In 2017, Hurricane Harvey drenched Houston and nearby areas with as much as 50 inches of rain in one day, leaving some areas under several feet of water.
Photo: U.S. Air National Guard
Some hurricanes are moving more slowly, spending increased time over land and leading to catastrophic local rainfall and flooding, according to a new study published Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature.
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While hurricanes batter coastal regions with destructive wind speeds, study author James Kossin says the speed at which hurricanes track along their paths — their translational speed — can also play a role in the damage and devastation they cause. Their movement influences how much rain falls in a given area.
This is especially true as global temperatures increase.
“Just a 10 percent slowdown in hurricane translational speed can double the increase in rainfall totals caused by 1 degree Celsius of global warming,” says Kossin, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Center for Weather and Climate. He is based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Based at UW–Madison, Jim Kossin is a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Center for Weather and Climate.
Photo: Greg Anderson
The study compared 68 years (1949–2016) of worldwide hurricane track and intensity data, known as best-track data, from NOAA to identify changes in translational speeds. It found that, worldwide, hurricane translational speeds have averaged a 10 percent slowdown in that time.
One recent storm highlights the potential consequences of this slowing trend. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey stalled over eastern Texas rather than dissipating over land, as hurricanes tend to do. It drenched Houston and nearby areas with as much as 50 inches of rain over several days, shattering historic records and leaving some areas under several feet of water.
How much hurricanes have slowed depends on where they occur, Kossin found. “There is regional variation in the slowdown rates when looking at the 10 percent global average across the same time frame,” he says.
The most significant slowdown, 20 percent, occurred in the Western North Pacific Region, an area that includes Southeast Asia. Nearby, in the Australian Region, Kossin identified a reduction of 15 percent. In the North Atlantic Region, which includes the U.S., Kossin found a 6 percent slowdown in the speeds at which hurricanes move.
When further isolating the analysis to hurricane speeds over land, where their impact is greatest, Kossin found that slowdown rates can be even greater. Hurricanes over land in the North Atlantic have slowed by as much as 20 percent, and those in the Western North Pacific as much as 30 percent.
Hurricane Harvey stalled over eastern Texas rather than dissipating over land, as hurricanes tend to do.
Photo: NASA/NOAAKossin attributes this, in part, to the effects of climate change, amplified by human activity. Hurricanes move from place to place based on the strength of environmental steering winds that push them along. But as the Earth’s atmosphere warms, these winds may weaken, particularly in places like the tropics, where hurricanes frequently occur, leading to slower-moving storms.
Additionally, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, potentially increasing the amount of rain a hurricane can deliver to an area.
The study complements others that demonstrate climate change is affecting hurricane behavior.
For instance, in 2014, Kossin showed that hurricanes are reaching their maximum intensities further from the tropics, shifting toward the poles in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. These shifts can deliver hurricanes to areas — including some heavily populated coastal regions — that have not historically dealt with direct hits from storms and the devastating losses of life and property that can result.
Another study, published in April by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used a modeling approach to look at what would happen to hurricanes under future climate projections. Using real hurricane data from 2000–2013, the researchers found future hurricanes will experience a 9 percent slowdown, higher wind speeds, and produce 24 percent more rainfall.
“The rainfalls associated with the ‘stall’ of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, Texas, area provided a dramatic example of the relationship between regional rainfall amounts and hurricane translation speeds,” says Kossin. “In addition to other factors affecting hurricanes, like intensification and poleward migration, these slowdowns are likely to make future storms more dangerous and costly.”
If you’re an online entrepreneur you must have wondered what are the countries with the fastest internet in the world. We all know that for digital nomads need for speed is priority #1, so here are the best in 2017.
Whether you’re a serious location independent entrepreneur, running a local business, or just a casual surfer, slow internet is a real drag. It’s bad for business, and in today’s connected world, it can cause a lot of stress in all areas of your life.
Especially for those who are operating businesses that rely on fast speeds for Skype calls, uploading video, transferring large files, etc. — fast internet can mean the difference in hours of productivity and thus thousands of dollars in sales.
As a perpetual traveler, I occasionally get stuck in a hotel with poor internet speeds, causing me great frustration. I can recall quite a few times being in Eastern Europe or parts of Southeast Asia and I’m either getting ready to purchase something online, or make a Skype call to finish some important work with a client, and right in the middle, the connection cuts out, and so does my productivity and sense of calm.
If you are like me, you simply cannot allow yourself to be staying in hotels, Airbnbs, or relying on public cafés or airports that do not stay up to speed if you need to get serious work done.
I do not even allow my Remote Team to even consider being based in a place where they can not have a reliable connection non-stop.
We have all been in that situation where we finally get settled in our hotel room and the wifi does not work, or constantly cuts out, or even if it’s offered, it’s slow and virtually unusable to reach any kind of workflow.
However, internet around the world is typically much better than you think — and, believe it or not, even emerging countries have some of the fastest internet speeds. In fact, the countries with the best wifi are often outside of the western world. No longer are the ‘old world’, high-tax countries of the west the leaders in many areas… and that includes tech.
While Americans often make fun of other countries for their allegedly poor services, the United States does not rank as the #1 on this list, nor even in the top ten. Asia and Eastern Europe have long held strong positions in these studies; while Romania no longer cracks the top ten average speeds, you’d be hard-pressed to find bad wifi in the smaller towns let alone Bucharest. Even cheap Airbnbs in Romania often offer 100Mb/s speeds.
According to Akamai, the global average for download speeds is 7.2 Mbps, an increase of 15% in the past year.
Certainly not great considering that I have 100Mb/s fiber internet in my home in Georgia or that the airport lounge in Seoul has wifi so fast you can download an HD movie in several minutes. The good news is speeds are improving.
Companies like Akamai compile speed tests every quarter, and these are the latest results from their 2017 Connectivity report:
The countries with the world’s fastest average internet speed
1. South Korea – 28.6 Mb/s
South Korea’s Jeju Island: Unless you’re carrying a passport from somewhere like Ghana or Iraq, you’re welcome in this autonomous “international city”
South Korea ranks at number one for the location with the fastest average internet. The country still boasts speeds up to 65% faster than the United States. South Korea is also one of the most aggressive countries in targeting gigabit speeds for its internet users. Nevertheless, Freedom House suggests that, despite these high speeds, internet users are not completely free when surfing in South Korea. The organization has reported that bloggers have been arrested as internet freedom in general declines worldwide.
South Korea is one of the success stories of Asian economic growth over the last generation and the country is very pro-business and technologically advanced. Seoul is one of Asia’s foremost cities and a favorite of many travelers. We have talked before about the option of residency or second citizenship and South Korea which you can learn more about here. Regardless, traveling in this country will be very easy on the internet front.
2. Norway – 23.5 Mb/s
Norway, or ”path to North” in its original meaning is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and #1 European country when it comes to internet speed.
Norway is number two of fastest average internet speed in the world. The country is consistently ranked as the most developed in the world and the internet will likely not disappoint. Norway is one of the few countries in the world with a budget surplus and moreover, the currency, the Norwegian kroner, is typically regarded as the safe haven currency in this regions thanks to Norway’s abundance of oil wealth.
I often like to share the story of how I once spent seven months learning Norwegian in preparation for a fact-finding mission to Norway and the most important take away from the trip ended up being that I spent too much time focusing on the wrong things, as nearly everyone there spoke perfect English. Either way, the fast internet here will keep you able to communicate and run your business and life effectively.
3. Sweden – 22.5 Mb/s
When it comes to internet speed, Scandinavian countries are ruling Europe. After Norway, Sweden is the country with the fastest connection and a country with the best passport ( according to our Nomad Passport Index)
Like its neighbor Norway next door, Sweden also ranks in the top 5 on the list. Sweden is also home to some of the best co-working spaces in Europe which pairs well with reliable and fast internet infrastructure and a generally educated, English-competent society. The Swedish passport was ranked #1 in our Nomad Passport Index as Swedish citizens can visit 176 countries without a visa, enjoy an excellent reputation abroad, hold dual or multiple citizenships, and enjoy high levels of personal freedom.
4. Hong Kong – 21.9 Mb/s
Not only does Hong Kong have superfast internet internet, but they have it for $26 a month.
Hong Kong is no slouch when it comes to providing top-notch services to its tech-savvy residents. That’s why it’s no surprise that the hyper-dense Special Administrative Region of China dominates the list of countries with the fastest internet speeds. In fact, it was the first country to break the 60Mbps speed barrier. Hong Kong is second in peak internet speed (the top speed accessible to internet users), trailing just behind Singapore and it is ranked #1 on or Quality of Life Index in 2017– high internet speed has certainly contributed to that fact.
I can speak to the speed of Hong Kong’s internet myself—while traveling not long ago, I downloaded an entire hourlong TV episode from iTunes in just 86 seconds (yeah, I timed it). It’s all thanks to Hong Kong’s commitment to “Fiber To The Home” service, as well as companies’ use of aggressive high-speed internet pricing. Like most Asian super-cities, Hong Kong will make it easy to connect to internet in most if not all public places and any hotels or apartments you are spending time in will likely enjoy high speeds as well.
5. Switzerland – 21.7 Mb/s
Fun Fact: Switzerland is one of the world’s most expensive countries to eat in, as backed up by the Big Mac Index
The famed hub of everything privacy, wealth, and safety, Switzerland also offers fast internet. If one of the best passports in the world, good banking, low taxes for intellectual property aren’t enough for you, Switzerland can also fulfill your technological needs and provide world-class infrastructure for business and wealth management. Some may find the very orderly and reserved society a bit ‘too sterile’ at times, but generally, Switzerland can be considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe and a place to aspire to travel to or potentially reside in for high-achieving entrepreneurs.
6. Finland – 20.5 Mb/s
In 2010, Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband a legal right for every citizen.
North European countries continue to rank highly across all countries with the fastest internet in 2017 with Finland coming in sixth. Finland has a distinctly different culture and language to the rest of its Scandinavian neighbors but ranks similarly in terms of key economic indicators and well-respected passports with extensive visa-free access. Finland is also highly rated as third in rule of law and and third in least corrupt, but also ranks among the highest tax rates in the world. Finland has a growing entrepreneurial community and hosts some of the best co-working spaces in Europe. Helsinki has more than once been on the top list of cities to live in and we believe more nomads will turn to it in upcoming years.
7. Singapore – 20.3 Mb/s
Singapore and Southeast Asia offer far more opportunities for entrepreneurs and being an international business hub, it makes sense the internet connection here is very fast.
The highly advanced city-state of Singapore does many things well (including banking and general economic freedom) and fast interent speeds are among them. Singapore tops the list of the world’s fastest peak internet speed and is seventh on the global average list. This tech-savvy, pro-business, and pro-expat place continues to be a favorite among entrepreneurs who want to live in a society that makes being successful and productive easy. Singapore is also a great place to look for permanent residency and entrepreneurial investment, though the country does not allow dual citizenship.
8. Japan – 20.2 Mb/s
Fun fact: Japan is one of the countries that now recognizes Bitcoin as a method of payment, but still not as a currency.
Would you expect any less from tech-savvy Japan? The speed of information access and precision in getting things done is built into the framework of Japanese society. High-speed fiber optics run throughout the country, enabling some of the world’s fastest internet speeds. Peak speeds in Japan are nearly triple the global average for internet users. But the country known for its human-like robots and other cutting-edge technology isn’t content with its current speeds — not by a long shot.
Japan is one of the several countries working on 100Gbps internet using advanced “optical packet switching technology”. For now, one Japanese internet provider is offering 2Gbps speeds — twice the pace of Google Fiber — for about $50 a month. That makes it the world’s fastest commercially available internet service. Moreover, Japan offers many areas of public wifi that make accessing your needed services and getting download/uploads done in your business very quick and painless.
9. Denmark – 20.1 Mb/s
Third Scandinavian country on the list of fast internet is also rated as the happiest country on earth two years in a row by The UN World Happiness Report.
Denmark is the last European country on our top 10 list coming in at the ninth country in the world for fastest internet. Denmark is consistently rated as one of the most developed and freest economies and is a member of the European Union (however not the euro-zone, as they use their own currency, the Danish krone). If you are looking to spend time in a highly advanced Scandinavian country with fast internet known for its national happiness, Denmark may be a great place for you to focus your travels. In terms of its passport freedom, Denmark is tied at #8 on the Nomad Passport Index.
Unlike last year, the U.S. is in top 10 on the list, improving their internet connection speed and joining Europe and Asia as number 10.
How do internet speeds in the United States compare to the rest of the world? Again, while many may think the US offers the most competitive technology in the world, they were ranked #10 on the overall list of countries with fastest internet speeds. That’s an improvement from previous years. However, experts say US internet service is “overpriced and slow” among tech-savvy nations. At least US internet speeds aren’t as slow as those in the Congo or Yemen, which suffer from the world’s slowest download speeds. (They are, however, making progress.)
As a traveling entrepreneur, internet is one of the most important — if not the most important — utility that can allow you to get what you need to done. These countries offer the best of the best in terms of average speed and provide a framework for internet users that is reflective of today’s most advanced technology.
While there still may be moments in your travels where you are stuck using that 15 Kb/s connection at your hotel or airport lounge, hopefully the state of the internet will continue to expand and you can focus your time on these countries with the fastest internet into the year 2017 and beyond.
Have you had a positive (or negative) experience with internet speeds while traveling or living abroad? Share it in the comments below.
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WASHINGTON — Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks.
That acceleration in pace — impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago — explains why President Trump and his aides fear they are running out of time. For years, American presidents decided that each incremental improvement in the North’s program — another nuclear test, a new variant of a missile — was worrisome, but not worth a confrontation that could spill into open conflict.
Now those step-by-step advances have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle. “They’ve learned a lot,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, from 1986 to 1997, and whom the North Koreans have let into their facilities seven times.
North Korea is now threatening another nuclear test, which would be its sixth in 11 years. The last three tests — the most recent was in September — generated Hiroshima-size explosions. It is unclear how Mr. Trump would react to a test, but he told representatives of the United Nations Security Council at the White House on Monday that they should be prepared to pass far more restrictive sanctions, which American officials say should include cutting off energy supplies.
“People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem,” Mr. Trump said.
He made his remarks after a Sunday night phone call on North Korea with Xi Jinping, China’s president, who urged Mr. Trump to show “restraint” with North Korea, according to a Chinese television report. White House officials said little about the call, and aides are trying to use Mr. Trump’s unpredictability to the greatest advantage, hoping it will keep the Chinese off balance and deter the North Koreans.
A Growing Arsenal
Inside the C.I.A., they call it “the disco ball.”
It is a round, metallic sphere, covered by small circles, that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is shown caressing in official photographs as if it were his crown jewel. And it may be: The sphere is supposedly a nuclear weapon, shrunken to fit inside the nose cone of one of the country’s growing arsenal of missiles.
American intelligence officials still debate whether it is a real bomb or a mock-up that is part of the country’s vast propaganda effort. But it is intended to show where the country is headed.
Unless something changes, North Korea’s arsenal may well hit 50 weapons by the end of Mr. Trump’s term, about half the size of Pakistan’s. American officials say the North already knows how to shrink those weapons so they can fit atop one of its short- to medium-range missiles — putting South Korea and Japan, and the thousands of American troops deployed in those two nations, within range. The best estimates are that North Korea has roughly 1,000 ballistic missiles in eight or so varieties.
But fulfilling Mr. Kim’s dream — putting a nuclear weapon atop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach Seattle or Los Angeles, or one day New York — remains a more complex problem.
As Dr. Hecker, a man who has built his share of nuclear weapons, noted last week, any weapon that could travel that far would have to be “smaller, lighter and surmount the additional difficulties of the stresses and temperatures” of a fiery re-entry into the atmosphere.
By most estimates, that is four or five years away. Then again, many senior officials said the same four or five years ago.
But the North has come farther than most experts expected since the infancy of its program in the 1950s, when the Soviet Union began training North Korean scientists in nuclear basics.
It took three decades for the North to assemble the technology it needed to make its own bomb fuel. Finally, from a reactor at Yongbyon, it succeeded in making plutonium: enough for about one atomic bomb a year.
The first North Korean nuclear crisis, in 1994, ended in an agreement with the Clinton administration to freeze the North’s production facilities in return for oil and peaceful reactors. It fell apart early in the George W. Bush administration. In 2006, the first test explosion, while unimpressive, entered North Korea into the club of nuclear powers. Analysts say the first blast was a plutonium bomb, as was a second detonation just months into the Obama administration in 2009.
Dr. Hecker visited Yongbyon in 2010, and the North Koreans showed him a complete uranium enrichment facility, which American intelligence agencies had missed. The message was clear: The North now had two pathways to a bomb, uranium and plutonium. Today, it has an arsenal made up of both, intelligence officials say.
And it is aiming for something much bigger: a hydrogen bomb, with a destructive force up to 1,000 times greater than ordinary nuclear weapons. That is exactly the path the United States took in the 1950s.
Recently, United Nations investigators found evidence that the North’s factories had succeeded in producing lithium 6, a rare ingredient needed to make thermonuclear fuel. Gregory S. Jones, a scientist at the RAND Corporation, said the North might have already used bits of thermonuclear fuel in its 2016 detonations.
A potential clue, analysts say, is that the North’s five blasts over the past decade have grown steadily more destructive.
Shrinking the Bomb
A bomb is useless to North Korea — as an offensive weapon or as a deterrent — unless the country can make a convincing case that it has a reliable delivery system. So when the North flaunts missiles at military parades, as it did on April 15, the stars of the show tend to be the big missiles that are designed to reach Washington and New York. While several intercontinental ballistic missiles rolled down the streets of Pyongyang, conducting a flight test that proves one could fly that far, and land with accuracy, is so far only an aspiration.
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Missing from the parade were the short- and medium-range missiles that have been successfully flight tested. American intelligence agencies believe some of those can carry operational nuclear arms. The critical one is the Nodong, which has a range of about 800 miles.
But the North Koreans are discovering — as the United States, the Soviet Union and China did before them — that it is far more complicated to design an intercontinental missile. With that weapons system, a warhead would move at four miles a second and re-enter the atmosphere in fiery heat — so, if badly engineered, it would burn up long before hitting a target. To reach their goal, North Korean weapons designers are looking to miniaturize their warheads, making them far lighter and more powerful.
The big effort these days is to merge two technologies: Get a missile that can cross the Pacific, and marry it to a warhead that can survive the ride. And this is why the United States is so desperate to stop the cycle of testing.
The cyber- and electronic warfare attacks that President Barack Obama ordered against the country’s missile fleet were intended to slow North Korea’s learning curve. The Musudan, which can travel 2,200 miles, has racked up an embarrassing failure rate of 88 percent — although how much of that is due to incompetence or outside meddling is not known. Until the North Koreans figure out what is going wrong, and how to fix it, they appear hesitant to test the KN-14 and the KN-08, both of which are designed to hit the continental United States.
The diplomatic pressure from China to stop a sixth nuclear test at the Punggye-ri test site is intended to keep the North Koreans from making advances in warhead miniaturization and the design of a hydrogen bomb. As Mr. Obama noted before he left office, even failures are important learning tools for the North Koreans, aiding the trial-and-error process of making new warheads.
How long will it take for the North Koreans to solve those problems? The best guesswork is around 2020 — while Mr. Trump is still in his first term.
A Freeze, to What End?
The strategy emerging from Mr. Trump’s national security team comes down to this: Apply overwhelming pressure on the North, both military and economic, to freeze its testing and reduce its stockpile. Then use that opening to negotiate, with the ultimate goal of getting the North Koreans to give up all their weapons.
Many experts, however, believe that is a fantasy, because Mr. Kim regards even a small arsenal as critical to his survival. The upside of the strategy, if it works, is that the “nuclear freeze” would delay for years the day the North can fit a small, reliable, well-tested weapon atop a large, reliable, well-tested missile. The downside is that it would leave the North Koreans with a small, potent arsenal — one the United States would be essentially acknowledging, if not accepting.
That is why it will be hard for Mr. Trump to fulfill his vow to “solve this problem.” And every day, there is the chance of miscalculation, or an accident.
At any moment, Dr. Hecker said on a call to reporters organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, a live weapon could turn into an accidental nuclear detonation or some other catastrophe.
“I happen to believe,” he said, “the crisis is here now.”