Something strange is now happening to weather patterns

Mícheál Ó Coileáin Environmental Awareness Officer, Kerry County Council

Published 30/01/2013 | 13:59

IT was interesting to note that in his inauguration speech last week, President Obama said that we could no longer deny the science of climate change. That we all have to work towards reducing the impact that climate is having on countries all over the world.

The American oil companies will not be happy to hear their president finally kicking into talk (hopefully action to follow), on climate change. This was in the same week, when NASA researchers said 2012 was among the ten warmest years the world has experienced since the 1800s.

NASA researchers said it was the ninth warmest year while experts from another American agency said it was the tenth. Both teams said that temperatures would have been higher if it had not been for the La Nina weather pattern that brought cooling to some regions. They were equally certain carbon dioxide had been the principal driver of the rise over the past 50 years.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said their analysis of temperature data from a global network of weather stations indicated that the average temperature for 2012 was 0.57C above the 20th Century average. The agency stated that all 12 years of the 21st Century rank among the 14 warmest in the period of record-keeping.

"This past year, unlike the US they were not a record globally but they certainly were warm," said Thomas Karl, director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Centre. "In fact, it marks a persistent above average - every year has been above average since 1976."

Using the same data but carrying out a different analysis, NASA said it was the ninth warmest year with temperatures 0.6C warmer than the mid-20th Century baseline.

The perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing. It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet. According to both groups of researchers, most areas of the world had higher than average temperatures in 2012 while the Arctic experienced a record breaking ice melt.

Also in the news this week are the glaciers in the tropical Andes of South America, which have shrunk by an average of 30-50 per cent since the 1970s, according to a study published in the academic journal Cyrosphere. The glaciers, which provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America, are retreating at their fastest rate in the past 300 years. The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the melting on an average temperature rise of 0.7C from 1950-1994. Add this to the record temperatures experienced in parts of Australia of over 50 degrees celsius and we have evidence that something strange is happening our weather patterns. When we look at weather patterns over a 30 year period, we get an indication of how our climate is changing.

When our economic and financial woes are rectified, as they most certainly will because of their cyclical nature, we will still be left with the challenges of climate change and how to safe guard the planet for ourselves and future generations.

It is an issue that will not go away!

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