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NPR 02 September, 2021 - 04:00am 45 views

After Hurricane Ida battered the southern US states, its remnants lashed the northeast on Wednesday night, transforming New York City into a danger zone Thursday morning. Ida dumped heavy amounts of rain on Central Park and the subway was inundated with fast-moving floods, knocking nearly the whole system out of operation. The neighboring city of Newark, New Jersey, saw the heaviest single day of rain on record.

These are the kinds of scenes that scientists say the world will see more of because of human-caused climate change.

Officials in New York appeared totally caught off guard by the floods. Meteorologists -- who knew storms and floods were on their way, even roughly how much rain would fall -- were also surprised at the storm's pace.

"It's dangerous. We're seeing a kind of rainfall -- we almost never see this kind of speed with which the rain has come," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, urgently calling on everyone to stay at home.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she could not guarantee responders could rescue people that may be stuck in their cars "if it starts floating away like a boat on a river."

Eight people have already died in New York and New Jersey, which are both under a state of emergency.

"What is so surprising is the time span of the rainfall and the area impacted," said CNN Weather's Michael Guy.

"It is such a large area across the northeast, and it only happened within a span of a few hours. That's nothing that we have seen, especially in this region of the country."

Like with several weather events over the summer across the Northern Hemisphere, Ida has smashed records in some areas by a huge margin.

Wednesday was the rainiest day on record for Newark, New Jersey, which saw 8.41 inches of rain recorded. That's nearly 25% above the previous record, set in 1977.

In New York City, more rain fell in a single hour (3.15 inches) than at any point in the city's weather records, which go back to the 1800s. New York's Central Park recorded 7.13 inches of rain, nearly doubling the previous record set in 1927 for the same date, the National Weather Service New York reported.

New York City's flash flood emergency status is the first issued in its history.

Globally, extreme rainfall events -- including those in Germany and China in recent months -- are becoming more common because of human-caused global warming, scientists say.

A recent UN climate report said that "the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land area."

Across continental US, specifically, the heaviest downpours have been observed to be increasing in all regions, with the northeast showing the largest increase, according to the US National Climate Assessment.

"Warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air. Global analyses show that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has in fact increased over both land and oceans," the report says.

In terms of hurricanes, climate change is making them more dangerous. They are producing more rainfall, moving slower once they make landfall and generating larger storm surges along the coast. Hurricane Ida was a prime example of those changes, and scientists say storms like this will become more common as the planet warms.

Scientists are now able to analyze exactly how much of a role climate change is likely to have played in a particular weather event. It's too early to make such an estimate for Ida, but trends in hurricanes of this force suggest a link.

"What we can say, without doing a dedicated attribution study, is that major hurricane occurrences (categories 3-5) have increased in recent decades, which cannot be explained by natural variability alone," Friederike Otto, who co-leads the World Weather Attribution initiative, told CNN in an email.

"Specifically, from event attribution, we do note that when hurricanes occur, the rainfall associated with them is more intense because of human-induced climate change, and Ida will not be an exception."

While there is less certainty about the impacts of climate change on wind speed and some other factors, there is high confidence that the translation speed -- how fast the whole system moves -- of hurricanes has slowed, Otto said.

"This is important as it means the cyclones hang around for longer and thus can also cause more damage."

Climatologist Kim Cobb, director of the Global Change Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, warned that New York, like many cities, was clearly not prepared to deal with climate-related and weather disasters such as Storm Ida.

"I don't think that what we're seeing today is emblematic of a climate-ready city in New York and, obviously, we have a story coming out from cities across the world -- from communities out west grappling with wildfires that are linked to climate change," Cobb told CNN.

"We're just coming out of Ida's devastation across the southeast US -- Louisiana and Mississippi -- infrastructure that is not ready for our climate of now, let alone the climate of tomorrow. These kinds of climate impacts are going to worsen with each additional increment of warming."

On an individual level, the US government advises people to find safe shelter immediately in the event of a flood, and to refrain from walking, swimming or driving through flood waters. Authorities in the northeast are urging people to stay off the streets.

A landmark climate science report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change published in August, of which Cobb was a lead author, found that global warming was happening faster than scientists had previously thought. The report laid out a robust scientific argument for reaching net zero -- where the world emits no more greenhouse gases than it removes -- by 2050.

That would require deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and for the world to wean off unabated fossil fuels.

Reaching net zero by 2050 could contain average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which scientists say would stave off some of the more catastrophic climate change impacts than the world if currently experiencing. Warming is already at around 1.2 degrees C.

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WSJ News Exclusive | FDA Weighing Dose of Moderna Covid-19 Booster

The Wall Street Journal 02 September, 2021 - 09:46am

Felicia Schwartz and

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize a lower dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for boosters than the dose given in the first two shots, people familiar with the deliberations said.

Moderna said Wednesday it is asking the FDA to authorize a 50 microgram dose, half the dosage of the first two shots. Some in the government are leaning toward authorizing the 100 microgram dose, the people said, because of concerns a lower-dose booster might not offer a durable enough boost to counter fast-changing...

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize a lower dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for boosters than the dose given in the first two shots, people familiar with the deliberations said.

Moderna said Wednesday it is asking the FDA to authorize a 50 microgram dose, half the dosage of the first two shots. Some in the government are leaning toward authorizing the 100 microgram dose, the people said, because of concerns a lower-dose booster might not offer a durable enough boost to counter fast-changing variants of Covid-19.

No final decision has been made, the people said, as the FDA is still reviewing data from studies that tested boosters using the different doses. People who have seen the data said both doses produce a strong immune response.

Complicating the decision is the fact that the FDA has limited comparative data on which to base their choice, one person familiar with the discussions said.

The continuing deliberations are a reason the agency hasn’t yet authorized boosters, though the people expect a decision soon.

One possible benefit of a lower dose is fewer side effects, people familiar with the matter said.

Last month, the Biden administration recommended that adults who got a messenger RNA vaccine from either Moderna or Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE start getting boosters this month.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is also expected to be included in the boosting strategy, after releasing the first results about its boosters last month. The company said it is engaging with the FDA.

There is no debate about the booster doses to administer for the Pfizer-BioNTech or J&J vaccines, one of the people said, though a decision on the J&J booster might take longer. Their boosters will be the same doses as the first shots, the person said.

After initially spurning talk about boosters, federal health officials embraced the idea as the contagious Delta variant drove up case counts, even among some people who were vaccinated.

Also contributing to the change of mind was emerging but inconclusive evidence, from researchers in Israel and elsewhere, suggesting the molecular defenses triggered by vaccination wanes after several months.

The Biden administration announced that Americans who have been fully vaccinated with a two-dose regimen against Covid-19 should receive a booster, citing the threat from the highly contagious Delta variant. WSJ breaks down what you need to know. Photo: Hannah Beier/Reuters The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Whether boosters are needed remains up for debate. Some researchers say the evidence is insufficient, while the World Health Organization has urged giving shots to people in countries with limited supplies.

Moderna and the National Institutes of Health tested both 50 mcg and 100 mcg booster doses in clinical trials.

Last month, Moderna released initial data showing that a 50 mcg booster strengthened antibodies against Delta and other variants of concern significantly higher than the levels after trial subjects received their two initial doses.

The Cambridge, Mass., company has been urging the FDA in recent weeks to authorize a 50 mcg booster, according to people familiar with the matter and a statement announcing its submission on Wednesday.

The company declined to answer questions early this week about its talks with the FDA, before issuing a statement, saying it had applied for the booster dose authorization at the 50 mcg level.

Authorization of a lower dose would allow Moderna to manufacture up to three billion boosters next year, as many as one billion more than it could make of the higher dose.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Yet it would pose several logistical challenges, another person familiar with the discussions said.

The different dosages may cause confusion at vaccination sites, the people said. Pharmacists would have to prepare the doses in different ways. Nurses would have to be careful to give people the right dose.

Another issue, the person said, is a lower dose would lead to some wasted vaccine, at least until new, smaller vials begin arriving in October.

Current Moderna vials contain enough vaccine for 14 100 mcg doses, but not all of that could be used for smaller doses because the vials can only be entered a certain number of times.

The U.S. has ordered smaller vials already because they are easier for doctors’ offices and other providers to administer, the person said.

It couldn’t be determined why people getting a Moderna booster might need a lower dose than people getting another manufacturer’s vaccine.

People waiting for observation after receiving a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Southfield, Mich., last week.

A study of Belgian healthcare workers published Monday in a letter to the Journal of American Medical Association found that Moderna’s vaccine created twice as many antibodies as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The researchers said the difference might be explained by the higher mRNA content in Moderna’s vaccine as compared with Pfizer-BioNTech’s, as well as the week longer interval between shots for the Moderna vaccine.

U.S. health officials are still figuring out the timing of exactly when people will be eligible to receive boosters.

Federal health officials initially said it would be eight months after people have received two doses. The Wall Street Journal has reported the FDA is likely to authorize boosters at six months.

President Biden said last week that his administration is weighing whether to begin before eight months, perhaps as early as five months.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at felicia.schwartz@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com

WSJ News Exclusive | FDA Weighing Dose of Moderna Covid-19 Booster

The Mercury News 02 September, 2021 - 09:46am

Felicia Schwartz and

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize a lower dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for boosters than the dose given in the first two shots, people familiar with the deliberations said.

Moderna said Wednesday it is asking the FDA to authorize a 50 microgram dose, half the dosage of the first two shots. Some in the government are leaning toward authorizing the 100 microgram dose, the people said, because of concerns a lower-dose booster might not offer a durable enough boost to counter fast-changing...

The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to authorize a lower dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine for boosters than the dose given in the first two shots, people familiar with the deliberations said.

Moderna said Wednesday it is asking the FDA to authorize a 50 microgram dose, half the dosage of the first two shots. Some in the government are leaning toward authorizing the 100 microgram dose, the people said, because of concerns a lower-dose booster might not offer a durable enough boost to counter fast-changing variants of Covid-19.

No final decision has been made, the people said, as the FDA is still reviewing data from studies that tested boosters using the different doses. People who have seen the data said both doses produce a strong immune response.

Complicating the decision is the fact that the FDA has limited comparative data on which to base their choice, one person familiar with the discussions said.

The continuing deliberations are a reason the agency hasn’t yet authorized boosters, though the people expect a decision soon.

One possible benefit of a lower dose is fewer side effects, people familiar with the matter said.

Last month, the Biden administration recommended that adults who got a messenger RNA vaccine from either Moderna or Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE start getting boosters this month.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is also expected to be included in the boosting strategy, after releasing the first results about its boosters last month. The company said it is engaging with the FDA.

There is no debate about the booster doses to administer for the Pfizer-BioNTech or J&J vaccines, one of the people said, though a decision on the J&J booster might take longer. Their boosters will be the same doses as the first shots, the person said.

After initially spurning talk about boosters, federal health officials embraced the idea as the contagious Delta variant drove up case counts, even among some people who were vaccinated.

Also contributing to the change of mind was emerging but inconclusive evidence, from researchers in Israel and elsewhere, suggesting the molecular defenses triggered by vaccination wanes after several months.

The Biden administration announced that Americans who have been fully vaccinated with a two-dose regimen against Covid-19 should receive a booster, citing the threat from the highly contagious Delta variant. WSJ breaks down what you need to know. Photo: Hannah Beier/Reuters The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition

Whether boosters are needed remains up for debate. Some researchers say the evidence is insufficient, while the World Health Organization has urged giving shots to people in countries with limited supplies.

Moderna and the National Institutes of Health tested both 50 mcg and 100 mcg booster doses in clinical trials.

Last month, Moderna released initial data showing that a 50 mcg booster strengthened antibodies against Delta and other variants of concern significantly higher than the levels after trial subjects received their two initial doses.

The Cambridge, Mass., company has been urging the FDA in recent weeks to authorize a 50 mcg booster, according to people familiar with the matter and a statement announcing its submission on Wednesday.

The company declined to answer questions early this week about its talks with the FDA, before issuing a statement, saying it had applied for the booster dose authorization at the 50 mcg level.

Authorization of a lower dose would allow Moderna to manufacture up to three billion boosters next year, as many as one billion more than it could make of the higher dose.

Get a morning briefing about the coronavirus pandemic three times a week and a weekly Health newsletter when the crisis abates.

Yet it would pose several logistical challenges, another person familiar with the discussions said.

The different dosages may cause confusion at vaccination sites, the people said. Pharmacists would have to prepare the doses in different ways. Nurses would have to be careful to give people the right dose.

Another issue, the person said, is a lower dose would lead to some wasted vaccine, at least until new, smaller vials begin arriving in October.

Current Moderna vials contain enough vaccine for 14 100 mcg doses, but not all of that could be used for smaller doses because the vials can only be entered a certain number of times.

The U.S. has ordered smaller vials already because they are easier for doctors’ offices and other providers to administer, the person said.

It couldn’t be determined why people getting a Moderna booster might need a lower dose than people getting another manufacturer’s vaccine.

People waiting for observation after receiving a booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in Southfield, Mich., last week.

A study of Belgian healthcare workers published Monday in a letter to the Journal of American Medical Association found that Moderna’s vaccine created twice as many antibodies as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The researchers said the difference might be explained by the higher mRNA content in Moderna’s vaccine as compared with Pfizer-BioNTech’s, as well as the week longer interval between shots for the Moderna vaccine.

U.S. health officials are still figuring out the timing of exactly when people will be eligible to receive boosters.

Federal health officials initially said it would be eight months after people have received two doses. The Wall Street Journal has reported the FDA is likely to authorize boosters at six months.

President Biden said last week that his administration is weighing whether to begin before eight months, perhaps as early as five months.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at felicia.schwartz@wsj.com and Stephanie Armour at stephanie.armour@wsj.com

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