climate change

Irma rendered some islands ‘barely habitable’. Does this mean hurricanes need a new category?

The scale from one to five used to measure the destructive power of a hurricane may no longer be enough.

There has been a devastating trail of destruction and flooding along the east Atlantic coast in the last few weeks following Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma. The latter, currently moving across Florida, is the strongest sustained hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane strength is measured on the Saffir–Simpson scale, ranging from one (the lowest) to five (the highest) based on the hurricane’s wind speed and estimated potential damage. This takes into account parameters such as whether the hurricane uproots trees or removes roofs from houses, and whether the destruction could last for days or months.

Initially, Hurricane Irma was rated as a category five (it is now losing energy), with winds moving at 175 miles per hour – destroying homes and causing power failure in the Caribbean. But given that Irma’s power has made some islands “barely habitable”, is category five really sufficient? Is it time to introduce a category six?

Climate change

People have been quick to ask if Hurricane Irma is connected to climate change and whether this is a sign of things to come. It remains uncertain whether hurricanes have significantly increased in frequency or severity as global temperatures have risen, partly due to a lack of long-term data.

We know that hurricane formation is affected by changes in sea surface temperatures – a warm ocean helps fuel hurricanes. This is partly driven by natural periodic and cyclic variations in the Earth’s climatic and oceanic systems, meaning that in some years the ocean is warmer than in others.

Studies have presented mixed views of what will happen in the future with global warming. However, there are many consistent models and research articles indicating that there will be fewer hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, but that those that do form will be more severe – due to the warmer temperatures.

However, it is important to keep in mind that what we have seen recently, compared with decades ago, is not so much a change in hurricanes, but a change in impacts. Many coasts have become increasingly urbanised, and this trend is likely to continue. As with many small islands, much of the population of Barbuda, Guadeloupe and others in the Caribbean are situated on the narrow coastal fringe – meaning they experience the full force of natural disasters, sometimes on scales never seen before. This means there is more infrastructure to be destroyed or damaged during extreme weather conditions than say 100 years ago. The same can be said as Irma moves over Florida.

Vulnerable economies

Infrastructure on islands, such as harbours and airports, are key lifelines to the outside world – and any disruption to these can have serious consequences, potentially for many years. On small islands, infrastructure is partly there to support the economy (including tourism), which in turn provides further economic development, social welfare and health benefits to the wider population. Take the infrastructure away as Irma has, and the economy declines leading to a shock.

This is because, historically, small islands have been essential maritime or colonial hubs or trading posts. But today they are highly reliant on external trade, often through fisheries, agriculture or tourism. Concentrating on one or two industries makes islands strong, but when extreme events or global disasters occur, the shock means they count the cost. Essentially, they have their eggs all in one basket. In Antigua and Barbuda, the total contribution of tourism to gross domestic product was 60% in 2016.

Hurricane Andrew, also a category five event, made landfall in August 1992 – affecting the Bahamas and Florida. In the Bahamas, damage worth $250 million was reported, with projections of a decrease of 20% in tourist revenue, despite the vast majority of the islands surviving the hurricane. Luckily, advertising campaigns and repairs ultimately prevented the loss in tourist revenue. This is an important lesson about how to respond to such events.

Other extreme events have caused long-lived adverse effects. For instance, in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami affected tourism and wider development for several years.

Clearly there is a need for planning in emergency response. This needs to be targeted and accompanied by long-term resilience strategies. Shocks can also provide opportunities. Thanks to the Maldivian Safer Islands programme, islands have been constructed to a higher elevation to reduce the long-term risk of flooding.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims for nations to mitigate the effects of climate change, singles out small, developing island nations, many of which are in the Caribbean, as “particularly vulnerable” due to their “significant capacity constraints”. Irma has reminded the world that extra help is needed when an island state is partially destroyed.

Long-term outlook on hurricane scale?

So will islands continue to suffer as a result of hurricanes – and will it get worse? In addition to warming temperatures and potential increase in future severity, the slow, but long-term effects of sea-level rise could also increase the extent of flood impacts during and after extreme events.

From 1901 to 2010, sea levels rose by about 0.19 millimetres a year. This is projected to accelerate, so that sea-levels are about a metre higher in 2100 than today. Over a century, sea-level rise could make the difference between minor and major flooding, and the longevity of impacts.

Indeed, long-lasting impacts may provide impetus for introducing a category six of the Saffir-Simpson scale. This could describe cases that have a permanent effect on living conditions – potentially making some areas permanently uninhabitable. Such effects are currently not accounted for on the scale.

Whether we do introduce a new category remains to be seen, but it is certainly something worth discussing. Adaptation to climate change and extreme events can help increase resilience and reduce damage in extreme conditions. But due to their shear strength, events such as Hurricane Irma cannot be adapted to. Sadly, humans will never be totally resilient to extreme events and long-lasting impacts remain a major challenge for all.

Sally Brown, Senior Research Fellow, University of Southampton.

This article first appeared on The conversation.

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Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.