VEGA News Item

Series of Weather Extremes with Cereal Consequences - 13/08/2010

Longer term changes of global warming

1.  As the weather rather than the longer term changes of global warming occupy agriculturalists’ minds as many harvests are being readied for the combines, the added complications of the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico call for consideration. In the last couple of weeks it has faced its first tropical storm in what is likely to become a particularly violent Atlantic hurricane season. Tropical Storm Bonnie is the second big storm of the year and was due a week or two ago to sweep across the vast slick. Dozens of ships involved in the clean-up operation have been scurrying for shelter and the rig drilling relief well has been shut down.

2.  The consequences for the slick of the storm’s rough seas and high winds are uncertain. Some of the oil could become dispersed while some may be pushed farther ashore as the storm reaches the land. Southern China is facing an even greater disaster, in the view of the Times weather report on 24th July 2010: the rainy season has arrived with deluges on a biblical scale. The Yangtze River has experienced its worst flooding in 30 years, “overwhelming reservoirs, swamping towns and cities, causing landslides and leading to the death or disappearance of more than 1000 people,” according to the Weather Eye in the Times. Over the past few weeks 2 typhoons struck and dropped “colossal” rainfalls. Typhoon Chantu made landfall west of Hong Kong in the Guangdong province, and as the storm moves inland with more rain it will be arriving at the giant Three Gorge dam, which is withstanding the onslaught of floodwaters.

3.  Heatwaves continue to affect Russia which is experiencing severe heat and drought as hot air is drawn up from far to the south. The heat has even spread into the Arctic; temperatures have reached 37°c in Siberia, with no immediate signs of decline. On the other hand the problem is unusually severe cold. An outbreak of Antarctic winds froze much of the continent and more than 80 people have died as the cold wave stretched across Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, southern Peru, and southern Brazil. These weather changes may have produced dramatic effects like those in the early 1970s when Russia, the world’s 3rd biggest exporter of wheat, cut off exports and world supplies were seriously depleted, but precipitated only small climatic changes. “Extreme summer or winter weather does not mean much on its own – it is the climate over decades that counts.”


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