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Climate change: a surfeit of warming?

Richard North, 06/01/2013  


China frozen ships.jpg

We saw extreme cold in China in 2008 and then again in 2009 - all good evidence of how the grip of global warming was tightening its grip. These conditions, however, turned out to be minor perturbations, compared with what China is experiencing now - the coldest winter in almost three decades, freezing coastal waters and trapping 1,000 ships in ice.

Since late November the country has withstood average temperatures of -3.8ºC, 1.3ºC colder than the long-term average and the chilliest for 28 years. The bitter cold has even frozen the sea in Laizhou Bay on the coast of Shandong province in the east, stranding nearly 1,000 ships. Transport around the country has been severely disrupted.

More than 140 flights from the state capital airport in central Hunan province were delayed, while heavy snowfall forced the closure of some sections of the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway. Temperatures in the north east fell even further, reaching a 43-year low of -15.3ºC, about 3.7ºC below normal.

One truck driver in southeastern Jiangxi province, caught in a three-mile queue caused by a pileup, said the extreme cold had caught him by surprise. "I didn't expect such a situation, so I've brought no warm coats or food. All I can do now is wait," said Yao Xuefeng.

The cold weather has seen prices of food including pork rise, according to official data. Pork prices have risen by more than five percent triggering fears of price hikes during forthcoming festivals.

However, it is not only China which is suffering. There are reports of extreme cold in northern India, with at least 100 people having died of exposure.

Police spokesman Surendra Srivastava said on Thursday that at least 114 people had died from the recent cold in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Many were poor people whose bodies were found on pavements or in parks. The weather department said temperatures had been 4-10ºC below normal in the state.

Temperatures in New Delhi, home of Rajendra Pachauri, bordering on Uttar Pradesh, hit a high on Wednesday of 9.8ºC, the lowest maximum temperature in the capital since 1969. No doubt Mr Pachauri will be keen to remind us of the perils of global warming in his country.

He may get little traction for his religion in Alaska. The University of Alaska Fairbanks shows the state has cooled by 2.4ºF since 2000. InWestern Alaska, notably King Salmon on the Alaska Peninsula, temperatures have dropped by 4.5 degrees in the decade.

For mariners and fishermen in Alaska, it has been a horrendous winter, with more ice than normal, 80mph winds and severe storms. But then, even Texas is now having some problems.

That, I suppose, is the cunning thing about global warming. Come rain, shine, cold, hot, snow or no snow, it is all the same. Not for nothing is the United States reactivating its heavy icebreaker, while Russia is rushing (to coin a phrase) to expand its fleet. With all this global warming about, you just can't be too careful.

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