January 7, 2014
Jetstream Targets My Head
Did climate change try to kill me? Well, there’s a hole in my roof that says maybe it did. A huge gust of wind dislodged a ridge tile that probably weighs around four pounds and sent it spinning across the garden before it lodged itself into the lawn. Its flight path was such that, had it happened five minutes before when I was outside feeding the birds, it would have probably removed at least part of my head. Here in the UK we have just been bombarded with pretty extreme weather over the festive period. High damaging winds and rainfall with all the flooding, power drop-outs, and travel disruption that follow such events have swept across the land in several waves. The weather men tell us that the Jetstream, driven by temperature differences across the Atlantic, is to blame. Climate Change scientists tell us that Global warming has altered the temperature divide between polar and tropical regions, diverting the Jetstream and pushing more frequent and severe depressions and storms across Britain.
But, as ever when climate change is discussed, it seems that controversy will dog the arguments. One recent report claims that, although the planet is warming faster than at any time in the last 11,000 years, the actual rate of warming has been less than expected over the last decade. They also think that this may mean the earth could warm less quickly than expected this century. Some of those who deny that global warming is the danger that most people think it is have seized on this to claim that the threat has been exaggerated and that previous predictions were wrong. It may be, as some have claimed, that this unexpected fall in the rate of warming could be just a “natural offset” to man-made temperature rises, in effect a natural pause in warming. The truth is that no-one knows for sure what has caused it, although one report I read recently showed how temperatures in some of the deepest parts of the Pacific have risen fifteen times faster in the last 60 years than at any time in the previous 10,000 years. Could it be that the oceans are absorbing some of the overall global warming leading to lower than expected rises in air temperatures? If so, this is only likely to store up greater problems in the future as warmer sea temperatures could lead to higher moisture levels in the air above them and consequently more rainfall. Also, tropical storms like Typhoon Haiyan often lose strength as they draw up cooler water from the depths so it is quite conceivable that in future they will lose power less quickly and become more deadly as they reach land. Warmer oceans create another hazard as they increase in volume. It has been estimated that a third of the rise in sea levels is due to such expansion.
Yet another report led by Professor Steven Sherwood at the University of New South Wales in Australia has claimed that, unless emissions are cut, the earth will warm by a minimum of 4C by 2100. This is double the 2C figure that governments around the world currently see as dangerous.
The storm that removed my tile – and almost my head – may have been a purely natural event, but it could just be a very close up and personal encounter between me and the CO2 supercharged Jetstream. Now where did I put that roofer’s telephone number?
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