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The Air Force’s Most Vulnerable Bases

200th RED HORSE and 179th Airlift Wing Airmen aid in Hurricane Michael Recovery Efforts

Ohio Air National Guardmen traveled to Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael, to provide damage assessment and recovery efforts, October 17-22, 2018 (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Capt. Ashley Klase)

By John Conger

In 2017, the U.S. Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a list of the installations in each military service that were most vulnerable to climate change.  They gave DoD a year to do this work, as it wasn’t simple.  The DoD would need to look across its enterprise, and determine how it would measure vulnerability and assess which risks were specifically from climate change.  At the Center for Climate and Security, we published a briefer on the factors they might consider.

In early 2019, the DoD report was submitted to Congress, but it omitted the requested prioritization and had other puzzling gaps as well.  It omitted the Marine Corps.  It left out all non-US bases.  It didn’t respond to Congressional questions about mitigation and cost.  Instead, it included a list of 79 bases that the Department determined were its most critical, and then did a rudimentary assessment of the threat from climate change without prioritization.  Congress directed them to go back and redo the work. (more…)

Thirty Days to Hurricane Season: Tyndall Air Force Base Recovery and Preparation at Risk

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Tyndall Air Force Base grounds depicting damage from Hurricane Michael. Source: John Conger, April 30, 2019

By John Conger 

Extreme weather is an important face of climate change that is showing itself more and more frequently.  Warming leads to storms with increased energy and increased precipitation, and that can lead to a lot of damage. That’s already the case. For the future, we can foresee that weather patterns will continue to change rapidly, storms will become more devastating, and that we should expect (and plan for) the unexpected.

This understanding and preparation is essential for the critical infrastructure of the United States, and the people who man and depend on that infrastructure. The last year has been particularly devastating to both civilian and military infrastructure, and there’s no way around that fact.

The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, is facing more than $8 billion in recovery costs to address extreme weather damage at Tyndall Air Force Base, Offutt Air Force Base, and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, installations that are very important for U.S. military capabilities and livelihoods. (more…)

Three Takeaways from Hurricane Michael’s Impact on Tyndall Air Force Base

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An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., commences take off (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa)

By John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security

As the Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael begin their long recovery, much attention has been focused on Tyndall Air Force Base and the incredible amount of damage the base took from the storm.

First and foremost, it’s important to highlight the wise decision to evacuate the base as the storm approached.  No lives were lost on Tyndall and many of its F-22 aircraft were relocated elsewhere – out of harms way.  Missions have been moved and critical functions have continued to operate.  A decision to ride out the storm could have gone much, much worse.

Second, while the damage assessment is still ongoing, it is very clear that the bill will be quite high – not only to the infrastructure of the base, but also to the very expensive F-22 aircraft that remained at the installation.  Official numbers have not been released, but it is clear that many F-22s remained at the base because they were in various states of maintenance and unable to fly.  Fortunately, initial indications from the Air Force are that damage to the aircraft is less than it could have been.  (more…)

Release: North Carolina Leaders, Military and Security Experts Discuss Climate Threats in Wake of Hurricane Florence

North Carolina Fact Sheet CoverEvent: “Sea Level Rise & Security in the Southeast: Implications for the Military and Civilian Communities”
Date and time: September 24, 2018, from 2:00pm-4:45pm (Livestream available here during opening remarks, and then again after the film screening, at approximately 3:00pm)
Location:  The James B. Hunt Jr Library, NC State University Centennial Campus, Raleigh, NC
Hosts: The Center for Climate and Security in partnership with The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership
Agenda and speakers: here
North Carolina fact sheet: here

Raleigh, NC – As the citizens of North Carolina come to terms with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and the devastating impacts of storm-related flooding, The Center for Climate and Security, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environmental QualityNorth Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albermarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership have come together to discuss how the effects of sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme weather events can combine to greatly effect the state’s coastal communities, the military operations carried out at installations located in the eastern part of the state, and how planning for resilience can be integrated into the long-term outlook and policy for the region. (more…)

Upcoming Event in NC – Sea Level Rise and Security in the Southeast: Implications for the Military and Coastal Communities

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Flash flooding because of rainfall is just the first phase. Once the rain gets back to the rivers, heading back to the Atlantic, there is another set of flooding.” Major General Greg Lusk, Adjutant General of the North Carolina National Guard

I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe…I do think that storms are becoming bigger, larger, more violent.” General Joseph Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau

The Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel, including senior retired flag and general officers from each of the Armed Services, recently issued the 2ndedition of a report concluding that sea level rise risks to coastal military installations will present serious risks to the military mission, underscoring a ‘Responsibility to Prepare.’ The report includes new information regarding military installation vulnerabilities, including to the energy and transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on, showing significant risks to high-value military sites – in North Carolina and across the country (see our recent post highlighting Hurricane Florence’s impact on military infrastructure and surrounding civilian communities, as well as U.S. military, National Guard and Coast Guard operations in the state). The report asserts that policies for addressing climate change risks must go beyond military infrastructure resilience, to include the resilience of surrounding civilian infrastructure, as well as the resilience of military operations in the face of these rapid changes.

In this context, please join the Center for Climate and Security, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, for a discussion about these significant risks, and the opportunities in North Carolina for addressing them. The event will kick-off with a screening of Tidewater, an award-winning film from the American Resilience Project, that details the challenges sea level rise presents to military readiness, national security, and coastal communities in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia – lessons that are certainly relevant to North Carolina.

The event will take place Monday, September 24 in Raleigh North Carolina at 2pm at the NCSU Hunt Library, 1070 Partners Way, Raleigh, NC 27606.

The event is free, but registration is required. To register, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TidewaterEvent

(more…)

Hurricane Florence’s Impacts on Military Installations and Missions in the Southeast

Fort Bragg Hurricane Florence

U.S. Army personnel head out from Fort Bragg to provide aid to North Carolinians flooded by Hurricane Florence, Sept. 15, 2018. ANDREW MCNEIL/U.S. ARMY

By John Conger

When it comes to climate change, there are some issues (sea level rise, Arctic ice melt) which it doesn’t take a science degree to get one’s head around.  Extreme weather, on the other hand, is highly complex and there isn’t always a simple way to characterize changes in a way that doesn’t spur debate.

Nonetheless, it is widely acknowledged by scientists, based on decades of rainfall data, that climate change is significantly increasing the frequency of weather events that deliver extreme rainfall, such as hurricane Florence. And what’s entirely beyond debate is that in addition to the climate risks civilian populations and infrastructure faces in the region, the Department of Defense has multiple important installations in areas that are vulnerable to extreme rainfall events, and Hurricane Florence just slammed into several of them.   (more…)

Climate Change Remains a Consistent Theme at Shangri-La Security Dialogue

U.S._Japan_and_Australian_Trilateral_meeting_Shangri-La 2018

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis meets with Australian Minister of Defense, Senator Marise Payne and Japanese Minister of Defense, Itsunori Onodera, at Shangri-La Dialogue, June 2, 2018. (DoD Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

By Steve Tebbe, Policy Associate

When Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, called to “disarm the climate” at this year’s IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (17th Asia Security Summit), it helped exemplify how seriously the summit’s panelists were taking the security risks of climate change. The Dialogue continued the pattern of recent Shangri-La Dialogues and other security conferences, with a range of leading defense ministers and practitioners speaking on how the changing climate has impacted their security.

Asia-Pacific defense ministers, military and civilian staff gather in Shangri-La every year to discuss the trends and threats in Indo-Pacific regional security. News outlets have covered the emphasis on ASEAN terrorism, the Korean Peninsula, and emphasized the Indo-Pacific space across the Dialogue. However, climate security was included in a number of speaker’s talks this year, including Minister Parly, Ron Mark, the Minister of Defence of New Zealand, and Philip Barton, the Director-General for Consular and Security at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK. In the Sixth Special Session focusing on regional security cooperation, Vice Admiral Hervé de Bonnaventure, the Acting Director-General of International Relations and Strategy at the French Ministry of the Armed Forces noted that he believes climate directly changes military operations: (more…)