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NEW YORK – Floods, fires, melting ice and feverish heat: From smoke-choked Moscow to water-soaked Pakistan and the High Arctic, the planet seems to be having a midsummer breakdown. It's not just a portent of things to come, scientists say, but a sign of troubling climate change already under way.
Originally posted by ErEhWoN
We have to discard the mentality of fear, and become responsible stewards of this planet.
The U.N.'s network of climate scientists — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — has long predicted that rising global temperatures would produce more frequent and intense heat waves, and more intense rainfalls. In its latest assessment, in 2007, the Nobel Prize-winning panel went beyond that. It said these trends "have already been observed," in an increase in heat waves since 1950, for example.
Stott and NASA's Gavin Schmidt, at the Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, said it's better to think in terms of odds: Warming might double the chances for heat waves, for example. "That is exactly what's happening," Schmidt said, "a lot more warm extremes and less cold extremes."
In fact, in key cases they're a perfect fit:
RUSSIA It's been the hottest summer ever recorded in Russia, with Moscow temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees C) for the first time. Russia's drought has sparked hundreds of wildfires in forests and dried peat bogs, blanketing Moscow with a toxic smog that finally lifted Thursday after six days. The Russian capital's death rate doubled to 700 people a day at one point. The drought reduced the wheat harvest by more than one-third. The 2007 IPCC report predicted a doubling of disastrous droughts in Russia this century and cited studies foreseeing catastrophic fires during dry years. It also said Russia would suffer large crop losses.
PAKISTAN The heaviest monsoon rains on record — 12 inches (300 millimeters) in one 36-hour period — have sent rivers rampaging over huge swaths of countryside, flooding thousands of villages. It has left 14 million Pakistanis homeless or otherwise affected, and killed 1,500. The government calls it the worst natural disaster in the nation's history. A warmer atmosphere can hold — and discharge — more water. The 2007 IPCC report said rains have grown heavier for 40 years over north Pakistan and predicted greater flooding this century in south Asia's monsoon region.
CHINA China is witnessing its worst floods in decades, the WMO says, particularly in the northwest province of Gansu. There, floods and landslides last weekend killed at least 1,100 people and left more than 600 missing, feared swept away or buried beneath mud and debris. The IPCC reported in 2007 that rains had increased in northwest China by up to 33 percent since 1961, and floods nationwide had increased sevenfold since the 1950s. It predicted still more frequent flooding this century.
UNITED STATES In Iowa, soaked by its wettest 36-month period in 127 years of recordkeeping, floodwaters from three nights of rain this week forced hundreds from their homes and killed a 16-year-old girl. The international climate panel projected increased U.S. precipitation this century — except for the Southwest — and more extreme rain events causing flooding.
ARCTIC Researchers last week spotted a 100-square-mile (260-square-kilometer) chunk of ice calved off from the great Petermann Glacier in Greenland's far northwest. It was the most massive ice island to break away in the Arctic in a half-century of observation. The huge iceberg appeared just five months after an international scientific team published a report saying ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet is expanding up its northwest coast from the south. Changes in the ice sheet "are happening fast, and we are definitely losing more ice mass than we had anticipated," said one of the scientists, NASA's Isabella Velicogna. In the Arctic Ocean itself, the summer melt of the vast ice cap has reached unprecedented proportions in recent years. Satellite data show the ocean area covered by ice last month was the second-lowest ever recorded for July.