22 June 2008

The Weather is getting ever more unpredictable

More than thirty years ago scientists from various countries began to warn about the possibility of 'Global Warming' if the industrialised countries would not begin to reduce emissions of 'Green House Gases' which could damage the planet's atmosphere.

Few politicians - and even fewer industrialist - took this warning serious, even though evidence of climate change and damage to the atmosphere has been presented to them aplenty. Reluctantly international talks began, but no great efforts were made to reduce emissions in the most heavily polluting countries. The 3rd World Climate Conference in Kyoto produced a document - known as the Kyoto Protocol - and adopted it on December 11th, 1997. But despite initial co-operation with the rest of the world, the USA refused to sign the document and continues to ignore the ever more drastic changes in the world's climate.

On February 16, 2005 - more than seven years after the Kyoto conference - the Kyoto Protocol came into operation eventually, having been ratified by 182 'parties' to the negotiation, most of which are countries. (The EU is also a partner in her own legal right, and so are other organisations and international bodies.) Nevertheless, the world's largest polluter - the USA - are still not part of the agreement and continue to destroy the planet's climate with industrial emissions, while her soldiers operate illegally in Afghanistan and Iraq in an even more damaging way.

Pessimists warn that it might already be too late to save the planet from a huge catastrophe and the signs for that are indeed becoming more numerous. For example, the climate structure for many parts of the planet are changing fast, with unpredicted and unexpected weather conditions appearing literally 'out of the blue'. There has been snowfall in the deserts of North Africa and an atrocious heat wave over the Balkans and the Black Sea during last year's summer.

Here in Ireland we are also effected by the changing climate. Last year we had the sunshine and temperature normally encountered in June, July and August already in late April and May. And then we had a completely cold and grey summer with much wind and rain, from early June to the mid of September. It now appears that this is the new pattern for Ireland's weather, since we had once again marvelous summer weather in late April and on most days of May. Even though June began also warm and friendly, meanwhile we had several very bad days, with rain and storms.

Friday night was Summer Solstice, and we had planned a celebration for the weekend. But sadly the weather was once again against us. Heavy and lengthy rainfall and storms with a speed of up to 120 km'h prevented any gatherings in the open.
The same weather has continued over the whole weekend, and many other events in Ireland - including a large agricultural show in Galway - had to be canceled as well. All ferry sailings from Ireland were also canceled, as the storm was even worse at sea and the safety of passenger and crews could not be guaranteed, even though all ferries have stabilisers now.

Furthermore, the heavy storms have broken branches from many trees, some of which were uprooted and fell onto roads. The storm also damaged cars and houses, and brought down electricity and telephone wires (photo right). According to news reports more than 1000 households were cut off in the west of Ireland today, and more damage was reported from the midlands. Here in the south we had continuous rain and storm for nearly 48 hours, and even when the rain eventually stopped, the storm continued for most of the day.

One wonders how our lives might have to change if this ever more unpredictable and violent weather continues. Even in a good year the Irish summer is not very long and never very warm. But now, it seems, we have to prepare ourselves for rain, storm and autumnal weather during the months the calendar lists as 'summer'.

The Emerald Islander

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