Removal of Robert E. Lee leaves Arthur Ashe as Richmond’s remaining witness

Removal of Robert E. Lee leaves Arthur Ashe as Richmond’s remaining witness

The monument to Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, after 2020 racial justice protests. Photo by Robert P. Jones

(RNS) — The last Confederate monument still standing on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue, the massive tribute to General Robert E. Lee, was removed on Wednesday (Sept. 8).

A 21-foot bronze sculpture mounted on a massive 40-foot pedestal, it was primarily funded and conceived by the Ladies’ Lee Monument Committee, a predecessor to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which has its headquarters in Richmond to this day. The statue’s dedication on May 29, 1890, was accompanied by three days of events (including a choral performance by the Young Men’s Christian Association) that drew an estimated 100,000 people.

Beside the statue, special stands were constructed to contain hundreds of white children wearing red, white and blue who were arranged to create a living Confederate battle flag.

The title of the Richmond Times editorial that week captured how the city’s white residents understood the meaning of this new landmark: “Conquered Though Not Vanquished.” As historian Karen Cox summarized it, “This was not just a monument to the region’s most cherished hero; it was about the restoration of Confederate men’s honor.”

It was also a declaration of a war on the terrain of culture and politics as Virginia, like many Southern states, threw off the reforms of Reconstruction and set up legal and cultural systems of segregation and the suppression of voting by African Americans.

The Lee monument was the down payment by the city’s white elite on a multidecade effort to create the broad leafy outdoor corridor that would eventually be punctuated by five traffic circles, each containing a massive monument to the Confederacy.

Between 1890 and 1930, the wealthier white residents not only moved their homes but also rebuilt at least seven of their churches out along Monument Avenue in the shadow of these monuments. The architectural interplay between monuments dedicated to the Confederacy and sanctuaries dedicated to God performatively expressed the motto emblazoned on the five-story column behind the statue of Jefferson Davis: “God will vindicate.”

Over the past few years, I’ve spent several weeks in Richmond, conducting research in the archives of the UDC for my book “White Too Long” and tracking the unfolding drama as the city and its churches are attempting to extricate themselves from the Lost Cause narrative and create a new story that looks to the future, rather than the past. The juxtapositions, and contradictions, can be jarring.

When I first visited in July 2019, the city had just renamed one of its central streets — one that historically fronted the national headquarters of the UDC along with “Battle Abbey,” originally built to hold Confederate reliquary and now the Virginia Museum of History & Culture — after native son and international tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr.

As a youth, Ashe had been banned from playing tennis on Richmond’s public courts because of his race. As an adult, he dedicated his life off the court to international civil rights work, philanthropy and scholarship.

Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

That summer, the VMHC had hung large banners of Ashe outside the building, and there were images of him on large placards along the sidewalk. Just 30 feet or so down the sidewalk in front of the UDC building, half a dozen pro-Confederate protesters had hoisted large Confederate battle flags on makeshift poles over placards that read, “Save our monuments.”

When the UDC archivist handed me her business card, it had already been updated to show their location on “Arthur Ashe Boulevard.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Richmond’s residents have called on Ashe to oppose Confederate forces in Richmond. In 1996, three years after his untimely death, the city placed a memorial to Ashe on Monument Avenue. The 12-foot-tall statue, resting on a 21-foot pedestal, sits on a traffic circle just beyond the last of five Confederate monuments along the venue. About 500 people attended the unveiling of the monument, with some holding up Confederate flags in protest.

Monument to tennis star Arthur Ashe Jr. along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. Photo by Robert P. Jones

When I visited in 2019, I was struck by how diminutive Ashe seemed in the context of Monument Avenue. His likeness, anchoring one end of the avenue, was roughly half the size of the Lee, Davis and Jackson monuments nearer the city center. But when I revisited this past summer, the statue of Ashe, with a book held high in his right hand and a tennis racket slightly lower in his left (a pose explicitly requested by Ashe himself to emphasize the importance of education) loomed larger.

Four of the five Confederate statues were removed by the city in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. The statue of Lee had been covered with graffiti that transformed it into an internationally recognized site of performance art for racial justice.

For the first time in 130 years, a trip down Richmond’s Monument Avenue will not entail an involuntary Lost Cause pilgrimage. Rather — and this is the surprisingly moving experience I had biking down that street this past July — the empty pedestals will stand as silent indicting witnesses to the past valorization of white supremacy by a city’s white leaders and churches.

The monument to Arthur Ashe Jr. prominently incorporates a biblical inscription from the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews on the front of its pedestal: “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

I don’t know everything Ashe and his family had in mind with that selection, but today it seems fitting for the last man standing on Monument Avenue.

(Robert P. Jones is the CEO and founder of PRRI and the author of ” White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity.” This article was originally published on Jones’ Substack #WhiteTooLong. Read more at robertpjones.substack.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

 

Louisiana residents thankful for small miracles after Ida

Louisiana residents thankful for small miracles after Ida

The Rev. Luke Nguyen, right, celebrates Mass in a flood damaged parking lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Jean Lafitte, La. The service was held in a parking lot after St. Anthony Catholic Church was flooded in the hurricane. (AP Photo/John Locher)

MARRERO, La. (AP) — Amid the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, there was at least one bright light Sunday: Parishioners found that electricity had been restored to their church outside of New Orleans, a small improvement as residents of Louisiana struggle to regain some aspects of normal life.

In Jefferson Parish, the Rev. G. Amaldoss expected to celebrate Mass at St. Joachim Catholic Church in the parking lot, which was dotted with downed limbs. But when he swung open the doors of the church early Sunday, the sanctuary was bathed in light. That made an indoor service possible.

“Divine intervention,” Amaldoss said, pressing his hands together and looking toward the sky.

A week after Hurricane Ida struck, many in Louisiana continue to face food, water and gas shortages as well as power outages while battling heat and humidity. The storm was blamed for at least 17 deaths in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

On Sunday, state health officials announced that the death toll in Louisiana has climbed to 13, including a 74-year-old man who died of heat during an extensive power outage. In the Northeast, Ida’s remnants dumped record-breaking rain and killed at least 50 people from Virginia to Connecticut.

As Mass began Sunday, Amaldoss walked down the aisle of the church in his green robe, with just eight people spread among the pews. Instead, the seats brimmed with boxes of donated toothpaste, shampoo and canned vegetables.

“For all the people whose lives are saved and all the people whose lives are lost, we pray for them,” he said. “Remember the brothers and sisters driven by the wind and the water.”

Through the wall of windows behind the altar, beyond the swamp abutting the church, the floodgates that saved the building could be seen. The Gospel was the story of Jesus bringing sight to a blind man, and throughout the tiny church, stories of miracles were repeated.

Wynonia Lazaro gave thanks for newly restored power in her home, where the only casualties of Ida were some downed trees and loosened shingles.

“We are extremely blessed,” she said.

Some parishioners suffered total losses of their homes, or devastating damage. Gina Caulfield, a 64-year-old retired teacher, has been hopping from relative to relative after her cousin’s trailer, where she’d been living, was left uninhabitable. Still, she was grateful to have survived the storm.

“It’s a comfort to know we have people praying for us,” she said.

Some parishes outside New Orleans were battered for hours by winds of 100 mph (160 kph) or more, and Ida damaged or destroyed more than 22,000 power poles, more than hurricanes Katrina, Zeta and Delta combined.

More than 630,000 homes and businesses remained without power Sunday across southeast Louisiana, according to the state Public Service Commission. At the peak, 902,000 customers had lost power.

Fully restoring electricity to some places in the state’s southeast could take until the end of the month, according Phillip May, president and CEO of Entergy, which provides power to New Orleans and other areas in the storm’s path.

Entergy is in the process of acquiring air boats and other equipment needed to get power crews into swampy and marshy regions. May said many grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses are a high priority.

“We will continue to work until every last light is on,” he said during a briefing Sunday.

In Jean Lafitte, a small town of about 2,000 people, pools of water along the roadway were receding and some of the thick mud left behind was beginning to dry.

Shannon Lation checks on her home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, in Lafitte, La. (AP Photo/John Locher)

At St. Anthony Church, the 4 feet (about 1.2 meters) of water once inside had seeped away, but a slippery layer of muck remained. Outside, the faithful sat on folding metal chairs under a blue tent to celebrate Mass. Next door, at the Piggly Wiggly, military police in fatigues stood guard.

“In times such like these, we come together and we help one another,” the Rev. Luke Nguyen, the church’s pastor, told a few dozen congregants.

Ronny Dufrene, a 39-year-old oil field worker from Lafayette, returned to his hometown to help.

“People are taking pictures of where their houses used to be,” he said. “But this is a chance to get together and praise God for what we do have, and that’s each other.”

In New Orleans, many churches remained closed due to lingering power outages.

But First Grace United Methodist Church opened its doors and held service without power. Sunlight from large windows brightened the sanctuary, where about 10 people sat.

“Whatever situation you’re in, you get to choose how you see it,” said Pastor Shawn Anglim, whose first time pastoring the congregation was after the church recovered from Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago. “You can see it from a place of faith, a place of hope and a place of love, and a place of possibility.”

Jennifer Moss, who attended service with her husband, Tom, said power had been restored to their home on Saturday.

“We’ve been blessed throughout this entire ordeal,” she said. “That storm could have been a little closer to the east, and we wouldn’t have a place to come and worship.”

In Lafitte, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) south of New Orleans, animal control officer Koby Bellanger experienced his own little blessing after he heard the sounds of an animal crying as he rode through the flooded streets with a sheriff’s deputy.

Bellanger waded through the water and found a tiny, green-eyed black kitten clinging to the engine of a car outside a devastated house. He hoisted the animal up, to the delight of Lafayette Parish Deputy Rebecca Bobzin.

“Bring him!” Bobzin screamed in delight.

Louisiana’s 13 storm-related deaths included five nursing home residents evacuated ahead of the hurricane along with hundreds of other seniors to a warehouse in Louisiana, where health officials said conditions became unsafe. On Saturday, State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter ordered the immediate closure of the seven nursing facilities that sent residents to the warehouse.

Edwards was briefed Sunday about a cluster of thunderstorms near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, but said forecasters “don’t see much potential at all for it developing into a storm of any real significance and we’re very, very thankful for that.”

He said it does have the potential to bring some rain to coastal Louisiana and southeast Louisiana.

___

Morrison reported from New Orleans. Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, contributed.

 

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

Moroccans elect new leaders in shadow of virus

People attend a political rally for Aziz Akhannouch, Moroccan businessman and head of the RNI party, in Rabat, Morocco, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, days before the upcoming legislative and regional elections. Millions of Moroccans head to the polls on Sept. 8 to cast ballots in pivotal legislative and regional elections amid strict safety guidelines as the north African country is grappling with a new wave of COVID-19, driven mainly by the Delta variant. (AP Photo/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Moroccans voted Wednesday for a new parliament and local leaders in elections that have been reshaped by the pandemic, and whose outcome is hard to predict as opinion polls were not allowed.

Candidates promised to create jobs and boost Morocco’s economy, education and health care. The kingdom has been hit hard by the pandemic, but has Africa’s highest vaccination rate so far.

Despite a dip in popularity in recent years, the governing Islamist party is eyeing a third term at the helm of the government if it again wins the most parliament seats. But a recent election reform could limits its powers, and the role of lawmakers is limited by the powers of King Mohamed VI, who oversees strategic decision-making.

“I hope that the people we voted for do not disappoint us,” said voter Adel Khanoussi, casting his ballot in the capital Rabat. “There are so many projects that should be implemented. The people’s expectations are high.”

Turnout was 36% three hours before polls closed.

The outcome of Wednesday’s voting is difficult to predict since opinion polls on elections are banned. The race will likely be close and no matter which party comes first, it will likely need to cobble together a coalition with other parties to form the government.

At a school turned polling station in Temara, near the capital, dozens of people stopped in to vote before going to work. Two security officers were stationed outside, and a poll worker took voters’ temperatures before letting them in.

Once inside, voters are asked to provide their identity cards and hand over their phones before entering the booth. They’re required to use hand sanitizer, wear a mask and keep 1-meter (3-foot) distances.

A 36-year-old woman who only gave her name as Fatima said she hopes the parliament can bring a “new Morocco” seen as an advanced world country.

While Morocco has one of the region’s strongest economies and a thriving business district in Casablanca, poverty and unemployment are also widespread, especially in rural regions. Morocco has seen thousands of despairing youth make risky, often deadly, trips in small boats to Spain’s Canary Islands or to the Spanish mainland via the Strait of Gibraltar.

Strict pandemic guidelines restricted candidates’ ability to reach the 18 million eligible voters. Candidates weren’t allowed to distribute leaflets and had to limit campaign gatherings to a maximum of 25 people. As a result, many stepped up efforts on social media instead.

Morocco has registered more than 13,000 COVID-19-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Moroccan Health Ministry.

There were 31 parties and coalitions competing for the 395 seats in the lower house of parliament. Voters will also be selecting representatives for 678 seats in regional councils.

The moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), at the helm of the government since 2011, is seeking a third term. With Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani, the party has campaigned on raising the competitiveness of Morocco’s economy.

El Othmani acknowledged that turnout is a “challenge” in a country where many are disillusioned with politics, but said he was encouraged at his voting station to see “good participation of voters of both sexes.”

Other major contenders are the center-left Party of Authenticity and Modernity, or PAM, the Istiqlal party and the liberal National Rally of Independents.

Istiqlal general secretary Nizar Baraka said the new parliament should “work for the people to get them out of poverty and stop the deterioration of the middle class.”

The elections were monitored by 4,600 local observers and 100 more from abroad.

 

What are the Jewish High Holy Days? A look at Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and a month of celebrating renewal and moral responsibility

Samuel L. Boyd, University of Colorado Boulder

Over the next few weeks, members of the Jewish faith will observe the High Holy Days in the month of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar, usually in September and October. These holidays commemorate concepts such as renewal, forgiveness, freedom and joy.

As a scholar of the Bible and the ancient world, I am continually impressed with how the history of these festivals offers consolation and encourages people toward living well, even during a pandemic.

What are the High Holy Days?

Of the two main High Holy Days, also called the High Holidays, the first is Rosh Hashanah, or the New Year celebration. It is one of two new year celebrations in the Jewish faith, the other being Passover in the spring.

The second High Holiday is Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

In addition to the main Holy Days, there are other celebrations that occur as part of the festival season. One is Sukkot, or the Festival of the Booths, during which meals and rituals take place in a “sukkah,” or a makeshift structure constructed with a tree-branch roof.

The second entails two celebrations, which in some traditions are part of the same holiday and in others occur on two separate, consecutive days: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Shemini Atzeret is Hebrew for “eighth (day of) assembly,” counting eight days from Sukkot. Simchat Torah is Hebrew for “joy/rejoicing of the Torah” – the Torah being the first five books of the Bible, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, believed to have been revealed to Moses.

Of particular interest for the High Holy Days in 2021 is that Rosh Hashanah also begins a yearlong observance known as the “Shmita.”

Commemorated once every seven years, the term comes from a Hebrew phrase that appears in the Bible in a number of passages. Some of these passages command that the farmer “drops” or “releases” his crops. Another verse associates the act with the forgiveness of debts. In another passage in the Bible, the Shmita is connected with the reading of God’s revelation in the law.

The exact nature of the action denoted by Shmita is debated, but the idea is that some portion of the food is left behind for the poor and hungry in society.

In this manner, the beginning of the High Holy Days in 2021 is a reminder to care for those who have been struggling.

Why celebrate these festivals?

The origins and reasons for the High Holy Days are in some fashion encoded in the Bible and in the agrarian and religious culture that produced it. The millennia of Jewish tradition between the Bible and the present has informed many of the celebrations as well, in ways that go beyond the biblical texts.

The first holiday, Rosh Hashanah, celebrates renewal. It involves the blowing of the shofar horn, itself connected to the ram sacrificed instead of Abraham’s son, as God had commanded Abraham to do. Important activities include attending synagogue to hear the shofar, as well as eating apple slices with honey, the former representing hopes for fruitfulness and the honey symbolizing the desire for a sweet year.

View of theTorah at a synagogue.
Origins of the High Holidays are encoded in the biblical texts. Valentyn Semenov / EyeEm via Getty images

It also often involves a ritual of throwing bread onto running water, called a tashlich, symbolizing the removal of sins from people.

Rosh Hashanah is believed to mark the date of the creation of the world, and it begins the “Days of Awe,” a 10-day period culminating in Yom Kippur.

The term “Days of Awe” itself is a more literal translation of the Hebrew phrasing used for the High Holy Days.

Concepts of repentance and forgiveness are particularly highlighted in Yom Kippur. Its origins are found in the Hebrew Bible, where it describes the one day a year in which premeditated, intentional sins, such as willfully violating divine commands and prohibitions, were forgiven.

Intentional sins were envisioned as generating impurity in the heart of the temple in Jerusalem, where God was thought to live. Impurity from intentional sins was believed by Israelites to be a threat to this divine presence since God might choose to leave the temple.

The biblical description of Yom Kippur involved a series of sacrifices and rituals designed to remove sin from the people. For example, one goat was thought to bear the sins of the Israelites and was sent off to the wilderness, where it was consumed by Azazel, a mysterious, perhaps demonic force. Azazel consumed the goat and the sins that it carried. The term “scapegoat” in English derives from this act.

Yom Kippur is both the holiest day of the Jewish calendar and also one of the most somber, as the time for repentance includes fasting and prayer.

Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

The Festival of Sukkot likely began as an agricultural celebration, and the booths were shelters in which farmers stayed during the collection of grain, which was to be processed for the year.

Vestiges of this agricultural commemoration appear in certain passages in the Bible, one of which indicates that the festival is to last seven days to mark the time period in which Israelites dwelt in booths, or makeshift dwellings with branches, when leaving Egypt.

This feast was known as zeman simchatenu, or “the time of our rejoicing,” hearkening to the themes of gratitude, freedom from Egypt and the reading of God’s revelation as found in the Torah to all Israel.

Such a time of rejoicing contrasts with the somber repentance and fasting that feature in Yom Kippur. So vital was the Festival of Booths that it is also known as simply “the chag,” or “the feast,” a word related to the more familiar hajj pilgrimage in Islam.

This period of seven days ends with Shemini Atzeret on the eighth day, both a connected celebration capping off Sukkot and a festival in its own right.

The annual reading of the Torah ends with the final text of Deuteronomy. The beginning of the next annual reading cycle, starting with the first book Genesis, is also celebrated. This act of beginning a new year of reading the Bible is commemorated in the festival called Simchat Torah.

The observance of Simchat Torah was a later innovation, described already in the fifth century or so but not formalized or identified by this name until the medieval period.

Why do they matter?

Religious calendars and festivals can force people to encounter certain ideas in the year. For example, they can enable them to face the more difficult dynamics of life like repentance and forgiveness, providing avenues to reflect on the events of the past year and to find courage to live differently in the next year where needed.

In this manner, structuring the celebration of the new year around remembrances of a variety of human experiences, both sorrow and joy, entails a profound recognition of the complexity of relationships and experiences in life.

In particular, the High Holy Days – as illustrated in the renewal of Rosh Hashanah, the somber reflection of Yom Kippur – as well as the joyous celebrations in Sukkot and Simchat Torah, offer a means to remember that time is itself healing and restorative.

As such, the High Holy Days and the holiday season in Tishrei help to mark the year in meaningful ways and to highlight our moral responsibility toward one another.

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]The Conversation

Samuel L. Boyd, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Jewish Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida: 4 essential reads about New Orleans’ high hurricane risk and what climate change has to do with the storms

Hurricane Ida’s winds tore off roofs, including in New Orleans’ French Quarter. AP Photo/Eric Gay
Stacy Morford, The Conversation

Hurricane Ida hit the Louisiana coast with 150 mph winds on Aug. 29, 2021, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans on nearly the same path.

Ida was one of the most intense tropical storms on record in the state. Its storm surge was less than Katrina’s, but it quickly flooded streets and homes outside the levee system where many residents were under mandatory evacuation orders. Most of New Orleans’ rebuilt levees appeared to have held, but the powerful winds tore up roofs, knocked down trees and caused “catastrophic damage” to transmission lines, cutting power across the region.

Four articles from our archives, written by meteorologists and atmospheric scientists, offer some insight into why the New Orleans area is at high risk for intense hurricanes and what climate change has to do with these powerful storms.

1. Some areas are more prone to hurricane damage

New Orleans is among the most at-risk places along the U.S. coast for hurricanes. An analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the area was likely to see a hurricane within 50 nautical miles about once every seven years and a major hurricane about every 20.

A map shows return rate for hurricanes at communities along the coast
The numbers shown here reflect how often a hurricane would be expected within 50 nautical miles. The red dots suggest a hurricane every five to seven years. NOAA

Several characteristics can put a region at higher risk for destructive hurricanes, University of Florida meteorologist Athena Masson explained.

One factor is timing, she wrote. Storms tend to hit Texas and the Atlantic Coast earlier in the season, while the northern Gulf Coast is at higher risk from late August into October. Trade winds tend to push storms away from the western Gulf later in the fall.

Maps showing U.S. areas most at hurricane risk during each month from June to November
The busiest areas during each month of hurricane season. NOAA

Another is the shape of the sea floor. A shallow continental shelf like Louisiana’s can generate a powerful storm surge. Parts of the coast were inundated with more than 9 feet of water as Ida arrived.

Conditions along the storm’s path, particularly the water temperature, largely determine whether a tropical storm becomes a dangerous hurricane, Masson said.

“Three key ingredients are needed for a hurricane to form: warm sea surface water that’s at least about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 C), a thick layer of moisture extending from the sea surface to roughly 20,000 feet, and minimal vertical wind shear so the thunderstorm can grow vertically without interruption,” Masson wrote.

Hurricane Ida had all three. The Gulf of Mexico’s surface was exceptionally warm as Ida moved through, with temperatures around 85 to 90 F (29.4 to 32.2 C). The storm also had plenty of moisture and very little wind shear to stop it.


Read more: Some coastal areas are more prone to devastating hurricanes – a meteorologist explains why


2. What does climate change have to do with hurricanes?

The 2020 hurricane season broke records with 30 named storms, seven major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher, and 10 storms that underwent rapid intensification like Ida did before making landfall.

In analyzing the 2020 season, atmospheric scientists James Ruppert at Penn State and Allison Wing at Florida State University discussed climate change’s role in raising hurricane risks.

A satellite view of the hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico and coast.
Hurricane Ida just before landfall on the Louisiana coast on Aug. 29, 2021. NOAA

On the question of whether climate change affects the number of hurricanes, there is no detectable global trend in hurricane frequency, and studies using computer models have had conflicting results, Ruppert and Wing wrote. But, they said, there is a trend toward more intense storms – those that are Category 3 and higher, like Hurricane Ida.

“Since ocean temperature controls the potential intensity of tropical cyclones, climate change is likely behind this trend, which is expected to continue,” they said. “The U.S. is also seeing more storms with extreme rainfall. With warmer temperatures, more water is able to evaporate into the atmosphere, resulting in greater moisture in the air.”


Read more: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was a record-breaker, and it's raising more concerns about climate change


3. Climate change and storm surge

Climate change also affects the level of hurricane damage in another way: It gradually increases the risk from storm surge.

Storm surge – the huge volume of water that the hurricane pushes on shore – is one of the greatest threats to life and property from any hurricane. The height and extent of the storm surge depend on the strength and size of the hurricane, but sea level rise is raising the baseline height of the ocean, Penn State meteorologist Anthony Didlake Jr. explained.

An illustration shows how higher tides raise storm surge levels.
When hurricanes hit at high tide, the tide further raises the water level. Sea level rise also elevates the baseline water level. The COMET Program/UCAR and National Weather Service

“As water warms, it expands, and that has slowly raised sea level over the past century as global temperatures have risen. Freshwater from melting of ice sheets and glaciers also adds to sea level rise. Together, they elevate the background ocean height,” Didlake wrote. “When a hurricane arrives, the higher ocean means storm surge can bring water further inland, to a more dangerous and widespread effect.”


Read more: New Orleans issues evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Ida as forecasters warn of dangerous storm surge – here's what that means


4. The IPCC on hurricanes

The latest global climate analysis from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offered similar conclusions.

It discussed evidence that hurricanes are now more intense than they were 40 years ago, are intensifying more rapidly and are slowing in their forward movement, leading to more rainfall. The influence of greenhouse gas emissions in these changes is still being determined; reductions in particulate pollution have also had important effects, said Robert Kopp, an author of the report’s chapter on oceans and sea level rise.

“The clearest effect of global warming is that a warmer atmosphere holds more water, leading to more extreme rainfall, like that seen during Hurricane Harvey in 2017,” Kopp explained. “Looking forward, we expect to see hurricane winds and hurricane rains continue to increase.”


Read more: IPCC climate report: Profound changes are underway in Earth's oceans and ice – a lead author explains what the warnings mean


Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Stacy Morford, Environment + Climate Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Charleston church shooter’s death sentence upheld

Charleston church shooter’s death sentence upheld

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction and sentence of a man on federal death row for the 2015 racist slayings of nine members of a Black South Carolina congregation.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond affirmed Dylann Roof’s conviction and sentence in the shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

In 2017, Roof became the first person in the U.S. sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Authorities have said Roof opened fire during the closing prayer of a Bible study at the church, raining down dozens of bullets on those assembled. He was 21 at the time.

In his appeal, Roof’s attorneys argued that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing, a critical phase of his trial. Roof successfully prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, “under the delusion,” his attorneys argued, that “he would be rescued from prison by white-nationalists — but only, bizarrely, if he kept his mental-impairments out of the public record.”

Roof’s lawyers said his convictions and death sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court for a “proper competency evaluation.”

The 4th Circuit found that the trial judge did not commit an error when he found Roof was competent to stand trial and issued a scathing rebuke of Roof’s crimes.

“Dylann Roof murdered African Americans at their church, during their Bible-study and worship. They had welcomed him. He slaughtered them. He did so with the express intent of terrorizing not just his immediate victims at the historically important Mother Emanuel Church, but as many similar people as would hear of the mass murder,” the panel wrote in is ruling.

“No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” the judges wrote.

One of Roof’s attorneys, Margaret Alice-Anne Farrand, a deputy federal public defender, declined to comment on the ruling.

All of the judges in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers South Carolina, recused themselves from hearing Roof’s appeal; one of their own, Judge Jay Richardson, prosecuted Roof’s case as an assistant U.S. Attorney. The panel that heard arguments in May and issued the ruling on Wednesday was comprised of judges from several other appellate circuits.

Following his federal trial, Roof was given nine consecutive life sentences after pleading guilty in 2017 to state murder charges, leaving him to await execution in a federal prison and sparing his victims and their families the burden of a second trial.

President Joe Biden as a candidate said he’d work to end federal executions. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in March that he continues to have “grave concerns” about it.

Biden has connections to the case. As vice president, Biden attended the funeral for one of those slain, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who also pastored the congregation. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden frequently referenced the shooting, saying that a visit to Mother Emanuel helped him heal in the aftermath of the death of his son, Beau.

Roof’s attorneys could ask the full 4th Circuit to reconsider the panel’s ruling. If unsuccessful in his direct appeal, Roof could file what’s known as a 2255 appeal, or a request that the trial court review the constitutionality of his conviction and sentence. He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon

___

Kinnard reported from Houston.