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In Cuba, crabs embark on perilous migration to Bay of Pigs

PLAYA GIRON, Cuba (AP) — Every year in Cuba, millions of crabs emerge from the forest at the beginning of the spring rains and head for the waters of the Bay of Pigs, crossing streets and highways on a perilous journey to mate and reproduce.

Now underway, the migration causes concern to drivers who try to swerve in an often futile attempt not to kill the crustaceans. The crabs are a nuisance to residents but the sight of their road-crossing is a wonder for tourists and other first-time onlookers.

“They got here before us,” said Amaury Urra, a 50-year-old hiking guide who spent his entire life in this part of the Ciénega de Zapata, the largest wetland in the Caribbean, particularly picturesque for the backdrop of turquoise sea waters and the coastal cliffs. ″We’re used to this.″

“Where I live, which is in the center of the town of Girón, the crabs don’t get there as much,″ though there are plenty on the outskirts, he said.

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Located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of Havana, the area was the scene of a 1961 failed invasion by Cuban exiles who signed up for a covertly CIA-funded operation to overthrow Fidel Castro.

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This year, the crabs started their journey early. At the end of March, the municipal authorities issued a warning to drivers to avoid traveling in the morning and evening hours – the favorite crossing times for the crabs. Environmentalists usually demand the closure of the main road, especially at key migration times.

The passage of the red crustaceans — the species is called gecarcinus ruricola — could last until July. The largest amount of traffic occurs between April and May. Residents have to be careful: When the crabs feel threatened, they can puncture car tires with their pincers.

Official figures estimate that some 3.5 million crabs die each season on the road, many crushed by passing vehicles. They take a minute and a half to cross.

This type of crab lives and migrates in the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Dominica. But only here, and perhaps in another sector of the coast towards the neighboring province of Cienfuegos, does its path collide so dramatically with human traffic.

An unusually early heat wave brought more extreme temperatures Monday to a large swath of India’s northwest, raising concerns that such weather conditions could become typical.

The India Meteorological Department forecast that the temperature in New Delhi would reach 41.8 degrees Celsius (107.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, nearly eight degrees above normal.

The weather agency declares a heat wave when the temperature is at least 4.5 C (8 F) above average.

The main summer months — April, May and June — are always excruciatingly hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But the heat wave has arrived early and grown particularly intense in the past decade, killing hundreds every year.

During heat waves, the country usually also suffers severe water shortages with tens of millions of its 1.4 billion people lacking running water.

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Extreme temperatures have struck large parts of northern and western India in the last week, with Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi among the worst hit. Higher temperatures also were felt in relatively cooler Indian-controlled Kashmir in the Himalayas, where many Indians go to escape the summer heat.

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Already this year, India has recorded its warmest March since 1901.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that heat waves and humidity-related heat stress will intensify in South Asia, and scientists who study climate change say Indians can expect more of the same hot temperatures in the coming years.

Vimal Mishra, an expert at the Indian Institute of Technology’s Water and Climate Lab, said the number of Indian states hit by heat waves has grown in recent years, as extreme temperatures become more frequent and intense.

“If you are looking for the clearest signal of climate change in India, then heat waves are a classic example. They are unavoidable and will occur more frequently,” Mishra said.

Heat waves are especially dangerous for daily wage workers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors and the homeless, many of whom have to work outside in hot conditions and are at the greatest risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

India’s worst heat wave since 1992 was in 2015, when at least 2,081 people died.

Climate change made the record-smashing deadly 2020 Atlantic hurricane season noticeably wetter, a new study says. And it will likely make this season rainier, too, scientists said.

Human-caused climate change made the entire season — 30 named storms — drop 5% more rain. During the 14 storms that reached hurricane status the rainfall was 8% heavier, according to the study in Tuesday’s Nature Communications.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re near a threshold, a little bit can push you over the top,” said Lawrence Berkeley National Lab climate scientist Michael Wehner, co-author of the paper. “The implication is that that means there was more freshwater flooding and that the damages from freshwater flooding were increased, but by how much would require a more detailed analysis.”

While past studies have predicted climate change would make storms wetter and found individual storms, such as 2017’s Harvey, were in fact wetter because of human-caused climate change, this is the first study to look at an entire season, Wehner said. That’s important because it removes the selection bias of just picking the worst storms, such as Harvey.

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“It’s not just the big monster ones, it’s a whole season,” Wehner said.

It’s likely 2020 is not the only year made significantly rainier by climate change. Warming is probably increasing the downpours in nearly all storms and most hurricane seasons, including the one that starts June 1, said study lead author Kevin Reed, an atmospheric scientist at Stony Brook University.

And what a season 2020 was. It broke records not only for the number of named storms, but for the number that became major storms with winds of at least 111 miles per hour — seven — and the number that made landfall in the United States. Louisiana got hit five times. Overall, more than 330 people were killed directly by named storms in 2020 and damage soared past $41 billion, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Hurricanes Laura, Sally, Isaias, Zeta, Delta, Eta and Hanna all caused more than $1 billion in damage, much of it from flooding. Laura, for example, was 10% wetter than it would have been without climate change, a separate quick analysis shows, Reed said.

The researchers used computer simulations — continually updated with real-time observations — to calculate how much water fell during the 30 storms and then compared them to a simulated world with no human caused climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas. The difference is what’s caused by global warming. This scientifically accepted technique came up with the 5% and 8% figures.

When scientists looked at just the three rainiest hours of each storm, climate change amped them up 8% compared to the mythical world without climate change. For the storms that hit hurricane status, 11% more rain fell during the peak rainy time than would have otherwise, the study found.

A fundamental rule of physics is that the atmosphere can hold nearly 4% more moisture for every degree Fahrenheit the air warms (7% more for every degree Celsius). Globally, temperatures have increased about 2 degrees (1.1 degrees Celsius) since pre-industrial times. And the water of the Atlantic hurricane basin, which acts as storm fuel, has warmed about 1.3 degrees (.7 degrees Celsius) in the past century, Wehner said.

“That signal will only get larger as the sea surface temperatures continue to warm,” Reed said.

Storms are getting stronger, which also makes them wetter, Wehner said.

“The expected increase in hurricane rainfall is probably the most robust prediction concerning the response of hurricanes to climate change,” said MIT atmospheric science professor Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study team. But the study is limited by not looking at how climate change could have affected storm track, intensity and frequency, he said.

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