There are a number of possible effects of climate change. When we slightly heat up an ecosystem as complex as that of this planet, which lives within a very small range of temperatures and which lives within air and sea oscillations and are covered by a thin atmosphere, there are more effects than a simple warming of global temperatures. In some places there is warming and in other places there can be cooling. One predicted effect is that weather events will be more extreme.
We can see these more extreme weather events. In the northern islands of Scotland sea birds which for centuries have lived and nested on cliffs and sea shores are now at risk because their nesting sites are being washed away by more storms. Other sea birds in nearby islands are finding the new climate more to their liking and are prospering. We can grow grapes of increasing quality in Southern England while much of the Africa savannah is turning into desert.
However, the effect of extreme weather events felt most severely by humans when they come in the form of unusual torrential rainfall. In September last year the areas around Vera Cruz and Tabasco in México was badly flooded. Hundreds of thousands were affected and there was loss of life and irreparable damage to buildings. These were the worst floods for more than forty years in this part of México.
In the past twelve months unusual and torrential rain has flooded Brisbane and eight hundred and fifty miles to the North, Townsville.
South Eastern Brazil was been badly affected by floods in January this year. More than five hundred people perished and tens of thousands of buildings were destroyed by floods and the landslides and mudslides that accompanied them. These were the worst floods Brazil has ever experienced.
In May this year extreme weather comprised not only rainfall but also tornadoes and this led to floods in the Mississippi basin which were the worst ever experienced. Flooding occurred in Memphis Tennessee, Rayleigh North Carolina, Tuscaloosa Alabama, and Louisiana. In Cairo Illinois the Ohio River reached a record high level. Vicksburg Mississippi was also flooded. Lives were lost and an estimate five billion dollars worth of property was damaged.
Today, in June 2001, the Southern and Eastern part of China has an area of 225,000 hectares (about two thirds of the size of the English County of Essex) under flood water. Again hundreds of people have perished and tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed in the worst floods in China since 1955.
There have always been floods. One man, thousands of years ago, is alleged to have built an ark to escape floods and filled it with animals. We do now seem to be entering an era of regular wide scale flooding. I do not propose that we build arks, but a lot less burning of fossil fuel would help.
Filed under: carbon dioxide, climate change, Flooding, global warming Tagged: | brisbane flooding, China flooding, flooding in USA, sea birds, tabasco flooding, townsville flooding, vera cruz flooding