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Cries of Nature
Part 1 — The Signs of Global Warming
Since the 1970s, our planet has been sending us warnings for the natural disasters that we are now witnessing, and we have largely ignored them. We are currently under heavy fire from nature, and the signs of our destruction are becoming increasingly obvious.
Why are we only now giving recognition to the signs of global warming? Has our technology advanced significantly enough for us to see more of the signs? Alternatively, has nature seen our ignorance and put the increased severity of global warming right under our noses?
Due to inaction from past governments and societies, the signs of increasing global temperatures and damage are plentiful enough for a thorough examination of our situation.
When we think of global warming, we tend to generalize the whole issue. This can result in a misleading perception of nothing more than a heated planet with some severe weather.
In reality, our planet is part of everything else in our solar system, galaxy and universe. Everything is interactive, interdependent and interrelated
The vast complexity of the natural universe is the primary reason behind the heated debates over global warming. Our understanding of the processes is so limited, occasionally wrong, and biased that ambiguity prevails and results in multitudes of arguments.
Indications of increasing activity and/or severity in the following areas are good cause for concern about the health of our planet.
The above signs are primarily connected to extreme weather. The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit environmental and consumer watchdog organization that released a report in October 1999 titled, "Flirting With Disaster: Global Warming and the Rising Costs of Extreme Weather". This report provides some exemplary facts in recent history on the damage caused by severe weather. The PIRG report found that Americans suffered 455 deaths and nearly $25 billion in economic loss due to extreme weather across the country in 1998.
Among the other findings within the report were:
While approximately 2,000 storms rage across our planet at any given time, extreme weather events are escalating in both frequency and severity. The balance of all biological species including us, depends upon the climatic system being relatively stable. Many species survive and depend upon the temperature at each end of the scale. Therefore, given the dramatic climatic oscillations we are currently witnessing, the behavior and survival rates of the upper and lower boundaries of species will alter. Most predictions of these alternations are not favorable to the affected species or other species dependent upon them.
Each of the important classifications of extreme weather is listed below with some examples of recent activity. As you read each section, consider the damage that is being done to the local ecosystems and the economies around the world.
Despite the increase in hurricane activity, populations continue to swell around our coastlines. Approximately half the world's population is currently living on dangerous coastlines. The potential for human loses from these natural disasters is becoming increasingly catastrophic.
The years between 1995 and 1998 were witness to a record of 33 hurricanes, of which category 5 hurricane Mitch was the most disastrous. Mitch was the deadliest recorded in over 200 years, dumping over six feet of water in only a few hours.
In September 1999, category 5 hurricane Floyd damaged 30,000 homes, killed at least 40 people and an estimated 3 million farm animals. The largest single evacuation in US history was required to get the 3.2 million people from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to safety. This caused an estimated $6 billion in damages in North Carolina, making it the worst disaster ever for that state.
This is the only type of extreme weather that seems to be giving us a break. The National Weather Service said 741 twisters have been reported so far this year, half of what is expected. "This year, the upper level flow or jet stream has been moving from west to east across the country further north than usual", said Dr. Joseph Schaefer, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Storm Prediction Center.
However, a freak occurrence of a tornado did hit Australia. The city of Melbourne was hit by a tornado on the night of August 8 2000. Tornados in this part of Australia are extremely rare.
Worldwide, there have been four times as many "great weather/flood" catastrophes in the last ten years as there were in the 1960s, and the cost of damages are more than seven times as high after adjusting for inflation.
In June 1999, two uninhabited islands of Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea disappeared due to rising sea levels. Officials were forced to relocate residents on the nearby islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu to safer areas.
The worst floods in nearly 50 years to hit the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India have claimed 144 lives recently. The floods have affected more than 3,000 villages and towns, and submerged 180,000 hectares of farmland.
On 11 August 2000, the fifth minor earthquake in more than a week shook the Texas Panhandle. The quake measured 3.0 on the Richter scale. Recent quakes in this area have collectively measured between 2.7 and 3.3 on the Richter scale. Although the severity of these earthquakes is no cause for alarm, the frequency does provoke some worthwhile consideration. This region has had approximately 15 measurable quakes over two decades. A third of these earthquakes occurred in one month, August 2000.
During the rare tornado in Melbourne, Australia mentioned above, an earthquake with a focal depth of 61 kilometers rocked the North Island of New Zealand measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale.
On September 3 2000, a magnitude 5.2 earthquake centered about 6 miles northwest of Napa, California surprised hundreds of people in the early hours of the morning. Residents as far south as San Francisco were awoken from their beds some 50 miles away. There were two aftershocks measuring 1.5 and 1.8. Twenty smaller shocks are predicted for the coming week. About 10,000 residents have lost power and 25 people have been treated for injuries. "This was by far the most severe I've ever felt," said California Highway Patrol spokesman Mark Bunger, who has lived in the area his whole life.
Heat Waves / Droughts
In 1997 and 1998, there was a series of 16 consecutive months with record warmth. In 1998, droughts were among the worst ever for much of the United States. In 1999, nearly two-thirds of America had suffered severe and persistent heat waves, killing 257 people and thousands of cattle in July alone.
Recent record-breaking high temperatures have been devastating to the worlds agricultural sector. Farmers are missing millions in lost revenues and requests for federal assistance have been overwhelming. The heat has even caused a short circuit in a sewage treatment plant in the city of Olathe, Kansas, sending 180,000 gallons of untreated waste water flowing into a nearby creek.
Ivan Cacic, a meteorologist at the state forecasting bureau in Croatia said that the summer season is the hottest since 1950. Temperatures have hovered at 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and meteorologists predict even hotter weather to come. Yugoslavian meteorologists reported that Kosovo is experiencing the highest sustained summer temperatures since 1946.
Unrelenting triple-digit temperatures have been roasting the US Plains states recently. Kansas City climbed to a minimum of 100 Fahrenheit every day for over a week. Kansas City Health Department deputy director Thomas Maddox said, "It gets hot every summer, but it does not get into triple digits several days in a row like it is now. We are very, very concerned about how hot it is."
In Texas, August 30 2000 was the 38th day this summer and the seventh in a row where temperatures of 100 or above were persisting. That, combined with the fact that rain has not fallen for a record-breaking 61 days has led to Texas agricultural economists to estimate farmers and ranchers losing some $595 million.
Oklahoma has been experiencing similar temperatures and is estimated to have a toll of $400 million to $600 million according to state agricultural officials. Memphis, Tennessee registered a maximum of 106, the highest temperature in the city for any day in August. Little Rock, Arkansas hit a record tying 109 and the National Weather Service said this would be the hottest August in 120 years of record keeping.
Trees are great natural resources for absorbing carbon dioxide. The world tree population is estimated to remove 200 - 300 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. Unfortunately, when they are destroyed in a fire all the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. When whole forests catch on fire, the Earth gets a huge hit of carbon dioxide over a short period.
If the news has given you the impression that the world has been on fire lately, you are not far from the truth. Petar Jurjevic of the Croatian Forest Inspection Agency reported that at least 535 wildfires have destroyed over 50,000 acres of their forests and underbrush this year.
Recently, one-third of the Chapada dos Veadeiros, one of Brazil's major natural parks, was blackened by a wildfire that burned 50,000 acres of forested highland savanna. Another two fires in the Serra da Canastra National Park to the south destroyed 36,000 acres, one-fifth of the park savanna. These parks are home to a number of endangered species, including the jaguar, savanna wolf, and several species of birds. The fires in Chapada dos Veadeiros were the result of arsonists. However, the unusually dry season has left hilly grasslands bone dry to allow such rapid spreading of fires. Many of Italy's forests are also currently on fire due to the unseasonably hot summer weather plaguing Europe.