05 August 2008

Whirligig 4: Summer 2008 climate report

Another installment of my occasional Weather Whirligig series. The idea here is to highlight reports of unusual and/or extreme or weather and climate events. Inclusion here is not meant by me to imply a cause-and-effect relationship with climate change. Rather, they are merely data points for future consideration...

It's the depth of (boreal) summer and it's hot.

  • The warmest day ever in Reykjavik was recorded on Wednesday[30 July] when the mercury reached 25.7 degrees Celsius...Northern Europe is currently enjoying unusually warm temperatures, with Stockholm in Sweden hovering around 30 degrees Celsius for the past week.

  • A major national park in Canada's Arctic has been largely closed after record high temperatures caused flooding that washed away hiking trails and forced the evacuation of tourists...The combination of floods, melting permafrost and erosion means that the southern part of the park will remain shut until geologists can examine the damage...

  • CIMSS Satellite Blog notes 03 August 2008 marked the 22nd consecutive day of daily high temperatures of 90ยบ F or higher at Denver, Colorado. The old record was 18 consecutive days, set back in 1874 and 1901. The post also illustrates an example of the effects of land use/cover on temperatures and the local climate.

Drought is often another feature of summer. As this example from Ethiopia shows, the timing of the rain is as equally important as the amount.

The green highlands of West Badawacho in south-west Ethiopia are not a place where you would expect to find hunger. The land is fertile and lush...[However,] the lushness of the land masks a near total crop failure across the district...[T]he poor harvests of 2007 and the repeated failure of the crucial March-May rains have spelled disaster.

In recent weeks the rain has arrived but it is too late. While the countryside is transformed into a sea of green, 50% of farmland lies uncultivated. So many livestock died in the recent drought that farmers are struggling to plant maize by hand. For those who have managed to get a crop down, it won't be harvested until September, and then production is expected to be low.

And with heat and drought comes wildfire...

  • High levels of fire activity have continued to plague northern California. The Telegraph fire -- near Yosemite National Park -- has burnt ~34 000 acres and is 60% contained. 22 homes have burnt and 33 firefighters have been injured battling the blaze. Suppression costs have run to $24m.

  • A wildfire in Turkey (Antalya province) has been burning for five days. One person has died and another is missing... It has also killed livestock and destroyed 60 houses, a school, a mosque, and dozens of farm buildings...4 000 ha of woodland has been burnt.

  • Burning season has begun on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. This deliberate burning for agricultural land clearance is producing a worsening haze that has cut visibility in the busy Malacca strait to below 5 km. Officials fear the number of hot spots could exceed last year's record as the current dry season will be marked by less rain than usual (an impact of the nascent Indian Ocean Dipole, perhaps?).

Finally, there is this from Texas, rarely content to be second-best* at anything: Texas plagued by heat, drought, water parasite, wildfire. Sadly, three have died during the current heat wave, which looks set to continue for the foresee-able future...

The 'good news' of the season is that the polar ice cap isn't going to completely melt away this summer (but it is getting thinner). Not as low as last year, but likely 2nd or 3rd lowest.

Are these events a harbinger of climate instability or merely 'normal' weather? What has to happen to answer this question? to change minds? to act?

*They've had to learn to accept that Alaska thing...

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