Meet the New Weather, Not the Same as the Old Weather

The Ecologist, out of the UK, publishes a good wrap-up of weather around the world, focusing on Australia’s experience as a troubling paradigm for the rest of the planet:

Until late April, Australia lay in the grip of the worst drought in its
history. River after river dried up, and in the absence of winter rain,
the government contemplated cutting off water supplies to the
Murray-Darling basin, an area of land the size of France and Spain
accommodating 72 per cent of the country’s farm and pasture land. This
was the only possible step that could have been taken to guarantee
retention of enough drinking water for the population.

Without
water, the crops would have certainly failed, resulting in a food
shortage, increase in food price and uncertain futures for the region’s
55,000 farmers. Five years of drought and evaporating incomes have
already devastated many smaller towns, with agricultural production
falling by 25 per cent in the past year. Communities in New South Wales
lie abandoned, with many of the residents forced to migrate to the
cities. Thieves even stole water from storage areas as its scarcity
increased.

The drought threatened three-quarters to a whole
one per cent of the nation’s GDP – the amount, according to the Stern
report, it would cost countries to limit greenhouse emissions and slow
climate change if action was taken now; another reminder of the
economically devastating potential of a change in climate. Still,
however, the Australian government led by Prime Minister John Howard is
denying links between climate change and the drought. Australia is the
world’s second highest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita, and has
refused to sign the Kyoto protocol, despite climate models’ predictions
that it would be one of the first areas to be seriously affected by
climate change.

In contrast with such dryness, on April 22nd
areas east of Sydney were hit with flash floods triggered by
thunderstorms. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that nearly
100mm of rain fell in just a few hours – around 75 per cent of what is
usually expected for the entire month.

The country’s struggle
to manage water resources is an indication of how unprepared even the
worlds most developed countries are for dealing with such environmental
crises.

This is the climactic pattern identified by climatologist Kelly Redmond, of the Desert Research Institute, for the West years ago: "droughtiness" with increased variability. It’s the pattern we’ve seen here in Southern California. This is looking like our new weather…"drought and flooding rains," as Australian photographer Georgie Sharp puts it on her Flickr site, quoting Aussie poet Dorothea MacKellar.

We won’t know if it’s our new climate for several years, the experts agree…but in an AP story, Redmond says the current heat wave over the West isn’t going anywhere.

"The heat will hover over most of the far West through at least the
end of next week, said Kelly Redmond, a regional climatologist for the
National Weather Service. He said it could migrate further inland and
cover more of the West, including Colorado, as the week goes on."

"It looks like it is going to stay place for a good long while," he said.

Drought_and_flooding_rains

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