FEELING THE IMPACT OF CHAOTIC WEATHER
There are no individual storms or weather oddities that one can really
label a “climate change storm.” Climate change is the likelihood of more
powerful and frequent events that range from freezing to fire. However,
taken together, the signs of climate change are all around and readily
felt by anyone.
As the climate becomes more energetic with additional heat, the whirling
and swirling patterns of atmosphere that create weather become harder to
predict. Places that could rely upon a single springtime rain, for in-
stance, are now learning to expect that rain at just about any time of
the year. The old patterns of weather that have been established by a
few hundred years of recorded observations are no longer holding true.
It is estimated that about 40% of the world's surface is made of arid
“dry lands.” These areas are home to many of the worlds crop plants and
a majority of the word's indigenous people. While areas that have been
traditionally dry have plants, animals and people that are accustomed to
dealing with weather events, it's actually far more temperate climates
thatwill suffer the greatest effect of increased drought events. Existing
dry land areas are likely to become less productive over time, though
they may be more resilient.
Fire events are already much more severe and frequent in arid areas than
they were even 20 years ago, and this is true worldwide. Climate change is
directly responsible for creating a larger number of storms that spawn
lightning. The long increase in North American wildfires that began in the
1950s has been made worse by several man-made factors in North America.
In the US, fire suppression for decades has caused vast tracts of the arid
West to become overgrown with small, highly combustible flames that cause
fires to burn hotter and longer than a forest composed of the natural climax
materials would. So, this means that forests that would otherwise survive
quick burning fires that raced through mature forests, juvenile forests are
utterly destroyed. Such fires also tend to spread further.
The danger of flooding comes both from rising sea levels and increasingly
severe rainfall events. Instead of coming throughout the year, many places
that are used to gentle rains are now subject to several storms, punctuated
by long dry-spells.This causes soils to be less able to allow rainwater to
percolate through the subsoil and recharge aquifers. Instead, erosion is
accentuated and much needed groundwater becomes run-off that is much more
prone to coming in contact with pollutants.
Coastal areas that have been prone to semi-regular flooding in the past are
now on constant flood alert, as evidenced by the dramatic increase in the
number of flood days in Venice. The effect has already been felt by marine
mammal populations that are finding it ever-harder to survive due to
unseasonable rains and habitat destruction.
Sea level rises have already been measured at about 20cm in the last cent-
ury. This is due partly to the actual release of land-based glaciers into
the seas and partly due to the expansion of warmer water. While the melting
of Arctic ice floes won't add much volume to the seas, melt from Antarctica
certainly will – as much as 88cm in total by 2100. This would mark the first
major variation is sea level since at least Roman times.
HURRICANE AND TORNADO
Hurricanes are the most energetic of storms. They occur in tropical waters
when the sea temperatures rise above 75F/23C. Several of the worst
Atlantic hurricane seasons have occurred in the past decade, with damages
to property and life becoming extreme in areas where such storms were once
a rarity. Even in areas well outside the tropical zone, super-storms have
remained intact long enough to reach countries that have previously been
safe from hurricane activity such as Northern Europe.
Hurricanes are often talked about because they are such a concentrated form
of sheer climate power, but nothing is as powerful as the tornadoes, which
can reach speeds in excess of 300mph/483kph. These storms have already been
appearing with greater frequency over a longer season throughout the North
America continent. They have also been spotted over major cities that have
traditionally enjoyed some amount of topographical protection. Tornado
seasons throughout the 'aughts have been well above average, with nearly
twice as many twisters spotted in 2008 as “average.”
The threats to water supplies have already been seen in the form of
contamination events and shortages. Part of this in North America is due
to agricultural practices as well as the large and largely unproductive
use of water in rapidly expanding suburban areas. Areas that rely upon
river flows for their water supply are having to deal with increasingly
erratic flows that have varied between floods and shortages for several
Australia has suffered several years of drought that threaten their massive
wine industry. Regions that had previously grown rich from the implement-
ation of high-efficiency irrigation are finding water harder and
harder to come by.