While science may not be sufficiently refined to the point that a single weather event can be linked to global warming, the preponderance of evidence points to a common root cause of a rapidly emerging weather crisis. All over the world, the year 2006 is setting record temperatures while continuing and persistent droughts are threatening agricultural production and massive forest fires are raging in several countries.
Amazingly, American mainstream media give global warming little if any attention while covering record heat waves that have set all-time, new highs for 50 American cities. Preoccupied by events unfolding in the Middle East, media outlets are failing to connect the dots on global warming for their viewers.
In the last six weeks, France has experienced one of the longest stretches of abnormal temperature since record keeping began and no relief is in sight. The newspaper Le Parisien spent five pages covering the threat. The French media understands the consequences of global warming since they had 15,000 heat-related deaths in the 2003 heat wave. Because rivers are running warm and low, nuclear power stations in France and Spain have cut power output-a particular threat to France because nuclear power constitutes more than 70% of their total energy supply. At a time when they need more power to cool homes, it is not there.
According to the Dutch meteorological institute, KNMI, July will go down as the hottest on record in the Netherlands since temperatures were first measured in 1706. Many regions of Germany are setting new highs with crop losses of up to 50 percent in the most stressed agricultural regions.
More than 29 million acres of Siberian taiga forests (the size of my home state of Pennsylvania) have already burned this summer. The increasing fire pattern continues to mount across the Canadian Rockies, in the U.S. and in Australia where a 10-year drought has been nicknamed the big dry.
More than 50,000 wildfires have already burned more than 3,000,000 acres in the contiguous U.S. and Alaska, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. About sixty percent of the contiguous U.S. is in moderate-to-extreme drought (based on the Palmer Drought Index). Several regions have suffered under persistent droughts extending over ten years.
All around the world, forests are experiencing less moisture, earlier snow melts, warmer average winter temperatures and increased evapo-transpiration in summer months. Between 1980-2000, Siberian winters were 3.6 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the pre-1960 norms. Forest fires are also blazing in Corsica, in the Mediterranean, Finland and Sweden and the Czech Republic.
Recently published Woods Hole Research Center research has concluded that the vast Amazonian forest is now experiencing its second year of severe drought and is on the brink of irreversible collapse with catastrophic consequences for the world’s climate. Scientists fear that the catastrophic destruction could begin as early as next year unless the drought abates.
An ecosystem collapse could lead to massive extinctions and an unprecedented forest conflagration creating what scientists call a massive "positive feedback" as nature responds to and amplifies human induced warming. Scientists are already measuring a 10-30% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from forest fire sources over historic levels. A story in National Wildlife magazine this month warns that Amazon trees hold an amount of carbon equal to fifteen years of human emissions. (Amazon Drying)