The State of the Climate report for 2009 has just been released, and it confirms that the past decade was the warmest on record.
Last year wasn't the warmest year on record, and today isn’t the warmest ever day. But these things don’t prove anything, because the time period is just too short. So many things influence the weather on a short time scale, that information can be misleading.
A decade, though, is a decent amount of time. Longer term averages rule out smaller fluctuations caused by things like volcanic eruptions and natural ocean patterns.
As well as lengthy, this new report is also extensive. It draws data from 10 distinct records, from the obvious ones like air temperature over land and the amount of Arctic sea ice, to indirect observations like sea level and humidity.
[ibimage==3242==blogpostFeaturedImage==none==self==null]We shouldn’t be surprised with the results. We know that the earth is heating up. With every car we drive, with every heater we burn, with every light we switch on, we’re still piling million of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This, together with other greenhouse gases, is known to increase the global temperature.
The link between greenhouse gases and temperature has been known about for 200 years - it’s not a new discovery.
In the last 50 years, the world has warmed just under one degree Celsius, but this tiny change has already had a large affect on our climate. Arctic sea ice is shrinking, forests are withdrawing up hills to cooler climates and glaciers are retreating.
But these small, gradual changes won’t be the only change. As the heat rises more "extreme" weather events are expected.
There will be more extreme temperatures. Only yesterday we had the hottest temperature ever recorded in Moscow. Thirty-eight degrees Celsius was accompanied by thick smog, and still no rain is forecast. In fact it’s not just Moscow, 10 million hectares of farmland in Russian are currently crippled by drought.
There will also be more extreme floods. Over the past three days, Pakistan has suffered the worst flooding for 80 years. July and August have always been the wettest months, but could the global increase in temperature have accentuated these rains?
Interestingly the report also uncovers evidence that over 90 per cent of warming over the past 50 years has gone into our ocean. This would not only cause sea levels around the world to rise, but would also have an effect on Tropical Storms.
Tropical Storms feed off the warm water of the oceans, it’s their energy source. That’s why tropical storms only form in certain areas of the globe – the sea water has to be over 26 degrees C. If the temperature of the ocean increases, then potentially more areas will be able to spawn tropical storms.
As a result, more tropical storms may be seen, and stronger ones too. The rise in sea temperatures will give more energy to the existing storms, allowing them to grow more powerful, and more devastating.
The majority of the 2009 State of the Climate report just reconfirms things we already know: unless we change the way we live, the climate will continue to change. But are we able to make these changes? And are we prepared to?