Saturday, January 28

Ready for changing temperatures?

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SUPER WINDS: Waves crash against a lighthouse during storms that battered Britain last month. Britain’s strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. — Reuters photo

ARE we ready for the changing – increasing – temperatures of Earth?

Are we ready for the extreme weather conditions – storms, typhoons, droughts and rising sea levels? Were we ready for the storm we had yesterday, last week or last month?

Were you caught huddling in a doorway, under an umbrella or in your car as wind whipped rain played catch with the rolling dustbins and branches?

Did tiles fly off your roof or did trees crash down?

Have you caught yourself thinking that storms were not so stormy even a couple of years ago?

Friends and colleagues frequently say, “We didn’t used to have storms like this.” And we didn’t. The weather is changing and it is highly likely that we are responsible.

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that it highly likely

that the changing weather patterns are the result of our human activity.

Clearing land, burning fossil fuels in our cars, factories and homes are highly likely to be contributing to this.

The recently released reports which are available on the IPCC website (ipcc.ch) describe the panel’s confidence on their conclusions and the reasoning that led to this.

The panel is highly confident that human activity has been the main cause of present-day global warming and that the temperatures will rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

These changes are in line with the predictions of the late 20th century computer models of changing weather patterns.

Rainy areas will become wetter, while dry areas will become drier. Extreme weather – droughts, floods, storms, cyclones and so on – will be more common.

The oceans will continue to warm up and the warm temperatures will go higher. Severe hurricanes or tropical cyclones are likely to occur more frequently.

Over the past month, I have jotted down some of the tropical storms, called hurricanes in the Atlantic, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and typhoons in the Pacific that have made the news.

  • Sept 24: Hurricane Rita – southeastern USA.
  • Sept 24: Typhoon Usgu – Japan.
  • Oct 6: Typhoon Fitow – southern China and Japan.
  • Oct 12: Cyclone Phailin – southern India.
  • Oct 12: Typhoon Nari – the Philippines main island of Luzon.
  • Oct 17: Typhoon Wipha – China.
  • Oct 22: Hurricane Raymond – Mexico.
  • Oct 24: Typhoon Francisco – Japan.
  • Oct 28: Storms with hurricane strength winds – UK

Tropical cyclones are severe weather phenomena that occur over tropical or subtropical oceans. They form when warm moist air moves over the tropical or subtropical oceans.

Water vapour rises into the atmosphere. As it rises, it cools and then condenses into water droplets. Condensation releases heat thus making the air lighter. Warm air along with moist ocean air continues to rise.

The movement of the air causes the winds that swirl circularly around a relatively calm eye.

Cyclone winds are severe with varying speeds, but can cause extensive damage including uprooting trees blowing off roots. They pose a risk to sea-going vessels and land transport.

However, floods associated with heavy rains and storm surges are potentially the most damaging aspects. The storm surge that occurs when the storm makes landfall is a dome of water 60 to 80km across and two to five metres higher than the normal tide.

Large areas, especially low-lying coastal areas can be inundated. Tropical cyclones form when the oceans are warmer than 23 degrees Celsius and this is increasingly common.

The fourth IPPC report in its 25-year history indicates that scientists are highly confident that surface temperatures will increase and that the oceans will continue to warm and that the heat will go deeper. The predicted result is more cyclones.

Are we ready for not only more storms but also rising oceans as the glaciers and polar ice caps melt?

The changes are happening and climate change is irreversible.

So along with asking how our economic activities can become more ecologically sound; we should also ask how do we adapt to the change. What changes should we make?

For more information look up the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers.

 

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