Saturday, September 20, 2003

'Warming Trends'

Alaska warned about warming

KAKTOVIK, Alaska -- Skeptics of global warming should come to this Eskimo village on the Arctic Ocean, roughly 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It's hard to be complacent about climate change when you're in an area that normally is home to such animals as polar bears and wolverines, but is now attracting robins.
...The U.S. Navy reports that in areas traversed by its submarines, Arctic ice volume decreased 42 percent over the past 35 years, and the average thickness of ice below water declined 4.3 feet. The Office of Naval Research warns that "one plausible outcome" is that the summer Arctic ice cap will disappear completely by 2050.

'Over 11,000' dead in French heat

An estimated 11,435 people died in France's heatwave in the first half of August, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Danube Reveals its Metal Graveyard

The Danube has fallen to its lowest level for more than 120 years, paralysing shipping and at one stretch, between Serbia and Romania, revealing the wrecks of a long-forgotten fleet of World War II German warships.

Fires are causing increasing destruction

[T]he record heat wave in Europe this summer has turned trees into tinder as far north as Sweden and as far east as Russia. Portugal has lost about 1 million acres to fire this year, which is more than a 300 percent increase over the nation's average annual losses during the last two decades, the U.N. agency said.
... The average annual acres of Alaskan and Canadian boreal forests burned surged from 3.7 million acres a year in the 1960s to 7.4 million acres a year in the 1990s, Kasischke [a geography professor at the University of Maryland and an expert on boreal forest fires] said. There does not appear to be a similar rise in acreage burned in forests in the lower 48 states, he said.
The increase in boreal wildfires appears to be linked to global warming, Kasischke said. The 1990s were the planet's warmest decade on record, while 1998 was the warmest year and 2002 was the second-warmest.

Heatwave Part of Global Trend

In nine out of the past 12 years, average temperatures worldwide have been higher than at any time since records began in the 19th century and it is very likely that the 1990s were the warmest decade for 1000 years.
...Sea temperatures in the Mediterranean region are two to three degrees warmer and reached their peak a month earlier than usual.

Side Note: It takes a lot of energy to warm up the ocean, a lot.

Whether you 'believe' in global warming or not, *something is changing*, noticeably, and government and citizenry need to respond. Lifestyle changes. Coming to terms with new animals entering an ecosystem as migration patterns change. Economic shifts as different geographical regions change - for good or ill - their agriculture, disease, and use of the ocean.

So. Let's ask questions that make sense to nations and their elected officials:

If the breadbasket of the world shifts farther and farther north, how will that effect, say, the standard of living in the American Midwest? Points farther south?

If rice is no longer a viable crop due to decreased rainfall in, say, Vietnam, what crop can replace it, and how?

If the Danube consistently stays low over the next decade, how can other areas of European infrastructure compensate to maintain necessary shipping?

How will citizens migrate in response to changing temperatures, both seasonally and permanently? Can your town handle becoming a tourist trap? Can your town handle losing visitors because it's *too* hot? What countries will face an influx of immigrants from nations losing their agricultural base?

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