Wednesday , 20 June 2018

What’s behind world’s recent extreme weather events?

Afrida Ahmed

It started with hurricane Harvey and its catastrophic flooding and wind damage in the bilions. Now all eyes are on three more hurricanes churning in the Atlantic so what’s causing all this? Is it climate change? From heavy monsoon rains and floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh to a landslide in Sierra Leone that killed 1,000 people, the past few weeks have seen catastrophic weather events around the world, reports Al jazeera. And last week, Hurricane Harvey dumped almost a year’s worth of rainfall in the US city of Houston, destroying homes and causing billions of dollars in damage. Now, for the first time in seven years, the Atlantic basin is facing three hurricanes at the same time. Hurricane Irma has already caused widespread devastation across the Caribbean. The US state of Florida is poised for a direct hit. Hurricane Jose is following Irma and the Caribbean islands are imperilled once again, while Mexico is preparing for the impact of Hurricane Katia.
So what’s causing these weather events, is it climate? The answer may not be that simple. Researchers agree global warming is impacting the strength of these hurricanes and possibly their frequency and scientists say rising ocean temperatures are intensifying these storms. The UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres addressed the issue this week. According to him, the number of natural disasters has nearly quadrupled since 1970. The United States followed by China and India have experienced the most disasters since 1995 and last year alone twenty four point two million people were displaced by sudden onset disasters three times as many as by conflict and violence. The UN attributed directly or indirectly to human activity altering to the composition of the global atmosphere that includes pollution from industrial activities and other sources that produce greenhouse gases. These gases including carbon dioxide have the ability to absorb the spectrum of infrared light and contribute to the warming of our atmosphere. The gases can remain trapped in the atmosphere for tens or hundreds of years. “Climate change may not have caused Hurricane Irma, but it is making its impacts a whole lot worse,” said Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh. “Rising sea levels and a warmer, wetter atmosphere are combining to intensify flood risks all around the world. President Trump said he withdrew the US from the Paris Climate Agreement to protect jobs and businesses. For many folk in Texas and Florida that decision must now be looking pretty short-sighted.”
As before, researchers have warned that the world is simply not equipped for the kinds of extreme weather that will come with changes in the environment. In particular, the effects of such damage are spread differently across the world, meaning that people in poorer countries are far more likely to die, for instance. “The reach of extreme weather is spreading and its punch is getting stronger due to climate change,” said Jeffrey S. Kargel from the Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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