Please also read about our UNNECESSARY electricity crisis
Wild weather a taste of things to come
August 9 2007 The Washington Post
Marc Kaufman in Washington
A MONSOON dropped 35 centimetres of rain in one day across many parts of South Asia this month. Germany had its wettest May on record, and April was the driest there in a century. Temperatures reached 45 degrees in Bulgaria last month and 32 degrees in Moscow in late May, shattering long-time records.
The year still has almost five months to go, but it has already experienced a range of weather extremes that the UN's World Meteorological Organisation says is well outside the historical norm and is a precursor to much greater weather variability as global warming transforms the planet.
The warming trend confirmed in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - based on the finding that 11 of the past 12 years had higher average ground temperatures than any others since formal temperature recording began - appears to have continued with a vengeance into 2007. The meteorological organisation reported that January and April were the warmest worldwide ever recorded.
"Climate change projections indicate it to be very likely that hot extremes, heatwaves and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent," the organisation said.
The heavy rains in South Asia have resulted in more than 500 deaths and displaced 10 million people, while 13.5 million Chinese have been affected by floods, the report said. In England and Wales, the period from May to July was the wettest since record-keeping began in 1766, resulting in floods that killed nine and caused more than $US6billion ($7billion) in damage.
The World Meteorological Organisation, which is co-sponsoring a series of meetings and reports on global climate change, is putting together an early-warning system for climate extremes and establishing long-term monitoring systems, and plans to help countries most vulnerable to climate change.
"The average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely the highest during any 50-year period in the last 500 years, and likely the highest in the past 1300 years," the report said.
Global warming is expected to result in more extreme weather because of changes in atmospheric wind patterns and the ability of warmer air to hold more moisture, said Martin Manning, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's working group on the physical science of climate change. He said that one year of heavier than normal rains and warmer than usual temperatures said nothing definitive about climate change, but they were consistent with the panel's long-term predictions.
"What we have projected is an increase in extreme events as the global temperatures rise," Dr Manning said. "Floods, droughts and heatwaves are certainly consistent with that."
The World Meteorological Organisation reported the extreme weather occurred in many parts of the world. In May, a series of large waves (estimated at up to 3.6 metres) swamped almost 70 islands in 16 atolls in the Maldive Islands off south India, causing serious flooding and extensive damage. Halfway around the globe, Uruguay was hit during the same month by the worst flooding since 1959 - floods that affected more than 110,000 people and severely damaged crops and buildings. Two months later, an unusual winter brought high winds, blizzards and rare snowfall to parts of South America.
Meanwhile, two extreme heatwaves affected south-eastern Europe in June and July. Dozens of people died, and firefighters worked nonstop battling blazes that destroyed thousands of hectares. On July 23, temperatures hit the record 45 degrees in Bulgaria.
Earth is a big concern for lots of people, not just some of us Earthlings
And WHY did THIS get no press coverage at the time?
February 21st, 2004
Clean, Free Energy
April 18, 1998 Antarctic meltdown's terrifying pace By ANDREW DARBY in Hobart The phenomenal collapse of the largest ice shelf group on the Antarctic Peninsula is escalating, with researchers confirming the loss of another 200-square-kilometre mass of ice.
November 24, 1997 How the climate sceptics got to Howard By MURRAY HOGARTH and LEIGH DAYTON and Science's climate of doubt is over As global warming moves beyond scientific dispute, writes LEIGH DAYTON, attention turns to predicting its effects.
Update on mayhem December 1st, 1997
January 9, 1998 Mercury's rising - Earth sets new world record By LEIGH DAYTON Last year was a scorcher for planet Earth, and may have been the hottest since records began in 1861, according to international meteorologists.
May 2, 1998 Reef faces "acid rain" damage from sea By MURRAY HOGARTH, Environment Editor Underwater "acid rain" caused by greenhouse pollution threatens the Great Barrier Reef, a leading coral researcher has warned. May 4, 1998 Coral graveyard a pointer to climate change By MURRAY HOGARTH, Environment Editor Scientists are trying to count the cost of the worst "coral bleaching" ever reported on the Great Barrier Reef, which coincides with Australia's hottest January-March on record.
October 15th, 1997
A word about climate change
TIONS on a treaty
of carbon dioxide
and other heat-
move towards their conclusion
in December in Kyoto, it looks
likely that any resulting pact will
reflect the widespread lack, thus
far, of deep and sustained
public attention to the chal-
lenges posed by what we too
politely call "global warming"
For example, in the United
States - despite the fact that the
American Government will
probably call for slightly stron-
ger limits on fossil-fuel con-
sumption than that of Australia
- it has been difficult to spark
sustained conversation (let
alone action) on the dangers of
human interference with Earth's
climate system. In polls, a
majority of American citizens
express concern about climatic
disruption, but we've been vot-
ing with our wheels - purchas-
ing more and more gas-guzzling
sport utility vehicles, minivans,
and pickup trucks.
Even in much of the Ameri-
can environmental community,
there has been a tendency to
focus on local and regional
issues to the exclusion of truly
global ecological challenges.
Part of the reason there has not
been much strong or passionate
response - in Australia, the US,
and elsewhere - to one of the
most serious environmental perils
of our time is that we have lacked
terms that adequately describe the
outright ecological violence to
which the current rapid heating of
the planet is most likely already
"Global warming" and "cli-
mate change" are imprecise and
euphemistic. They don't evoke the
upheavals associated with rapid
shifts in the Earth's average
temperature, any more than the
phrase "antipersonnel weapon"
evokes the violence done to
human beings by exploding land-
mines We are in need of a phrase
that energises conversation about
what the increase in heat energy
planetwide actually means for
local habitats and their plant and
animal (including human) lives. A
phrase that captures the unusu-
ally intense destructiveness of
"freak" weather events like last
July's record-smashing floods in
Europe and last week's Hurricane
Pauline in Mexico, and the
uncanniness and persistence of
what the Sydney Morning Herald
referred to last month as Indone-
sia's "horror haze". We need a
phrase like "climatic mayhem".
To think in terms of "climatic
mayhem" rather than "global
warming" reminds us that the
overall increase in heat energy is
not always expressed through
generally higher local and
regional temperatures, but
translates itself into increasingly
frequent and persistent extreme
weather events of all kinds:
strange storms (like last March's
long-lasting Tropical Cyclone
Justin off the Australian coast),
droughts, floods, heat waves,
and also, in some areas, out-of-
season frosts and blizzards.
Unlike "climate change", the
phrase "climatic mayhem"
evokes the destruction these
extreme weather events cause in
Opponents of a decisive
planetary shift away from a
carbon-based energy economy
cite scientific "uncertainty" as a
justification for inaction, but
"dangerous unpredictability" is
a more accurate description of
climatic behaviour in a heat-
ed-up world. The phrase "cli-
matic mayhem" helps us
remember the likelihood of
unpleasant surprises as the
Earth's climate system responds
to increasing amounts of heat-
Climatic mayhem itself may
be defined as the overall combi-
nation of chaotic, unpredict-
able, and ecologically violent
weather events accompanying
periods of rapid shifts in Earth's
climate system. It is expressed
through local and regional mete-
orological occurrences that are
extreme by virtue of their
persistence, intensity, unseason-
able (or otherwise highly
unusual) nature, or some combi-
nation of these elements. The
tenacity of Tropical Cyclone
Justin and of the Indonesian
drought exemplifies extreme
persistence of certain types of
weather; this past (boreal or
northern) summer's flooding
rains in Central Europe and
elsewhere exemplify unusual
intensity; and the record-
breaking tornadoes and floods
in early March of this year in the
Mid-western United States
(such storms usually occur later
during the North American
Climatic mayhem may also
involve the juxtaposition of
longer-term seasonal abnormali-
ties. Consider the oscillation in
North Korea between the floods
of 1995 and 1996 and the more
recent extreme heat and drought.
Erosion, crop damage, and eco-
nomic difficulties associated with
the floods magnified the damage
done by the subsequent drought.
This sequence illustrates how
meteorological extremes of one
kind can help lay the groundwork
for ecological disaster, increasing
the damage wrought by the
occurrence of a seemingly oppo-
site sort of extreme.
Climatic mayhem must in
principle be distinguished from
"wild weather", which can be
violent without doing long-term
harm to ecosystems or habitats.
Nor is its ecological violence
necessarily overt or obvious to
humans. For instance, in some
temperate regions, climatic may-
hem might take the form of
seemingly benign mild winter
nights that do violence by encour-
aging infestation of forest ecosys-
tems by exotic insect species.
Climatic mayhem is, by defi-
nition, linked with rapid global
climate change and long-term
destructiveness to habitats. It is
not by itself a novel phenome-
non. Chaotic meteorological
patterns and events - and
associated dislocation and
destruction of habitats - have
been especially frequent during
past upheavals of Earth's cli-
mate system. The evidence of
such upheavals is not, however,
reassuring: it is an illustration of
the dangers of tampering with
Moreover, other worldwide
ecological problems now add
greatly to the dangers of climatic
mayhem. Everywhere on the
planet, habitats, together with
their associated plants and ani-
mals, have been injured or made
more vulnerable and frag-
mented by human activities of
many kinds, so that extreme
weather and climatic shifts can
be far more harmful than they
otherwise might have been.
In many ways that truly have
no earthly precedent, climatic
mayhem is already adding dead-
liness to ecological injury. But
recognising that climatic may-
hem is not only a future threat
but a present actuality can help
us avoid the still grimmer
consequences of unchecked
global heating. If we face hon-
estly the dangerously unpredict-
able repercussions of continued
tampering with Earth's climate
system we may still discover in
ourselves the passion, imagina-
tion, and courage needed to
create cultures and economies
based on renewable energy
instead of consuming the fossil
remains of ancient plants.
We may still be renewed and
re-energised by hope for a
humane planetary future.
Michael Perlman teaches environmen-
tal science at Vermont College in Mont-
pelier, Vermont (US). His most recent book,
Hiroshima Forever: The Ecology of
Mourning, was nominated for the 1996
Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize.