Greta Thunberg might have been been named TIME’s Person of the Year for drawing global attention to climate change, but the climate continues to speak for itself. Last month was the second-hottest November in recorded history, and 2019 is likely to be the second warmest year ever.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Monday that last month was 1.66 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making it the second hottest November since record-keeping began 140 years ago.
And there’s more bad news: 2019 through November has been the second-hottest year on record, and the season (September through November) has been the second-hottest in recorded history. Both the season and the year to date were 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit above average, coming in just behind 2016 and 2015, respectively, and the average sea surface temperature was the second-warmest for the year to date.
Scientists say that record temperatures are yet another sign that the climate is changing, but they’re even more troubling when you look at other recent records. For instance, the five hottest Novembers have all taken place since 2013. In some regions, this was the hottest November in history; Africa, South America and the Hawaiian Islands all experienced their hottest Novembers on record.
Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a NOAA climatologist, said that there is an 85% chance that 2019 will be the second-warmest year on record. This year was warm, in part because there was an El Niño climate phenomenon, which causes temperatures to rise. However, Sanchez-Lugo says that climate change makes this effect even more extreme.
She explained that while rising temperatures due to climate change are like riding an escalator — slowly but steadily increasing — an El Niño is “as if you’re jumping on the escalator.”
Sanchez-Lugo says that these reports are like a health assessment for the Earth, and that there are some warning signs. “We’re seeing that the Earth has a temperature, but not only that, we see that there are symptoms,” says Sanchez-Lugo.
High temperatures can also cause a domino effect on the environment. For instance, sea ice coverage reached near-record lows in the Arctic and Antarctic this November. Without sea ice covering its surface, the ocean absorbs solar radiation and becomes warmer, and some research suggests that receding sea ice can also lead to higher snowfall, says Sanchez-Lugo.
Many record temperatures were set in 2019. This November follows the second-highest October on record, and the month before that tied the warmest September on record. And during July — the hottest month ever recorded globally — regions from the United States to Europe were plagued by oppressive heatwaves.
Scientists are warning that a likely El Niño event coupled with climate change could make 2019 the hottest year on record. Samantha Stevenson, a climate scientist and co-author of a study on the impact of El Niño, joined CBSN to discuss the effects of warming temperatures. Subscribe to the CBS News Channel HERE: http://youtube.com/cbsnews Watch CBSN live HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1PlLpZ7 Follow CBS News on Instagram HERE: https://www.instagram.com/cbsnews/ Like CBS News on Facebook HERE: http://facebook.com/cbsnews Follow CBS News on Twitter HERE: http://twitter.com/cbsnews Get the latest news and best in original reporting from CBS News delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to newsletters HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1RqHw7T Get your news on the go! Download CBS News mobile apps HERE: http://cbsn.ws/1Xb1WC8 Get new episodes of shows you love across devices the next day, stream CBSN and local news live, and watch full seasons of CBS fan favorites like Star Trek Discovery anytime, anywhere with CBS All Access. Try it free! http://bit.ly/1OQA29B — CBSN is the first digital streaming news network that will allow Internet-connected consumers to watch live, anchored news coverage on their connected TV and other devices. At launch, the network is available 24/7 and makes all of the resources of CBS News available directly on digital platforms with live, anchored coverage 15 hours each weekday. CBSN. Always On.
Scenarios of the future have long sat at the center of discussions of climate science, impacts and adaptation and mitigation policies. Scenario planning has a long history and can be traced to the RAND Corporation during World War 2 and, later (ironically enough) Shell, a fossil fuel company. Scenarios are not intended to be forecasts of the future, but rather to serve as an alternative to forecasting. Scenarios provide a description of possible futures contingent upon various factors, only some of which might be under the control of decision makers.
The desire to predict the future is perfectly understandable. In climate science, scenarios were transformed from alternative visions of possible futures to a subset of predicted futures through the invention of a concept called “business as usual.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains that “business as usual” is “synonymous” with concepts such as “baseline scenario” or “reference scenario” or “no-policy scenario.” The IPCC used of the concept of “business as usual” (and equivalencies) in the 1990s, and then explicitly rejected it in the 2000s. It has returned with a vengeance in the 2010s. A reset is needed for the 2020s.
According to the IPCC, a “baseline” scenario refers to “the state against which change is measured” and for climate impacts and policy, is “based on the assumption that no mitigation policies or measures will be implemented beyond those that are already in force and/or are legislated or planned to be adopted.” The use of such a baseline is far more important for research on climate impacts and policy than it is for most research on the physical science of climate, as the latter need not necessarily be tied to socio-economic scenarios.
The IPCC warns, quite appropriately, “Baseline scenarios are not intended to be predictions of the future, but rather counterfactual constructions that can serve to highlight the level of emissions that would occur without further policy effort.
Typically, baseline scenarios are then compared to mitigation scenarios that are constructed to meet different goals for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, atmosphereic (sic) concentrations, or temperature change.” Cost-benefit and effectiveness analyses in particular lend themselves to using a fixed baseline against which to evaluate an alternative, creating an incentive for the misuse of scenarios as predictions.
The IPCC warns against treating scenarios as predictions because they reach far into the future – for instance to 2100 and even beyond, and “the idea of business-as-usual in century-long socioeconomic projections is hard to fathom.” Humility in socio-economic prediction is also warranted because our collective track record in anticipating the future, especially when it comes to energy, is really quite poor.
It may seem confusing for the IPCC to recommend the use of baseline scenarios as a reference point for evaluating counterfactual futures and its parallel warning not to use reference scenarios as forecasts. The way for analysts to reconcile these two perspectives is to consider in research a very wide range of counterfactual futures as baselines.
The instant an analyst decides that one particular scenario or a subset of scenarios is more likely than others, and then designates that subset of possible futures as a baseline or “business as usual,” then that analyst has started crossing the bridge to predicting the future. When a single scenario is chosen as a baseline, that bridge has been crossed.
There is of course generally nothing wrong with predicting the future as a basis for decision making. Indeed, a decision is a form of prediction about the future. However, in some contexts we may wish to rely more on decision making that is robust to ignorance and uncertainties (and thus less on forecasts), that might lead to desired outcomes across all scenarios of the future. For instance, if you build a house high on a bluff above a floodplain, you need not worry about flood predictions. In other settings, we may wish to optimize decisions based on a specific forecast of the future, such as evacuation before an advancing storm.
Climate science – and by that I mean broadly research on physical science, impacts, economics as well as policy-related research into adaptation and mitigation —- went off track when large parts of the community and leading assessment bodies like the IPCC decided to anoint a subset of futures (and one in particular) as the baseline against which impacts and policy would be evaluated.
This is best illustrated by a detailed example.
The U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a periodic report on climate science and policy required in law. The most recent report was published in two parts in 2017 and 2018. Those reports were centered on anointing a specific scenario of the future as “business as usual” (despite the NCA warning against doing exactly that). That scenario has a technical name, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5.
In his climate epiphany, David Wallace-Wells warned, “anyone, including me, who has built their understanding on what level of warming is likely this century on that RCP8.5 scenario should probably revise that understanding in a less alarmist direction.” The climate science community, broadly conceived, is among those needing to revise their understandings.
To illustrate how the USNCA came to be centered on RCP8.5, let’s take a quick deep dive into how the report was created. It’s use of scenarios was grounded in research done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and specifically a project called Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis. That project is described in two reports.
The first report, in 2015, explained that its methodology was based on two scenarios, a “business as usual” or “reference” scenario that projected where the world was heading in the absence of climate policies and a “mitigation” scenario representing a future with emissions reductions. In that report EPA created its own scenarios (with its BAU scenario equated to an equivalent RCP8.6 scenario). The report explained that the benefits of mitigation policy were defined by the difference between the BAU scenario and the mitigation scenario.
In its subsequent report in 2017, EPA decided to replace its scenarios with several of the RCP scenarios used by the IPCC. In that report it dropped the phrase “business as usual” and adopted RCP8.5 as its “baseline” scenario fulfilling that role. It adopted another scenario, RCP4.5 as representing a world with mitigation policy. The USNA relied heavily on the results of this research, along with other work using RCP8.5 as a “baseline.”
Reports are written by committees, and elsewhere the US NCA warned that RCP8.5 “is not intended to serve as an upper limit on possible emissions nor as a BAU or reference scenario for the other three scenarios.” But that warning was not heeded at all. RCP8.5 is used as a reference scenario throughout the report and is mentioned more than 470 times, representing about 56% of all references to RCP scenarios.
It was the USNCA misuse of RCP8.5 that appeared on a page one New York Times story that warned, “A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.”
It is not just the USNCA that has centered its work on RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to evaluate climate impacts and policy, the 2019 IPCC report on oceans and ice also adopted RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to compare with RCP2.6 as a mitigation scenario: “Under unmitigated emissions (RCP8.5), coastal societies, especially poorer, rural and small islands societies, will struggle to maintain their livelihoods and settlements during the 21st century.” That report referenced RCP8.5 more than 580 times representing more than 56% of all scenario references in the report.
Across the IPCC 5th assessment report, published in 2013 and 2014, RCP8.5 comprised 34% of scenario references. Dependence on RCP8.5 has increased in the reports of IPCC. And as an indication of where research may be heading, in the abstracts talks given at the 2019 meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month, of those that mentioned RCP scenarios, 58% mentioned RCP 8.5, with RCP4.5 coming in second at 32%. If these abstracts indicate the substance of future scientific publications, then get ready for an avalanche of RCP8.5 studies.
The climate science community, despite often warning itself to the contrary, has gotten off track when it comes to the use of scenarios in impact and policy research. There can be little doubt that major assessments and a significant portion of the underlying literature has slipped into misusing scenarios as predictions of the future.
Why this has happened will no doubt be the subject of future research, but for the immediate future, the most important need will be for the climate science community to hit the reset button and get back on track. Climate change is too important to do otherwise.
Part two will discuss what this reset might look like.
I have been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001, where I teach and write on a diverse range of policy and governance issues related to science, innovation, sports. I have degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science. My books include The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics published by Cambridge University Press (2007), The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell you About Global Warming (2010, Basic Books) and The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports (Roaring Forties Press, 2016). My most recent book is The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change (2nd edition, 2018, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes).
Stella Wiedemeyer has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” Stella Wiedemeyer is a current year 11 student who has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Concerned that rising waves will flood runways and buildings in the coming years, officials at San Francisco International Airport are moving ahead with a $587 million plan to build a major new sea wall around the entire airport.
The plan, the latest example of the growing cost of climate change in California, involves driving steel pilings — sheets with interlocking edges — into the mud and also constructing concrete walls in some places around all of the airport’s 10-mile perimeter.
“This is something we’ve been looking at for many years,” said Doug Yakel, a spokesman for the airport. “What’s changed is the level of protection that is needed.”
The airport, built in 1927 in a cow pasture at the edge of San Francisco Bay, serves 55 million passengers a year, making it the nation’s seventh busiest. But its runways sit only about 10 feet above sea level.
The runways, terminals and other buildings are protected now by a series of earthen berms and smaller sea walls which the airport built mostly in the 1980s. But they provide only about 3 feet of protection from flooding.
Under the new project, whose fiscal plan was approved by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 17, the airport will build five more feet of protection.
That should guard against 3 feet of sea level rise, plus another two feet for big waves during storms, airport planners said. And it should protect the airport through 2085, based on the most recent scientific estimates of sea level rise. Researchers project San Francisco Bay’s waters could rise 1 foot in the next 30 years and another 3 feet or more by 2100. Environmental studies are set to begin next fall, Yakel said, with construction starting in 2025.
The project will be funded with bonds and paid off through higher fees on airlines that fly in and out of SFO, according to airport officials. With interest on the bonds, the final price tag is estimated at $1.7 billion over 30 years.
Environmental groups, who successfully blocked SFO’s plans 20 years ago to build new runways into the bay, say they don’t have a problem with this project.
“We have no objection to this. The airport can’t be easily moved,” said David Lewis executive director of Save the Bay, in Oakland. “But adapting to climate change is going to be expensive. We can save ourselves a lot of money if we reduce the amount that we warm the planet, melt the ice caps, and raise the sea level.”
What’s happening at SFO is also an issue in other places.
Dozens of major airports around the world are located at the water’s edge. In some cases, parts of bays or harbors were filled in generations ago to construct new land for runways. In other places, the shoreline was chosen because it reduced noise problems from airplanes flying over neighborhoods.
“Nobody thought about sea level rise back then,” said Gary Griggs, a professor of earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz who has studied oceanography for more than 50 years. “They put in fill, got it a few feet above sea level and thought they were good. Now they don’t have a lot of options.”
At Oakland International Airport, construction is set to begin next year on a $46 million project to raise a 4-mile earthen dike by two feet to guard runways against rising bay waters.
“Sea level rise is a very big focus of airports both in the U.S. and globally,” said Kristi McKenney, assistant director of aviation for the Port of Oakland, which owns the airport. “The recent hurricanes in the Caribbean shined a bright light on it. The airport industry takes this very seriously.”
San Jose’s airport is not facing the same threat. It sits nearly four miles inland from the bay.
The Earth’s temperature continues to rise as fossil fuels are burned and heat is trapped in the atmosphere. The 10 hottest years since 1880, when modern temperature records began, all have occurred since 1998, according to NASA and NOAA. The planet has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and is expected to warm another 2 to 4 degrees this century at the current rate.
“As you heat water, it expands, just like in your water heater,” Griggs said. “And the warmer it gets, the more ice melts. Ice melts at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican.”
According to tide gauges, San Francisco Bay has risen 8 inches since 1900. Scientists project it will rise another 1 foot by 2050 and another 3 feet or more by 2100. Heavy winter storms, especially during high tides, already cause flooding in some parts of the Bay Area. Waves have over-topped the berms and existing sea walls on occasion at SFO, causing minor flooding issues.
The trouble, scientists say, is that the rate of sea level rise has doubled in recent decades, and is expected to further accelerate. There is some uncertainty about just how high the oceans will go. It depends on how much more fossil fuel is burned in the coming decades and at what rate the ice sheets of Antarctica, Greenland and other ice-bound regions continue to melt, Griggs said.
Bay Area cities and counties have three choices, experts say. First, they can build and restore wetlands in some areas, like the former Cargill salt evaporation ponds in the South Bay. Wetlands buffer waves and storms, reducing flood impacts on the shorelines.
Bay Area voters in 2016 approved $500 million in new funding over the next 20 years for bay wetlands restoration and flood control projects when they passed Measure AA, a $12-per-year parcel tax in all nine Bay Area counties. The first grants went out last year.
Second, cities can build concrete seawalls and levees. That will be the option for important features that cannot be moved, such as airports, or the Embarcadero along the San Francisco waterfront. But it’s expensive.
San Francisco voters last year approved Proposition A, a $425 million bond measure to begin work on an enormous, 30-year, $5 billion project to rebuild the 3-mile long seawall along the city’s Embarcadero — which was built in the 1800s and is cracking and crumbling — all the way from Fisherman’s Wharf to the San Francisco Giants ballpark.
Finally, some areas are likely to be allowed to flood if the costs are too high to preserve them, like hay fields in the North Bay.
“From a global standpoint, there are parts of our world where we are going to adapt and parts where we are going to retreat,” said San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin. “And there are certain places our society is going to need to armor. SFO falls in that category. The airport is one of the most vital transportation links in the state, the country and the planet. There’s nowhere else for it to go.”
Paul Rogers has covered a wide range of issues for The Mercury News since 1989, including water, oceans, energy, logging, parks, endangered species, toxics and climate change. He also works as managing editor of the Science team at KQED, the PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, and has taught science writing at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz.
Aerial view of the Transamazonica Road (BR-230) near Medicilandia, Para State, Brazil on March 13, 2019. – According to the NGO Imazon, deforestation in the Amazonia increased in a 54% in January, 2019 -the first month of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s term- compared to the same month of 2018. MAURO PIMENTEL—AFP/Getty Images
The human relationship with the land we live on has evolved over the hundreds of thousands of years humans have roamed the planet, but no period has seen as dramatic change as the last century when humans used land in new ways to extract wealth and build a modern economy.
Now, a landmark new U.N. report warns, humans face a moment of reckoning on how we use the planet’s land: human practices like deforestation threaten to undermine the role nature has played soaking up carbon dioxide emissions for more than a century. At the same time, climate change could threaten our ability to use the land, risking food security and vulnerable communities at risk of extreme weather.
“As we’ve continued to pour more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the Earth’s system has responded and it’s continued to absorb more and more,” says Louis Verchot, a lead study author and scientist at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. But “this additional gift from nature is limited. It’s not going to continue forever.”
Today, emissions from land use — think of practices like agriculture and logging — cause nearly a quarter of human induced greenhouse emissions, according to the report, authored by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N. climate science body.
Still, land elsewhere on the planet has balanced the effects of those emissions. In recent years, forests, wetlands and other land systems have soaked up 11.2 gigatonnes more carbon dioxide than they have emitted on an annual basis. That’s a greater quantity of carbon dioxide than released by the world’s coal-fired power plants in a given year. But a slew of human practices including deforestation, soil degradation and the destruction of land-based ecosystems threaten to halt that trend, potentially driving land to release more carbon dioxide than it absorbs.
Climate advocates billed the report as a wakeup call. Much of the attention around addressing climate change has focused on shifting the global energy system, but to keep warming at bay will require nature-based solutions that consider how humans use land, climate scientists say.
The report — at more than 1,300 pages in length — lays out a number of opportunties to use land to reverse the trend. And many of the solutions are already at hand, if governments have the wherewithal to implement them. “We don’t have to wait for some sort of new technological innovation,” says study author Pamela McElwee, an associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. “But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”
Significantly reducing deforestation while increasing the rates of restoring forests ranks among the most urgent solutions in order to retain any hope of keeping temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels by the end of the century. Reducing deforestation alone can stop annual emissions equivalent to twice those of India’s, scientists found.
The report also highlights how emissions from agriculture contribute significantly to climate change, and the opportunity to address it by rethinking diets. As global demand for food has grown, food producers have converted forests into agricultural land, leading to a release of carbon dioxide stored in trees. At the same time, more than a quarter of food goes to waste, according to the report.
With those trends in mind, scientists say a shift away from eating meat toward plant-based diets could yield big dividends in the fight against climate change. Reduced meat consumption means lower emissions from livestock and the fertilizer needed to sustain them but also provides an opportunity to reforest land that farmers would have otherwise used for grazing. Rethinking the human diet across the globe could drive emissions reductions of up to 8 gigatonnes annually, according to the report, greater than an entire year of emissions in the U.S.
But, while these changes are technically feasible, there are a number of barriers to adoption. To achieve the greatest emissions reductions by shifting diets would require most of the world to go vegan, for instance, requiring a fight against entrenched agricultural interests and cultural preferences.
And despite year’s of research underscoring the threat of deforestation the practice has worsened in some of the most critical areas. In recent years, deforestation has accelerated in the Amazon rain forest in both Brazil and Colombia, with a recent report from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research showing that the practice had increased 40% in the previous two months compared with the same period the year prior.
And, while that finding alone is alarming, so is the response of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who disputed the figures and fired the head of the government agency charged with collecting deforestation data. “We cannot accept sensationalism,” said Bolsonaro, who has denied the science of climate change, according to a report from the AFP news agency, “or the disclosure of inaccurate numbers that cause great damage to Brazil’s image.”
The new IPCC report comes less than a year after the body’s 2018 report on the dire effects of 1.5°C of warming, which warned that climate change will bring catastrophic levels at even that level of warming. In its wake, students walked out of school across the globe, some governments committed to reducing their emissions and activists in the U.S rallied for a Green New Deal, all citing the report’s impact.
Much like last year’s, the new IPCC report highlights a number of shocking risks. The surface temperature on land has already warmed more than 1.5°C since the beginning of the industrial era, and continued warming threatens to cause a slew of extreme weather events while threatening food security and other essentials required for human life. Whether this report can inspire a similar wave of action remains to be seen.
The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say. Their study suggests that the seas have absorbed 60% more than previously thought. They say it means the Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions than estimated. This could make it much more difficult to keep global warming within safe levels this century. According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases…….
As well as rapidly reducing the carbon dioxide that we humans are pumping into the atmosphere in huge amounts, recent scientific assessments of climate change have all suggested that cutting emissions alone will not be enough to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 or 2 degrees C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have all stated that extracting CO2 from the air will be needed if we are to bend the rising temperature curve before the end of this century……..
Iceland is unique among countries in that it obtains nearly all its electricity from renewable energy. Iceland’s glacial rivers contribute about 70% of its electricity via hydropower, and the country’s ~200 volcanoes enable geothermal to make up most of the rest. Today, humans are depleting fossil fuel resources, and in turn pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Each of us only contributes a little, but together we are contributing a lot…..
When it comes to climate change and sea level rise, the news has been generally bad for communities on the U.S. Southeast coast. Florida is set to lose more than 10 percent of its homes by 2100, and five southern states have already lost $7.4 billion in home values.But one study conducted by biologists at Villanova University offered some hope for the beleaguered region: warmer temperatures encourage the growth of mangroves, which have more complex roots than other wetland plants and can help build soil and protect coasts from storms like hurricanes……
The most intense storm in Hong Kong’s history caused a record storm surge, uprooted some 1,500 trees, and left hundreds of windows smashed all over the city, officials said on Monday. As the long process of recovering from Typhoon Mangkhut began in earnest, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu called the damage “serious and extensive”, and said the number of calls for help, or reports of injury, was as much as five times higher than when Typhoon Hato battered Hong Kong in August last year……
Incredible images captured from the International Space Station show Hurricane Florence barreling toward the U.S. East Coast. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted pictures taken 249 miles above the eye of the storm. “Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye,” he wrote. “Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you…..