Extreme Temperature Diary- Wednesday April 21st, 2021/ Main Topic: Protecting The World’s Art Treasures From Climate Change

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Protecting The World’s Art Treasures From Climate Change

Dear Diary. During the 20th century the main threat to art or rare books and manuscripts was theft. Museums over the years were forced to build elaborate alarm systems and hard to get into windows to protect and display valuable art. Now we have a new wrinkle on art preservation.

A couple of events that have occurred over the past ten years should serve as a big warning to museums and libraries worldwide. One was some flooding that occurred at the planet’s most renowned museum, the Louver in Paris during the 2010s. The other occurred this week in South Africa, but has not been making much news in this country due to much more pressing social justice matters stemming from the George Floyd trial:

Here is some of the New York Times article:

Wildfire Deals Hard Blow to South Africa’s Archives

The fire, which began Sunday and is still being fought, ravaged a library that housed first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.

Firefighters worked Sunday to control a blaze at the University of Cape Town’s library, where valuable historical collections have been destroyed.  Credit…Nic Bothma/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Christina Goldbaum and Kimon de Greef Published April 19, 2021 Updated April 20, 2021

JOHANNESBURG — Firefighters in Cape Town battled a wildfire on Monday that had engulfed the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain and destroyed parts of the University of Cape Town’s library, a devastating blow to the world’s archives of Southern African history.

Helicopters dumped water on the area to try to contain the blaze, which began on Sunday and was likely caused by an abandoned fire, according to South African national parks officials. But as wind picked up overnight, the fire spread to neighborhoods in the foothills of the mountain and forced some homes to be evacuated on Monday. Monday evening, officials warned that the blaze would likely rage for days.

“Hopefully we can get containment very soon but to extinguish the fire, in other words to put it out completely, that’s going to take more than a week,” Philip Prins, fire manager for Table Mountain National Park, told reporters on Monday.

The wildfire is the latest in a series of devastating mountain blazes that have swept through the Western Cape province in recent years. But the fallout from this fire was also felt across the region after towers of orange and red flames devoured Cape Town University’s special collections library — home to one of the most expansive collections of first-edition books, films, photographs and other primary sources documenting Southern African history.

Helicopters dumping water on the area on Sunday. The fire spread to neighborhoods in the foothills of Table Mountain and forced some homes to be evacuated on Monday morning.Credit…Mike Hutchings/Reuters

“We are of course devastated about the loss of our special collection in the library, it’s things that we cannot replace. It pains us, it pains us to see what it looks like now in ashes,” Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice chancellor of the University of Cape Town, said on Monday. “The resources that we had there, the collections that we had in the library were not jut for us but for the continent.”

She added: “It’s a huge loss.”

Just after 9 p.m. on Sunday, residents around Table Mountain reported seeing three people lighting small fires along its foothills as the wildfire raged. Soon after, the police arrested one of those people — a man in his 30s — in connection with those fires, according to Jean-Pierre Smith, a city councilman in Cape Town who sits on the mayor’s safety and security committee. It is unclear whether the man is connected with the initial blaze, Mr. Smith added.

The wildfire began around 9 a.m. Sunday on the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, one of the rugged ridges that form part of the iconic Table Mountain backdrop to Cape Town. Fanned by gusts of wind, the fire engulfed and destroyed a hillside restaurant before moving down to the university campus, which is largely built on the slopes of the mountain.

Several buildings, including a historic mill and the school’s library,were soon on fire, and billows of thick white smoke rolled across the city. So far, there have been no deaths reported, but at least five firefighters have suffered injuries, according to officials.

Around 4,000 students were evacuated from campus residence halls on Sunday, according to Nombuso Shabalala, a university spokeswoman. The university announced on Sunday that it would suspend its operations until at least Tuesday.

Videos on social media showed scores of students, some clutching small bags, rushing from residence buildings as the fire engulfed the nearby hillside. Busisiwe Mtsweni, an undergraduate studying finance and accounting, was on the university’s upper campus at around noon when “everyone got into panic mode,” she said in a telephone call.

Sparks from the mountain set off smaller fires among the buildings, and billows of smoke made it difficult to breathe as she and her friends made a dash to their residences to grab their belongings, she said. Ms. Mtsweni was later evacuated by bus and spent the night in a hotel.

Around 4,000 students were evacuated from campus residence halls on Sunday, according to a University of Cape Town spokeswoman.Credit…Rodger Bosch/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Monday, evacuated students were reporting shortages of food and other essential supplies and volunteers were using social media and WhatsApp groups to coordinate deliveries.

By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze, according to university officials. The reading room housed parts of the university’s African Studies Collection, which includes works on Africa and South Africa printed before 1925, hard-to-find volumes in European and African languages and other rare books, according to Niklas Zimmer, a library manager at the university.

A curator of the school’s archive, Pippa Skotnes, said on Monday that the university’s African film collection, comprising about 3,500 archival films, had been lost to the fire. The archive was one of the largest collections in the world of films made in Africa or featuring Africa-related content.

The library will conduct a full assessment of what has been lost once the building has been declared safe, university officials said.

A firefighter overcome by smoke and heat collapsed on Sunday. He was later evacuated.Credit…Rodger Bosch/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While the university had recently begun a huge effort to digitize the school’s collections, only a “wafer thin” proportion of the special-collections archive had been transferred owing to the enormous volume of material and glacial pace of the work, said Mr. Zimmer, who has led that program. A single cabinet of microfilm, Mr. Zimmer said, might take “an entire working lifetime” to process.

University officials said they were hopeful that the bulk of the archive — which is housed in two basement floors beneath the library and protected by a system of fire doors — may have been be spared. But on Monday, as scholars and librarians waited to hear the extent of damage, many raised the possibility that the basement may have been flooded during the firefighting effort.

“Very unique things are likely gone,” said Sibusiso Nkomo, a history Ph.D. student who is a member of an interdisciplinary archival research unit on campus.

“We’ve lost valuable history that tells us where we’ve come from,” he added, noting that the mood among his colleagues was “traumatized and devastated.”

Several other campus buildings were damaged.

By Sunday evening, a special-collections reading room at the university’s library had been gutted by the blaze.Credit…Mike Hutchings/Reuters

For many in the Western Cape, images of the mountain ablaze were reminiscent of other major mountain fires that have ravaged the province in recent years. In 2015, fires ripped through the outskirts of Cape Town for four days, destroying around 15,000 acres of land. Two years later, another wildfire tore through a coastal town in the province, Knysna, killing at least four people and forcing about 10,000 to evacuate their homes.

The huge mountain wildfires have been fed by a combustible mix of fire-prone vegetation native to Southern Africa — known as fynbos — and particularly flammable tree species, like gumtrees and pines, that colonists imported to the Western Cape and that contribute to the accidental spread of fires.

To prevent uncontrollable wildfires, many ecologists have warned that national park officials need to conduct more frequent prescribed burns. But in Cape Town, where the city’s edges have sprawled onto the mountain’s foothills, prescribed burns are particularly difficult, and park officials have faced resistance from residents who fear that their homes could be destroyed.

“If it doesn’t burn, all the vegetation is just sitting there, and it’s just a matter of time,” said Dr. Alanna Rebelo, a postdoctoral researcher specializing in ecology at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape. “We’ve had this huge bonfire just waiting to happen.”

The slopes of Table Mountain above Cape Town on Monday. Fanned by gusts of wind, the fire engulfed and destroyed a hillside restaurant and a mill before moving down to the university campus.Credit…Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Wildfires:The Amazon Is on Fire. So Is Central Africa.Aug. 27, 2019

Brazil’s Rainforest Fires Prompt Alarm and Anger in EuropeAug. 23, 2019

Deadly South African Fires Leave a Landscape of DevastationJune 8, 2017

Christina Goldbaum has covered transit in New York City and is currently on assignment in Africa. @cegoldbaumA version of this article appears in print on April 20, 2021, Section A, Page 10 of the New York edition with the headline: Blaze Ravages Archival Library at University of Cape Town. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Now from fire damage to water damage here is what we saw recently at the Louvre in Paris:


Louvre officials ‘highly vigilant’ as Paris floods again

Social Sharing

Rising Seine is latest struggle for French museum following pension strikes, coronavirus-related closure

The Associated Press · Posted: Mar 09, 2020 3:17 PM ET | Last Updated: March 9, 2020

People walk past a flooded area near the Louvre museum’s main entrance in Paris. Officials at the Louvre, which sits on the right bank of the Seine, are monitoring the river’s rising levels after massive rainfall. (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/The Associated Press)

The water level in the Seine River is rising after massive rainfall, adding to concerns that it could break its bank in Paris.

The situation is adding to problems for the Louvre museum, which has recently faced closures over pension strikes and the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The world’s most visited museum said Monday that officials were being “highly vigilant” as they monitor the river’s level. Housed in a former royal residence on the right bank of the Seine River, the Louvre is the city landmark that would be most vulnerable if the river spilled its banks.

The river rose to a high of 3.5 metres in recent days, leaving trees and benches underwater and forcing the city to close riverside parks, officials said.

Over the weekend, Paris authorities closed a tunnel at the Tuileries’ gardens, which is adjacent to the Louvre, over fears of flooding, but called for the public to not be alarmed.

People walk on a plank bridge to cross the flooded Seine River on Monday, with water levels expected to hit 4.3 metres after days of rain. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

The Louvre said that the river hasn’t yet risen to the “critical threshold” in the section near the museum, but it was limiting the number of visitors as a precaution.

Flooding in recent years

For Parisians, the Zouave soldier statue on the Pont de l’Alma bridge is the best-known measure for the height of the Seine. During floods in January 2018, the river rose as high as 5.84 metres — to the Zouave statue’s belt.

In June 2016, when the Seine rose to 6.1 metres, the museum had to remove some of its artifacts from its cellars, as a precaution in case they were flooded. Thousands of homes upstream and downstream of the city, on the Seine and its main tributary the Marne, were flooded that year.

In January 1910, the Seine’s waters rose as high as 8.62 metres, causing catastrophic floods that affected large parts of central Paris.

With files from Reuters CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices|

About CBC News Report Typo or Error.


Looking at both the situations in Paris and Johannesburg we can find a big lesson. If we want to protect the world’s treasures we must guard these against the ravages from either fire or flood. We can accomplish this goal by moving objects out of harms way in the case of flooding, or reinforcing museums and libraries with added flame retardant protection hardware. Obviously, making sure that severe climate change doesn’t happen would be the best overall step to insure that treasures are passed on from generation to generation for our progeny’s education and historical edification.

Brrr! Here is one big cold spring “ET” summary:

Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *