Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Extreme weather sweeps round the globe

While Beijing and northern China has reportedly suffered the worst winter in 60 years, many other parts of the world are also experiencing extreme weather. North and South Korea had also been hit by heavy snow with Seoul reporting up to 25 cm in places, the heaviest fall since records began in 1937. In northern and eastern India more than 60 mainly homeless people have died of exposure. 

Even in Russia, which is used to snow and arctic conditions, the extreme weather has taken its toll. Sakhalin, a Russian island off Siberia, was hit by blizzards and avalanches recently. And Poland has seen dozens dying from the cold. Copenhagen, the venue of last month's Climate Change conference is still blanketed in snow with lows of of -9 Celsius. Europe has been hard hit too. Switzerland has reported many killed in avalanches and Italy is also struggling to cope with rare icy conditions.
In London fresh snow has brought more problems for commuters. In fact Britain is currently experiencing its harshest winter in 30 years, and in parts of the country temperatures have dropped to -17 Celsius [BBC]. The United States has also not escaped the global freeze. Florida's orange crop is threatened by the cold and much of the north is in the grip of arctic weather. In Burlington, Vermont, a record 1 metre of snow fell in a weekend storm. The previous record in a three-day period was set in 1969. Residents of the Northern Plains were also warned to expect lethally cold temperatures of about -30 degrees Celsius [CNN].

Meanwhile in the southern hemisphere extremes of a different kind are bringing other problems. Widespread flooding has caused chaos in parts of Australia while in the west of the continent there are fire risks as temperatures soar to 40 degrees Celsius. The nation's bureau of meteorology say that the continent has experienced the hottest decade on record and that 2010 will see even higher temperatures [SMH]. Authorities have declared a natural disaster along the Castlereagh River as it peaked after torrential rain, forcing 1,200 residents to abandon their homes for high ground. On the African continent at least 20 people have been killed in flash floods as torrential rain swept across Kenya. Thousands have also been made homeless. And in Brazil, the death toll from flooding and mudslides over the past four days has risen to at least 80. [The Times / CNN].

The extreme weather has prompted some to suggest it is yet more proof of climate change. Guo Hu, the head of the Beijing's Meteorological Bureau, linked this week's conditions to unusual atmospheric patterns caused by global warming. However in parts of the planet it looks more like a global freeze, though not as extreme as the 2004 Hollywood film The Day After Tomorrow. [Pictured above: a lone figure walks through heavy snow near Juyongguan, some 30 km north-west of Beijing]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China 

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