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Signs of Climate Change Upon Us
[Opinion] Citizen reporters and bloggers should record unusual weather in their regions
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
  Published 2007-01-17 11:47 (KST)   

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I have a job for citizen journalism and even bloggers. Both can be a powerful tool, and we'll need this deep level of connectivity to gain elaborate and disparate data in a much needed sphere.

Both these mediums can be powerful providers of real time information updates, specifically pertaining to weather, and especially anomalies. The focus does not need to be on catastrophe, just the broad band between what's unusual and new records. The idea is not to decide whether or not the climate is changing, or that the planet is warming (these are seen as salient and accepted facts by intelligent people). The idea is merely to gather waves of data so we can see whether and to what extent we are seeing a sort of systemic change to entire systems, to identify trends and perhaps design systems and models to peek into the future.

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So I'll start. Where I live in central South Africa, we are experiencing incredibly high temperatures. At the moment the land is screaming for rain, and the statistics are starting to look ominous. The average rainfall measured over 30 years for January here is about 90mm (3.54 inches). So far we've had 0mm, and it's mid-month.

We could have plenty of rain tomorrow or towards the end of the month, but it had better happen soon. In November we had a month's rainfall in a single day and then no rain after that. The next two weeks will be interesting, and I will clarify the situation at the end of this month.

Meanwhile I read James Kunstler's blog and he reports that New York is also experiencing record high temperatures (in the high 60s). It's supposed to be winter there.

"It's hard not to enjoy the end of the world." James H. Kunstler

Kunstler rightly points out that beyond the glee of kids hoisting icecreams aloft in the middle of winter, "something ominous" is going on. He cites beetles and ticks that should be hiding out during winter freeze, but instead are entering another breeding cycle. Meanwhile diseases (like Africa's West Nile) that are historically fairly alien to the U.S., are finding the continent feels more like home (and the muggy heat of Africa) with each passing season.

I agree with Kunstler that there is no point in attempting to do anything about the weather. Whatever process is underway is underway, and keeping our cars in the garage for a week is not going to change things. So if there's nothing we can do, ought we to worry about warming? Yes, for the simple reason that the weather affects a very important resource: crops. And if crops continue to suffer, we're going to see people even in the West, in big cities, finding themselves facing food shortages.

We're not quite there yet, of course. Kunstler points out that "all the major grain growing regions have suffered." In a local newspaper this week they published a picture of a man standing in the doorway of a building surrounded by water in the English city of York. This indicates that unusually chaotic weather is happening everywhere, and appears to be getting worse.

It's also interesting that after last year's record hurricane season in the Gulf, this year was incredibly quiet. This is what makes the problem of climate change so difficult. There are no more patterns. Everything becomes an aberration, and under those conditions, farming becomes less science, and more about gambling against the odds.

Writers around the world who regularly contribute to OhmyNews ought to be encouraged to give their assessment of local conditions, providing a context if possible. Nothing beats firsthand experience, and while we cannot stop what we've started, we can certainly assess what's in store for us and what sort of precautions we need to setup locally and internationally for the coming years.

- Signs of Climate Change Upon Us by Nicolas van der Leek (Read by Claire George) 

©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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