slightly longer than the previously planned Arctic Connect system and will likely measure over 16,000 km end-to-end, from Japan to Norway.
The build cost of this system is estimated at EUR 1.2 billion.
No timeframe has been announced yet.
For a long time there was very little progress on the development of connectivity in the Arctic with subsea cables.
The plans to connect the Arctic through Nordic-Russian cooperation in the name of Arctic Connect did not materialize.
What remains now is two alternative projects: a Russian-led Polar Express and a revised project Far North Fiber Express, which is led by Cinia and goes westwards.
Geopolitically, moving away from Russian project cooperation in favour of projects led by US/Canadian interests is a big shift for the Nordic countries.
One can only speculate on the reasons for MegaFon halting the Arctic Connect project, but the Polar Express would be taking away most of the commercial rationale for building the Arctic Connect system that shares a similar path through the NSR.
At the same time, Russia has plans to develop a data center industry in its own Arctic regions.
Rostelecom announced its plans to launch the first regional data center in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation in the summer of 2022.14) In terms of business, Cinia’s goal remains the same as with the Arctic Connect project — to make Finnish and Nordic data centers more attractive for international data center operators and establish a Nordic hub between the Asian and continental Europe.
The aftermath is that there will most likely be at least two large Arctic subsea cables in less than five years.
Apart from Polar Express projects, there are smaller regional projects, such as a 1,900 km submarine cable connecting the Alaskan Arctic towns of Prudhoe Bay and Nome,15) and a 2,400 km subsea cable linking Nunavut, Canada with Nuuk, Greenland.16)
It should be noted that internationally, there is a great need for more legal statutes governing undersea cables and the threats to these systems.17) Apart from addressing geopolitical tensions and threats, when developing subsea cables the needs of the local people and business should be included in the projects from the beginning.
Increased cyber security and sovereignty considerations will bring more attention to the ownership and financing structure of these Arctic subsea cable projects.
The subsea cables are finally reaching the most remote places on earth, with an Antarctic subsea cable project launched in December 202118) and two large-scale Arctic projects on the way.
Subsea cables are becoming part of the critical infrastructure in the Arctic, providing opportunities for connectivity, sovereignty, and conditions for the development of further business and human potential in the region.
Hence, subsea cables in the Arctic create preconditions for the proper functioning of a digital economy.
- The Artic Institute : Arctic: The Arctic Institute Infrastructure Series (Introduction) / Underneath the Ice: Undersea Cables, the Arctic Circle, and International Security / Enhancing Industrial Development in the Russian Arctic: The Northern Latitudinal Passage / Without Icebreakers, Arctic Infrastructure Won’t Matter / ‘Supported by every traveler in Norway’: Den Norske Turistforening, tourist infrastructure and transnational travel /Iqaluit’s water crisis highlights deeper issues with Arctic infrastructure /Arctic Towns in Transition: Norway’s commitment towards a new energy solution on Svalbard / Arctic Military Infrastructure: The Olavsvern case / Space Infrastructure for a Sustainable Arctic: Opportunities and Challenges of Spaceport Development in the High North
Thursday, August 4, 2022
Autonomous ships are good for business, for the environment and improves safety both at sea and on land.
Autonomy introduces a new competition area for short-sea shipping and opens a larger market for maritime players – on the expense of polluting, congested and accident-prone truck transportation.
For short sea shipping, the major cost drivers are crew and manual port handling.
These costs can be significantly reduced by introducing autonomy:
Fully autonomous vessels can be built with lower investment cost as there is no need for crew accommodation, crew safety equipment, air condition, sanitary systems or bridge.
Both fully autonomous and automated vessels offer lower operational cost as crew onboard may be reduced or fully replaced by crew on shore which is supporting several vessels.
Autonomous ships provide significant safety benefits, as 75% of maritime accidents are caused by human error with the leading cause being fatigue and attention deficit.
As there is no crew that needs to go ashore for crew change, fully autonomous vessels can more easily adopt slow speed and save energy/fuel.
Autonomous vessels will primarily be maintained when in port.
Hence the vessel is designed with a minimum of rotating parts and her propulsion is likely to be battery driven or driven by gas/fuel cells.
This means that autonomous vessels will have zero or low emissions to air and sea.
Seagoing professions are increasingly perceived as unattractive for the young generation.
Autonomous vessels allow mariners to control and monitor vessels from ashore and enjoy their social life.
There is also a forecasted global shortage of ~150.000 seagoing officers by 2025 (according to ICS and BIMCO Manpower Report 2015).
What can be achieved within our global regulatory framework?
The IMO instruments governing the safety of commercial shipping do not provide any regulations for autonomous operations, but IMO has started a scoping exercise for new regulations.
Meantime, the Maritime Safety Committee, at its 101st session (June 2019) approved “Interim Guidelines for MASS trials”, with the aim of assisting relevant authorities and stakeholders and ensuring that the trials of MASS related systems and infrastructure are conducted safely, securely, and with due regard for protection of the environment.
The term trial means an experiment or series of experiments, conducted over a limited period, in order to evaluate alternative methods of performing specific functions or satisfying regulatory requirements prescribed by various IMO instruments, which would provide at least the same degree of safety, security and protection of the environment as provided by those instruments.
Massterly is currently working with the Norwegian Maritime Authorities to gain approval for operation of unmanned vessels within the Norwegian territorial waters.
The work consists of both documentations, testing and simulations to prove that autonomous and remote control of vessel functions will have a level of safety equivalent or better compared to conventional operations of vessels, with respect to safeguarding life, property and the environment.
Testing of the first vessels will also take place in real life with crew onboard and shore-based operation in parallel, and this testing phase will last until we are confident enough to operate unmanned.
Some of the documents we are preparing for specific vessel projects together with our partners (e.g.
Kongsberg, Wilhelmsen, DNV GL, University of South-Eastern Norway) are Concept of Operations, Safety Philosophy, Design Philosophy, Maintenance philosophy and HAZID (Hazard Identification).
There are many international regulations that must be considered, and where compliance with the intent of mandatory instruments should be ensured.
For example, considering COLREG (International Convention for Preventing Collisions at Sea), we should ensure a level of safety of navigation that is equivalent or better compared to a conventional vessel (where navigation is performed by navigators on board).
Other examples of applicable IMO conventions to consider are the International Convention for Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW).
The above regulations are all based on navigators on board having a full situational awareness based on own perceptions and situation analysis, supported by the aids prescribed by the regulations.
We need to demonstrate how the objectives of the regulation can be met when the navigator’s presence on board is replaced by autonomous and remote navigation.
A Shore Control Center is under construction at Massterly’s office in Norway and the plan is that the center will be manned by crew/operators employed by Wilhelmsen Ship Management (WSM) who as a company will hold a valid DOC (Document of Compliance) and a customized SMS (Safety Management System) for operating autonomous vessels from shore.
The long experience and deep competence of WSM provides quality assurance for safe operations of the vessels.
Coupled with market leading automation technology and cybersecurity measures from Kongsberg we will offer the safest possible operations for the first generation unmanned, commercial vessels.
The Shore Control Center is not only about replacing the onboard crew.
The real potential lies in the added value of integrating information from various sources in the logistics value chain and systems onboard the vessel into a sensible front-end.
This will result in increased decision support for the operator, lower operating costs and improved life cycle management of the vessel/fleet.
We are confident that we will be able to scale the advantages of autonomous vessels within the Norwegian territorial waters, however for the true potential of autonomy to be unleashed we need IMO regulations to adopt to the new reality of technology.
Our hope is that the pioneer work and trials initiated in many countries will give insights that can help shape the future IMO regulations, and accelerate the speed of this work.
Meantime, the industry must keep innovating under regulatory uncertainty.
About Massterly: The two major Norwegian companies Wilhelmsen and Kongsberg have joined forces to lead the development of autonomous shipping globally.
These two strong and innovative companies each owns 50% of Massterly AS which started operations in September 2018.
The main purpose of Massterly is to develop environmentally friendly, safe and cost-efficient logistics, enabling a shift in transportation from congested roads to the sea.
Wednesday, August 3, 2022
Source: Desai and Shambaugh, PLOS ONE 2021 (CC-BY 4.0)
" I believe the title of pirate should be given to those who come to our waters illegally.”In early 1991 a few miles off of the coast of Somalia—just as Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship was collapsing—the merchant vessel Naviluck was attacked by three boatloads of men who killed some of the ship’s crew members, set it on fire, and sank it.
– Farah Ismail Eid, Interview with a Pirate
More than likely, coastal residents who had grown hostile towards foreign vessels decided to take matters into their own hands.
Prior to 1991, piracy off the Horn of Africa was more or less unknown, with far more incidents occurring in the Strait of Malacca or the Gulf of Guinea.
In the 1980s the Somali government resettled thousands of nomadsfrom the drought-stricken interior to work in coastal fishing cooperatives, vastly expanding both artisanal fish production and the number of people dependent on small-scale fisheries.
As Somalia plunged into civil war, foreign fishing fleets began operating inside Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), sometimes illegally.
Many of these ships employed habitat-destroying methods such as bottom trawling and blast fishing, or methods that routinely caught large volumes of non-target species, which would then be discarded.
Egypt, Greece, South Korea, and Taiwan were among the nations that trawled in Somali waters in the 2000s.
Around the same time, EU-flagged vessels and EU-owned vessels flagged to other nations began purse seining in the Somalia EEZ.
In response, Somalis took to the seas to fight them off.
Between the 1990s and 2010—as some ships began to arm themselves, and some shipping companies made deals with warlords for protection—piracy in the western Indian Ocean became far more organized, sophisticated, and lethal.
International organizations have long argued that poverty and unemployment in coastal communities are underlying causes of piracy.
Others are skeptical that problems facing local fisheries are connected to piracy, based on reports that many pirates are actually members of inland nomadic clans or criminal gangs.
In new research, we explore these links—not only in the context of Indian Ocean piracy, but globally.
We segment the world’s oceans into 1 degree-by-1 degree cells, and analyze the spatial links between harmful fishing practices and piracy incidents between 2005 and 2014 (see map).
Previous research has tended to focus on country-specific variables (e.g., poverty, per-capita income, conflict, etc.) and has not adequately addressed the location-specific factors that influence piracy.
By contrast, our data-driven spatial analysis is based on the geographic locations of actual pirate incidents.
What did we find?
First, failed and fragile states create environments ripe for piracy.
Lawlessness and weak governance create underlying conditions that enable pirate gangs to operate with minimal risk.
These conditions also increase the appeal of pirate gangs that can offer alternate sources of livelihood and help to deter encroachment by industrial fishing fleets.
Second, we find that piracy is not more likely to be close to impoverished coastal areas, nor near countries affected by drought and associated agricultural losses.
On the contrary, piracy tends to be more prevalent in areas with greater levels of economic activity.
Third, and most critically, pirates are more likely to attack in maritime cells in which there is high bycatch or where there are high rates of fish catch using habitat-destroying practices (e.g., bottom trawling, blast fishing).
Similarly, piracy spikes in areas where higher levels of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are prevalent.
- GeoGarage blog :Visualizing 40 years of nautical piracy / Piracy & time travel
- The Nation On Line : Our ugly encounters with sea pirates, by fishermen
Tuesday, August 2, 2022
From NPR by Nick Underwood, Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky, Rosemary Misdary, Jacob Fenston
As climate change warms the planet, drives up sea levels and energizes hurricanes, the arsenal of dangerous impacts delivered by the fierce storms is expected to get supercharged.
Among the most worrisome: powerful flooding from storm surge.
Rising seas and stronger winds mean the punishing waves pushed ashore by tropical storms and hurricanes will make their way farther and farther inland.
That inland march would expose a larger swath of the U.S. coast to the kind of flooding unleashed during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and put more people at risk of drowning, the leading cause of death in hurricanes.
An NPR analysis based on modeling from the National Hurricane Center for three critical regions — New York City, Washington, D.C., and Miami-Dade County — found future sea rise alone could expose about 720,000 more people to flooding in the decades to come.
The analysis used three landmark hurricanes — Sandy, Isabel, and Irma — as benchmarks to understand how the impacts of storm surge could grow.
In all three regions, flooding from storm surge that once lingered along the coast travels miles farther inland and grows deeper.
By 2080, when sea rise could reach more than three feet, flooding would engulf even more critical infrastructure, including hospitals and schools that often provide shelter.
"Every bit of sea level that we add to this just makes this kind of scenario worse," said Brian Haus, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, who studies the damaging power of storm surge.
Unlike flood waters from rainfall or overflowing canals or rivers, storm surge also carries the power of wind, he said.
When a hurricane makes landfall, winds powerful enough to rip a roof off a house push a wall of water onto shore.
"Each time a wave hits, it's just a big spike," Haus said.
"That kind of repetitive shock loading is the kind of thing that causes a lot of structural failure."
The National Hurricane Center began testing surge forecasts in 2014 and issued the first official forecasts in 2017, the year Hurricane Irma slammed Florida and triggered the largest evacuation in the state's history.
"Storm surge was killing people more than any other hazard.
So they went on this campaign to figure out how can we do something in a way that people understand," said Cody Fritz, who leads the hurricane center's storm surge unit and conducted the modeling for NPR.
Over the years, the center improved its surge model, adding sophisticated layers that provide a more detailed projection of how that water travels over land.
"Realistically, you can zoom down to where the water might be," Fritz said.
"We're not that good that we can [locate your] mailbox, but you have a pretty good idea of what risk you might have to deal with."
A building boom in the path of storm surge
Five years ago, Hurricane Irma aimed its mighty force at Miami, putting the nation's seventh-most populated county in the crosshairs of one of the most powerful storms on record.
"It was clear that basically everything east of U.S.1 would be under nine feet of water, which includes my house," said Brian Haus, the University of Miami researcher who studies the damaging impacts from storm surge.
"This would have been the complete worst-case scenario for everything in South Dade [County]."
Instead, the storm swerved left and crossed the Lower Keys, sparing the crowded coast from the worst of its flooding.
But what if Irma had stayed its course? As seas rise, storm surge projections modeled by the National Hurricane Center suggest the scenario Haus feared could become dramatically worse.
It's a particularly urgent threat for the low-lying southern end of the county, where fast-growing suburbs are squeezed between two national parks and a shrinking farming community.
Using an array of data including wind speeds and other atmospheric conditions during Irma, as well as topography and other features onshore, the National Hurricane Center modeled the depth and extent of flooding Irma would have produced had the center of the storm made landfall in Miami-Dade County.
Fritz, the center's storm surge chief, then added the latest sea level rise projections for the coming years from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to depict worsening storm surge.
Flooding already at lethal levels under today's conditions would top nine feet farther and farther inland as waters rise.
An NPR analysis using 2020 Census data found the number of people at risk could nearly double by 2080, based on NOAA's likely sea level rise projection of just over 2.5 feet.
After Hurricane Andrew swept through in 1992 and decimated the area, South Florida has continued to see repeated strikes or near-misses by tropical storms or hurricanes.
Yet construction in the county has boomed almost non-stop.
Developments like Crystal Cay, Silver Palms and Pine Vista replaced tomato fields and marshes.
According to data from the University of Florida, 52 percent of developed lots in the area of southern Miami-Dade County pictured in the map below have been built since Andrew.
That's more than 44,000 out of about 85,000 parcels with structures.
Of that post-Andrew construction, just over a third is already vulnerable to flooding from a storm like Irma.
By 2080, nearly two-thirds (28,000) of those recently developed lots will be at risk.
When a powerful storm comes, "Nothing to do but sit there, and pray and wait."
A U.S. Air Force base and nuclear power plant would be among the critical facilities hit by the surge.
The plant's reactors are elevated about 20 feet above sea level, but roads needed to carry diesel fuel and other supplies to a shuttered plant would be under more than nine feet of water.
Black residents in South Florida would be three times more likely to be flooded, a higher rate than the rest of the population, according to an analysis by Tampa Bay Times data editor Langston Taylor.
The tiny village of Cutler Bay would be one of the many places to bear the full brunt of the surge.
Just this past June, flooding from what would become the first named storm of this year's hurricane season submerged parts of the town, including Craig Emmanuel's street.
"You went to sleep on dry land and you woke up and the streets were flooded," said Emmanuel, who nearly missed his son's fifth grade graduation.
"I don't think anyone was prepared for it to be as high as it was."
In nearby Richmond Heights, where Emmanuel grew up and his parents rebuilt their house after Andrew, flooding could be between six feet and nine feet deep in just four decades.
The historic black community, built after World War II for returning vets, sits more than five miles from the coast.
And that kind of inland flooding can complicate evacuation plans.
State emergency managers say it would take about a day to evacuate coastal neighborhoods.
When flooding reaches inland communities, evacuation times more than triple.
Tim Meerbott, Cutler Bay's mayor and a lifelong resident, helped found the village in 2005 partly to help recover from Andrew, a storm he rode out hiding in his garage with his family.
"We didn't have near as many residents back then.
We didn't have near as much concrete back then," he said.
"Andrew had 165 mile an hour sustained winds and you're up to your shoulders in water.
What do you do? Nothing to do but sit there, and pray and wait."
NEW YORK CITY
A tale of two river walks
Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest storm of the 2012 hurricane season.
Over 48 hours, it damaged or destroyed nearly 800 buildings across New York City, including 70,000 housing units and left about 2 million people without electricity.
Forty-three people in the city died as a result and damage was estimated at $19 billion.
The preparation and response was one of the largest mobilizations of public services in history, according to the city.
The consequences of a similar storm in the future could be even worse.
With rising sea levels, the National Hurricane Center's model predicts that the extent and depth of storm surge will grow dramatically across the five boroughs.
NPR's analysis found that the number of New Yorkers directly threatened by flooding could more than double from about 207,000 in 2020 to 468,000 in 2080.
Superstorm Sandy slammed 35 public housing developments managed by the New York City Housing Administration (NYCHA), leaving tens of thousands of low-income New Yorkers without power.
Other types of affordable housing were hit hard, too: about 24,000 apartments were in the path of the storm surge, according to data from New York University's Furman Center.
Claudia Perez lives in the Washington Houses in East Harlem and is president of the residents' association.
She recalled watching the floodwaters surge around the local hospital.
"Sandy was really scary," she said.
"When you see a hospital going underwater, you're like, 'Oh my God, what's going on here?' "
It's just a few blocks away from the East River but was unharmed during Hurricane Sandy.
Future storms, coupled with sea level rise from climate change, will flood even more low-income New Yorkers' apartments, exacerbating an ongoing affordable housing crisis.
An NPR analysis of data from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicts that a Sandy-like storm could flood more than 50 NYCHA developments by 2080.
Nationally, one study projects three times as many low-income homes at risk of frequent flooding by 2050.
"People in affordable housing are more exposed to flooding, and they have the least resources to deal with it," said Bernice Rosenzweig, a professor of environmental studies at Sarah Lawrence College.
Disasters often leave a legacy that involves a struggle to adapt with the resources left behind.
In East Harlem, for example, Sandy's floodwaters damaged parts of Metro North Plaza and the East River Houses, two NYCHA developments.
Both received funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for repairs and upgrades, which are still in progress.
The nearby Washington Houses were outside Sandy's main inundation zone, so it wasn't eligible for the same FEMA-funded resiliency upgrades.
But the NHC data predicts that, as early as 2050, a comparable storm could bring floodwaters to the development's door, putting residents and infrastructure at risk.
Million dollars homes built in storm surge zones
Across the East River in Brooklyn, upscale neighborhoods also are at risk.
The blue door for the El Pinguino oyster bar sits on Greenpoint Avenue, a few steps from the luxury tower-studded skyline of the waterfront.
Owner Nicholas Padilla has come to dread the rain.
At any given time in his dirt basement, Padilla can dig about six inches deep and hit water.
Padilla's first restaurant in the area, Alameda, was flooded with six feet of water and raw sewage by Sandy, costing him tens of thousands of dollars in damages, shortly after he had signed the lease.
But he won't leave until the flood waters chase him permanently from his business and his home, located less than a block away.
He doesn't know where else to live.
"It's New York City. It's so hard to find somewhere to go. It just feels like people will just live here until it's in the river," Padilla said.
Several parts of New York City's waterfront, including the neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, are booming with development.
The local community board estimates that 40,000 residents were added to both waterfront areas in the past decade — many in new high-rise towers right along the East River.
Despite sea level rise, this property ranks among the most valuable in the city — with median sales around $1.2 million last year.
Over the next 30 years, tide and storm surges will bring damaging flooding here at a frequency that will be more than 10 times as often as it does today, according to other data from NOAA.
Advocates and environmental experts are urging the city, state and federal government to prepare its housing stock for coming storms.
Some are calling for building upgrades, so New Yorkers aren't trapped in powerless, hazardous apartments and houses the next time the storms arrive.
Others say the time to depart is now.
"We can't control the ocean, not even with sea walls," said Dr.
Klaus Jacob, a geophysicist and climate expert at Columbia University's Climate School.
"We need to start moving people to higher ground now, and using the coastal areas as a barrier."
Waterfront parks create accidental resilience
With Hurricane Isabel still churning off the coast of North Carolina, on Sept.
18, 2003, Washington, D.C., and federal officials decided to shut down the nation's capital.
Metro trains and buses stopped running more than 12 hours before the storm hit the city, and 350,000 federal workers were told to stay home.
The storm blew into the District in the middle of the night, with winds of up to 65 miles per hour, pushing a bulge of water up the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers from the Chesapeake Bay.
The Potomac crested at 11.3 ft.
above normal – beating the previous storm surge record from 1933.
Flooding and downed trees caused an estimated $125 million in damages in D.C., according to the National Weather Service, with millions more in the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.
But unlike the other examples in this story, most of the flooding occurred on waterfront parks, including parts of the National Mall, the grassy expanse near the White House dotted with monuments.
In coming decades, as the Potomac and Anacostia rivers rise because of climate change, more areas will be inundated by storm surge flooding.
But even in 2080, with sea level three feet higher or more, waterfront parks would absorb the brunt of flooding from storm surges, leaving most homes and businesses dry.
According to the National Hurricane Center's storm surge models and NPR's analysis of 2020 Census data, just 2,100 Washingtonians are likely to be threatened by an Isabel-like storm in 2080, up from 600 people in 2020, due to sea level rise.
That's a relatively small number of people in a city of nearly 700,000.
A 150-year-old federal park building frenzy
"D.C. got lucky," says David Ramos, who teaches graphic design at American University and has studied and mapped Washington's historic waterways.
Without intending to, early D.C.
planners built in a degree of resilience to the waterfront.
It started in the late 1870s, when the Army Corps of Engineers began dredging the silted-up Potomac, where Ramos says "a giant, smelly mudflat" had formed near the White House – a consequence of deforestation upstream and a lack of sanitation in the city.
The Army Corps built new land with the dredged up muck, creating miles of new shoreline.
This reclaimed land is now the most at-risk for flooding in the city.
Ramos says the river dredging project happened to coincide with a federal park-building frenzy – the results of which can be seen in the expansive green spaces of today's National Mall.
"Most of the American cities that had big amounts of landfill decided to build housing or businesses on it," Ramos says.
In D.C., the vast majority of new riverfront land became parks, nowadays managed by the National Park Service.
"There was no thought at the time about resiliency, withstanding flood damage and things of that sort," says historian John Wennersten, who has authored several books about D.C.
"It was creating more land space for the development of what they called 'monumental Washington,' between 1890 and 1920.
Inadvertently, it offered a modicum of protection against storms and tidal surges."
In addition to this "inadvertent" protection, the federal government also constructed a levee system to protect agency headquarters located in low-lying areas downtown.
D.C. also lucked out in terms of geography: the city is farther inland than many East Coast cities, and it is located on the fall line – the place where the coastal plain transitions to higher, hillier land.
Much of the city is built on the uphill side of the fall line.
Increasing pressure to build in areas that will flood
In today's Washington, the few riverfront areas that aren't parks are among the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, as developers turn old industrial areas into luxury apartments and condos.
"The city is not going to stop building," says Meredith Upchurch, with the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.
"We still need to be using a lot of those areas for residential housing, for commerce. People want to be near the river – it's a very desirable place."
The city is updating floodplain regulations to account for rising sea levels, which Upchurch says will more than double the number of buildings considered flood prone and subject to flood-proofing requirements.
And while D.C. "got lucky" in terms of storm surge flooding, compared to other East Coast cities, it's still at high risk from other types of flooding that are being made worse by climate change.
The worst floods in recent years, says Upchurch, have been caused by interior flooding, when a storm dumps more rain on the city than storm drains can handle.
Unlike storm surges, there is little to no warning for these events, and flooding can happen miles from a river.
"The storms are just more frequent, more intense and more unpredictable," Upchurch says, noting severe interior flooding has occurred in D.C. in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
According to climate modeling conducted by the city, this type of flooding will only get worse.
What is now considered a 100-year storm (with a 1-in-100 chance of occurring in any given year) is projected to be a 15-year storm by 2080 – more than six times as likely to occur.
In a worst-case scenario, interior flooding could coincide with a storm surge, and even with flood waters coming from upstream in the Potomac watershed.
In fact, that's what officials were preparing for in 2003 – why the entire city shut down ahead of the storm.
Forecasters warned of up to 12 inches of rain; after Isabel passed through, less than an inch had fallen on the city.
"If it looks scary, it is"
Looking to the future, climate and hurricane experts say the nation needs to seriously rethink how it inhabits such vulnerable areas.
Early planners unwittingly spared the nation's capital.
But in bustling regions like New York and South Florida, catastrophic hurricanes have done little to slow growth in areas where risk becomes more dangerous and more costly.
In South Florida alone, future sea rise could nearly double the number of structures in the path of flooding.
"The hardest part with disaster planning is that it's just so difficult to imagine," said Katherine Hagemann, Miami-Dade County's adaptation manager.
"I think a lot about this worst case scenario. But that's not the way that most people live."
And that's where the hurricane center thinks it can help.
The agency ultimately hopes to replicate the modeling along the entire U.S. coast, said Cody Fritz, the hurricane center storm surge chief.
"When you raise the sea level, it will change the game in terms of the hazard of storm surge," Fritz said.
"If it looks scary, it is."
The projections of storm surge used in this story were produced by the Storm Surge Unit at the National Hurricane Center.
The researchers provided models of possible storm surge under three different sea level rise scenarios — Intermediate-Low, Intermediate, and Intermediate-High — which are possible depending on how climate change unfolds.
For the analysis and maps in this story, NPR used the storm surge models based on the Intermediate sea level rise scenario.
The storm surge models have intrinsic uncertainty, and NPR excluded storm surge flooding of less than 1 foot from the maps and analysis because it falls within the likely margin of error.
For more information on the sea level rise scenarios, see the National Ocean Service's 2022 Sea Level Rise Technical Report.
The hypothetical track for Irma is based on a forecasted track from the actual storm in 2019.
To project how many people could be directly threatened by storm surge, NPR used 2020 Census data to analyze how many people live within the projected inundation zone for each time step.
The analysis only considered the potential impacts of the flooding within Miami-Dade County, New York City, and the District of Columbia, respectively, and the analysis does not take into account population growth, migration, or mitigation efforts.
To determine the percentage of lots developed in southern Miami-Dade County since Hurricane Andrew, NPR used parcel data hosted by the Florida Geographic Data Library and created by the University of Florida GeoPlan Center.
To visualize the rapid development, the parcel data was joined to building footprints data created by Microsoft.
The NYCHA developments data was downloaded from NYC Open Data.
The base maps for the other regions also include the building footprints data from Microsoft, as well as road and water data from OpenStreetMap.
Monday, August 1, 2022
Next-generation European meteorological satellites systems will begin to be deployed later this year
About 200 meteorologists, climate experts and researchers are gathering in Darmstadt, Germany, from today to prepare for the start of a new era in satellite meteorology in Europe.
EUMETSAT, Europe’s meteorological satellite agency, will from the end of this year begin deploying next-generation weather and climate-monitoring systems that are expected to usher in a new level of forecasting accuracy.
“Our 30 member states are investing more than €6 billion to deploy the next generation of our geostationary and polar-orbiting satellite fleets over the next 10 years,” EUMETSAT Director-General Phil Evans said today.
“The return on that investment to the citizens in our member states will be earlier warnings of severe weather events, such as storms and floods, and more accurate weather forecasting.
“The cost to benefit ratio of the second generation of our EUMETSAT Polar System alone is likely to exceed 20 to one.
“As climate change is leading to more frequent severe weather events, and more sectors of our economy are weather dependent, the investments we are making in new technology in space and on the ground are not only timely but of critical importance to society.”
The meteorologists and other scientists meeting in Darmstadt until Thursday are discussing preparations for the use of data from the new satellite systems – Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) and EUMETSAT Polar System – Second Generation (EPS-SG).
Evans said the event would encourage research into, and development of, innovative uses of the systems’ data.
Both systems will produce a vastly increased amount of higher resolution data for weather forecasting models.
EUMETSAT has been working with the national meteorological services in its member states to ensure they are ready to make best use of the data once it becomes available.
The first MTG satellite is expected to be launched at the end of this year and the first satellite in the EPS-SG system in 2024.
“The importance of these new systems to our communities cannot be overstated,” Evans said.
“The MTG system, which is critical for the very short-range forecasting of severe weather events will, literally, save lives. The EPS-SG system will allow for more accurate weather forecasting from one to 10 days in advance.
“In short, these systems will start a new era in satellite meteorology and our job, at EUMETSAT, is to work with our member states to ensure that together we get the best possible benefit from them and maximise their positive impact on economies.”
ABOUT MTGABOUT EPS-SG
When fully deployed, the MTG spacecraft constellation will consist of three satellites – two imagers and one sounder – in a geostationary orbit 36,000km above the Earth
The system will allow the detection and monitoring of the full life cycle of storms, from initial instability in the atmosphere before clouds even form, right through to mapping lightning strikes
Images of Europe will be produced every 2½ minutes and of Europe and Africa every 10 minutes
The Lightning Imager instrument will continuously observe lightning over Europe and Africa, between clouds and from clouds to the ground
The Infrared Sounder instrument will detect instability in the atmosphere, before clouds have formed
The Copernicus Sentinel-4 sounding mission will observe air quality over Europe