Thursday, December 1, 2011

Unexpected impacts from drought

Here's an interesting story in today's news from National Public Radio

45,000 Told To Evacuate German Town Before Massive WWII Bomb Is Defused

This upcoming weekend, a team of German explosive experts and members of the army are scheduled to defuse an unexploded bomb found in the city of Koblenz in Germany. The bomb — with 3,000 pounds of explosives — is a remnant of World War II that emerged in the Rhine River because of low water levels. How serious is the situation? Authorities ordered half of the city's residents — 45,000 people — to leave, while they get the job done.

Original caption: On Saturday and Sunday, officials destroyed the chemical barrels. Some 1,500 nearby residents were evacuated first. The incendiary bomb was likewise exploded.
This follows an earlier article in Der Spiegel with more information about bombs and other things getting exposed as the water level drops to near historic lows with the drought. 

Sinking water levels have exposed much more of the river bed than normal, and it turns out the bottom of one of Europe's busiest waterways is still littered with World War II leftovers. Over the weekend, passers-by alerted the authorities to the presence of one incendiary bomb near Cologne, two barrels in Koblenz filled with a chemical used during the war to create smoke screens and one large bomb, also in Koblenz, that is still lying in 40 centimeters (16 inches) of water, waiting to be defused....

The munitions are now coming to light due to an unusually dry autumn in Germany, resulting in the lowest November water levels seen along the Rhine in decades. With no rain in sight, it is likely to continue to drop. Already, many barges that travel up and down the river have had to lighten their loads to avoid grounding. In Bonn, the river was just 1.17 meters (3.9 feet) deep last Friday. "That is really very low for this time of year," a spokesman for the Duisburg-Rhine shipping authority told the Bonn daily General-Anzeiger.

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