The news is increasingly dominated by stories about natural disasters and weather phenomena linked to climate change. Just how close are these links? Hurricane Dorian, originally a severe Category 5 hurricane, has recently left a swathe of destruction through the Bahamas and its remains are now heading back across the Atlantic towards the UK, so it is certainly true that events in one part of the world can have an effect elsewhere. Last year the remnants of another hurricane from across the Atlantic careered north eastwards towards north Africa and Portugal (where it brought severe weather to our college in Estoril) and then headed northwards through France towards the UK. On the way it picked up dust from the Sahara and this brought strange glowing sunsets to the UK afterwards, including the Oxford region:
My car had a film of orange dust on at least one day during this period, and I reflected on how far this had travelled and how it had been brought here by the remnants of a storm from the Caribbean- which had originally been born in the warm ocean off West Africa.
Most scientists are now agreed that tropical storms are becoming more intense and long-lasting. The Bahamas was hit especially severely as Hurricane Dorian remained stationary for several days, bringing even more destruction than is usual for these storms. So we can expect to see more of these in the years to come.
This summer the news was also dominated by footage of fires raging through parts of the Amazon rainforest in South America.
Again, climate change was held partially responsible as although many of the fires were started deliberately (to clear land for farming, roads and mining), the effects were made worse by abnormally high temperatures linked to global warming. Meanwhile, there were further reports from the Arctic, including Alaska and Siberia, of huge fires there during a period of record temperatures.
There can be no doubt that we are living in a period of extreme weather and climate events and that worldwide temperature records are being broken almost year-on-year. At the Earth Centre we seek to look into these events with understanding and knowledge, and students learn what steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of these events. They can then go into the world as informed citizens and who knows, they may one day be able to influence policy themselves.
Dr Alexander Mitlehner, Tutor
16th September 2019