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Earth News: Climate Change

Weather Observations
Dec 16, 2006
Buckets of rain, floods, landslides, tornadoes, hail, lightning - it's like the end of the world has arrived. Scotland has not had a dry day now for more than 40 days. It was the WETTEST NOVEMBER ON RECORD - and this month continued with even more rain. We are only halfway through December and already the west of Scotland has had more than its average rainfall for the entire month. But the whole of 2006 has been a bizarre year for weather. July was the hottest month ever recorded and it was the warmest September. Autumn was also the warmest for that season on record. The whole of this year was the warmest on record - amazing when January to April was actually colder than normal. But the skies have been behaving in stranger ways than usual. In January an EXTREMELY RARE and beautiful "blue flash" was photographed near Glenrothes, Fife. A beam of intense blue light appeared for just a few seconds from the setting sun when extremely warm and cold air bent the rays. The coast of Aberdeenshire was rocked by a mystery huge bang on the sixth, shaking windows. There were no aircraft or blasts and the cause of the noise left experts baffled. In February a mysterious foul gas-like pong spread across Edinburgh and led to some schools, businesses and homes being evacuated. The source of the unearthly stink was unknown. In April spring flowers made their latest appearance for 40 years in some places. In May arctic winds saw some parts experience one of the coldest nights on record. In June a strange dark band appeared across a sunny sky near Glasgow on the sixth. A RARE "lunar standstill" was seen at the prehistoric stones of Callanish on Lewis. This event only happens every 18 years, when the Moon rises and sets at the most extreme stretch across the horizon. In July record-breaking heat brought unusually large numbers of whales and dolphins, including some rare species, off the eastern coast of Scotland. In August on the 23rd an UNUSUAL rainbow was seen in Midlothian, with white streamers seeming to hang from it. In September a fireball was seen shooting over woodlands at 10pm on the 6th outside Fort William. In October leaves refused to change colour and fall off trees in what was the warmest autumn on record. In November UNUSUALLY WARM seas around Scotland brought masses of phytoplankton, which gave other creatures a bonanza feed. Torrential rainfall broke records for the month. In December temperatures have been so warm that grass is still growing, ski slopes are bare and a farm on the Moray Firth is still growing raspberries. A waterspout was seen last week off Shetlands, a RARE event so far north and late in the year.

Climate Change

CHINA - people are already starting to feel the effects of a changing climate. Chinese coastlines experienced some of the WORST TYPHOONS AND FLOODS ON RECORD this summer, while the western provinces suffered severe drought. Between January and September, natural disasters forced the evacuation and relocation of 13.2 million people and killed more than 2,300, causing direct economic losses of US$24 billion. Extreme weather now hampers China’s economic growth by between 3 to 6 percent of GDP, or US$70–130 billion, per year. In the region of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain outside Lijiang, Yunnan province, many locals lament the changes of recent decades. “When I was a little girl I used to wear extremely thick sweaters in winter. My arms and legs could hardly bend in them. Now, at the coldest time of year, I’m just wearing a thin windbreaker, and it’s enough. In the past, Snow Mountain would be completely white year-round, and all of the lakes in the area would freeze over. Now there’s hardly any snow on it, even in the middle of winter, and we can fish in the lakes year-round. It snowed once two years ago but hasn’t snowed since.” These changes have occurred rapidly, and cannot be ignored. “In the last 20 years, we have seen 200-years-worth of changes in climate,” noting that the winter season is several months shorter, the snow cover on Snow Mountain has declined 60 percent, and animals and plants seen as children are now gone or extremely rare. “They say that Yunnan is the land of ‘four seasons of spring,’ but in the last three years we’ve really seen what happens when we lose our seasons. Compared to when I first moved here 20 years ago, it is much warmer all year round now. Especially these past three years, the sun feels hotter and it has hardly rained at all.” Loss of glacial water is one of the most pressing concerns posed by climate change in China, where 23 percent of the population depends on glacial water. It is estimated that China will lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2050, putting at least 300 million people at risk. Photo: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain’s glacier, which provides the region’s water, has receded some 250 meters in recent years.

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