‘Melting ice caps cause of recent harsh winters’

Bitlis residents struggle with snow drifts, which covered most of the houses in the province. (PHOTO aa, YUNUS OKUR)

March 11, 2012, Sunday/ 12:54:00

There is a strong relationship between freezing winter conditions observed in some parts of the world this year and the shrinking ice caps in the Arctic, scientists believe.

Some assert that the extraordinarily cold winter conditions experienced in recent years can be an indication of global cooling, but others say the cold and snowy weather this winter is actually a result of global warming.

According to a study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology, glacial melt in the North Sea as a result of global warming can explain the underlying reason for the excessive cold and snow experienced in some regions of the northern hemisphere in recent years.

Researchers from the institute have asserted that after the surface area of a glacier in the North Sea shrank at a record high rate in 2007, there has been extreme snowfall in North America, Europe and a large part of China. They claim that the melting of the glaciers alters glacial atmospheric circulation in the northern hemisphere in winter. Records taken over the past 30 years indicate that the snowfall rate reached record levels during the winters of 2009, 2010 and 2011 in the northern hemisphere.

In the North Sea, 29.4 percent of the surface area of glaciers (1 million square kilometers) has shrunk according to data that has been collected since 1979, when satellite observations were first introduced. American scientists say the size of the glaciers that melted is twice the area of France.

“The adverse effects of global warming are seen as cooling, warming of the weather in some areas of the world and fluctuations in the amount of precipitation in other areas. However, global warming and climate change will have both positive and negative impacts depending on the region. For example, in the eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Turkey, due to the increase in the amount of rainfall, storms and tornados, excessive heat and drought, there will be an increase in the occurrence of natural disasters. Whereas, in areas above the 50th parallel, seasons could become more temperate, which could bring about positive changes for agriculture as a result of the increase in precipitation,” according to Professor Orhan Sen from the meteorological engineering faculty at İstanbul Technical University (İTU).

Associate Professor Sevinç Sırdaş also from İTU’s meteorological engineering faculty told Sunday’s Zaman that the situation was as follows: “Europe, Asia and Turkey have been more strongly affected by the extreme colds this winter when compared to the US, which experienced a more moderate winter compared to previous years and had less snow-covered areas. Moreover, the reason for the reduction of cases of bird flu in the United States is thought to be a result of temperate weather conditions.”

Sırdaş explained that the underlying reasons for extreme cold weather in Turkey are arctic oscillations and jet streams. Jet streams are the upper-level winds blowing from west to east surrounding atmosphere like a global arch that acts as the boundary between the cold weather of the north and warm weather of the south, and it is mobile.

Sırdaş also forecasted what awaits us in the future and what can be done about climatic change. “Climate change indicates extreme atmospheric events will increase in frequency. Changes in temperatures will be experienced more dramatically, particularly in sensitive areas, depending on their location. To give an example, such events like sea-level rise, floods, forest fires and droughts are expected to increase as a result of the natural balance being disturbed. To cope with these changes, all living things need to adapt to unavoidable global climate change. Countries, regions and cities should make plans for the future according to changes in the atmospheric conditions.”

Once similar to Earth in terms of physical properties, the planet Venus became extremely hot as a result of global warming caused by an increase in carbon dioxide. Alarm bells have started to ring for earth considering what happened on Venus because the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere of Earth is above normal.

Durukan Dudu, environmental policy coordinator at the Turkish Foundation for Reforestation, Protection of Natural Habitats and Combating Soil Erosion (TEMA), pointing out the human factor in climate change and considering the situation from the point of view of an environmentalist, asserted:

“It’s a well-known fact that all the climate-related disasters we are witnessing today are direct results of climate change. At this point, we consider the recent claims, or conspiracies, that a ‘mini-ice age is coming’ very dangerous in terms of the confusion they might cause among people. In addition, those claims are not based on, and even contradict any scientific fact. Now it is the perfect moment to acknowledge a few essential points about climate change and start acting. We’re even a little late, actually. First of all, we, humans, created climate change. Our socio-economic structures, production and consumption patterns as well as economic activities gave birth to climate change and it is getting bigger each day. Second, greenhouse emissions must be decreased rapidly, which requires a fundamental change in social, economic and even political structures. We have to not only make big efforts to decrease our personal carbon footprint but push decision-makers to act immediately and in the right direction. Turkey for example, is unfortunately following quite a carbon-positive policy on climate change; our greenhouse emissions are constantly increasing. Dozens of thermal power plants are planned to be built and this is making the situation even worse. We have to understand that climate change is the biggest disaster in human history. And we have to act. We have to act now and with full force, otherwise, civilization as we know it will perish, and there will be no future for our kids who we care for more than anything.”

The human factor in this case cannot be ignored. We have been ruining the planet and we are now facing the consequences. Even if climate change seems to have started, we should try to fix the natural balance or at least try to adapt to the new climate and natural conditions.

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