DROUGHTS AND FLOODS - THE BIG PICTURE
by
JOHN YELD

THE weather's changing, right?


We all know that it's now hotter and drier than it was when we were kids. Or is that perhaps wetter and colder? Windier, maybe? Lots more hail and snow, or significantly less? Or are our memories simply playing tricks on us? Well, we could all be right, and what was once dismissed as mere talk by grandparents with faulty memories - "In my day, it was wetter/drier/colder/snowier …" - could now well be true.

This is because it's now virtually beyond doubt that human-induced global
climate change, driven by global warming or the so-called "greenhouse effect", is happening, despite protestations to the contrary by a handful of diehard sceptics. And from the outset, it was predicted that climate change would be characterised by more extreme short-term weather phenomena: floods, droughts, severe storms, blizzards, hurricanes, changes in local rainfall patterns, and sharply fluctuating local temperatures. So while it is indeed getting warmer in global terms - the 1990s turned out to be the warmest decade for the past 1 000 years - at a local level the weather has been crazy in many of the "villages" that make up the globe; it is now often not how we remembered it in the past.


The evidence for global climate change is overwhelming and the consequences
are everywhere to be seen, although they have been most easily observed -
or perhaps it's more accurate to say most intensively observed - during the past few years in the Arctic polar regions and other parts of the northern hemisphere.

Difficult as it is to believe, for example, Austrian ski regions last summer started covering parts of their precious glacial ice with sheets of plastic foil in an experimental effort to counter increased melting levels causing by rising global temperatures which are threatening their lucrative industry. One-time regions of what were until just a decade or so ago considered to be "eternal snow" located at 2 500m or higher are now melting.

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