Climate anomalies

Photo: Richard Simpson/OxfamAUS

Climate scientists have long predicted that extreme weather events will become more frequent and more severe. We only have to look back to last year to see that it’s happening.

2010 was the warmest year on record and we experienced some of the hottest temperatures in 150 years. The changing climate is a reality.

Note: All temperature in this graph are given in degrees Farenheit. 128.3 degrees Farenheit = 53.5 degrees Celcius.

Although no single climate event can be attributed directly to climate change, climate modelling, has predicted a range of climate catastrophes from a greater risk of heat waves and wildfires in Europe to flooding in southern Asia.

Tragically this modelling has been remarkably accurate with Russia and Pakistan experiencing these exact conditions. There is also scientific evidence that suggests the extreme northern winters are linked to climate change – as the Arctic sea warms, air pressure increases and pushes cold air south. [i]

In Australia, 2011 began with devastating floods in Queensland and Victoria, followed quickly by Cyclone Yasi – a Category 5 cyclone – which further damaged areas of north-eastern Australia.

Professor Ross Garnaut, an adviser to the Gillard Government, has warned that as climate change advances, we can expect these types of disasters to become more common, “…the greater energy in the atmosphere and the seas can intensify extreme events and I’m afraid that we’re feeling some of that today, and we’re feeling that at a time when global warming is in its early stages.” [ii]

Climate related disasters in 2010 have caused  US$130 billion in losses, according to global insurer, Munich Re[iii], rising food prices and 21,000 deaths in the first three-quarters of the year [iv] – As we count the costs, it’s clearly time to take action on climate change.

More climate anomalies to consider

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 390 parts per million in December – a 40 per cent increase on pre-industrial levels [Source:Mauna Loa Observatory]
  • 2010 was the warmest year and 2001 – 2010 the warmest decade since records began in 1850 [Source: WMO]
  • Nineteen countries broke their records for the hottest day ever (see graph above) [vii]
  • Twenty million people were affected –– and 2,000 were killed, by flooding in Pakistan in 2010
  • In Russia, wildfires destroyed 25 million acres of land and forest including 26% of the wheat crops, leading to a ban on exports [viii] [ix]
  • Greenland’s icesheet, feared as a major driver of rising sea levels, shed a record amount of melted snow and ice [x]
  • One of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Rio Negro, fell to its lowest levels since records began in 1902 [xi]