Thursday 17 January 2013

44 degrees and still rising

Today's my day off.  But I'm trapped in the study as a heat wave beats down.  The study is a very small room in our very small apartment.  But the only room that our even smaller air conditioner can handle cooling on this 44oC and rising day.  So instead of going shopping, to yoga, for a swim or a walk – I'm writing about climate change!

Not that I need do the writing, actually.  Because an excellent bunch of scientists from the Australian Bureau of Metereology (or the BOM as I like to call them as in “it’s da BOMb”) have done the writing for me here.  But as they are scientists, writing in an age where being a scientist seems to be a license for people to persecute you, the article is not super short nor snappy.  So, the summary (with some ‘colour’ from me) is:
  • The first two weeks of January 2013 now hold the records for the hottest Australian day on record, the hottest two-day period on record, the hottest three-day period, the hottest four-day period and, so on up to the hottest 14 day period on record (for Australia-wide average daily temperatures)
  • The number of records that have been set in this most recent heatwave stretch for pages and pages – see the BOM’s Special Climate Statement
  • It’s really, really flippin’ hot.  So when the relative at the barbecue you were forced to go to over xmas says “I don’t know why everyone is making such a fuss, I remember when it was hotter than 40 degrees all the time”* you should reply: “People with instruments, whose job it is to measure these things, have not seen such a heat wave before.  It’s breaking all the records.  You probably also remember when you were so spunky that everyone at uni wanted to sleep with you.  None of what you remember is empirically accurate.  The BOM measurements are.”
  • The BOM says that all of this record breaking stinky weather can be “strongly attributed” to us humans carbon dioxide generating activities:  The impact of global warming is clearly observed in a distribution shift of daily weather, as well as shifts in monthly and seasonal climate, to higher temperatures. And increases the chances of extreme weather events – that’s record breaking heat events. We’re getting abnormally hot days with 30% more frequency and abnormally hot nights with 50% more frequency
  • It’s not just us Aussies who are flagging in the heat. You might have noticed that the US has had heat waves in recent years (and killer droughts) and the Europeans and Russians are among the sufferers as well.  [although I note that it is poor people in tropical and sub tropical countries who will suffer most from climate change – but more from me and the World Bank in another post]
  • It’s going to get worse, and it’s going to get worse than we have ever experienced before.
Cheery?  Not so much.  But given that this climate craziness is being caused by our pollution – it seems we need a dose of our own medicine to generate the enthusiasm to stop polluting.  I’m voting for some action now! (by now, I mean as soon as it cools down enough to leave the study!)


* sadly this is a true anecdote.

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