Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What future climate?

             Climatologists speak of the earth passing through a series of "tipping points" or thresholds of rapid change into a new climatic regime. Past climate research indicates that these periods are times of intense climate instability. During the time the climate machine takes to "shift gears" into a new stable climate regime, regional microclimates will fluctuate wildly. There are signs this is happening today.

              Farmers are particularly exposed to the vagaries of climate change and weather. They need predictable weather patterns - that is, stable climate regimes - to planify seeding, irrigation, weeding, harvesting, drying, transport and marketing..

             Contemporary climate models suggest that the northern regions are more susceptible to climate change than lower lattitudes. This prediction now appears to be fufilled. Subarctic temperature rises exceed - often by far - those observed at midlattitues.

              Southern Saskatchewan province has been affected by odd weather for several years. Whether or not this is a lasting pattern or not, only time will tell. 

               Take this past winter for example. Climate change theorists like to point to increased winter "blocking" of jet stream patterns, caused (presumably) by global warming. The paradoxical result is a colder, stormier winter with more snow cover than usual. This, of course, is great fodder for deniers and "sceptics": "Gee! I thought they say the world is growing warmer and just look outside the window folks.." 

                Aside from the comic relief, such "increased winter blocking of the jet stream" could spell economic disaster for already strapped prairie farmers. The unusually heavy snow falls eventually encounter globally warmed late springs with incredibly rapid - and inhabitual - thaws and resulting flooding. Check out the short video below - impressive..

massive ice surge - Saskatchewan river 

                 Ice surges constitute a flooding risk (due to damming of watercourses) as well as direct risk of property damage if they surge ashore. In general, spring floods delay seeding which can be a problem in northern climates. Late seeding may reduce yields and increase the risk of frost damage at the end of the growing season. This is definitely a file to follow..

                 For a synopis of this spring's flooding in Saskatchewan:

                 The damages incurred by Saskatchewan's agricultural sector - to the degree that they are, in fact, caused by climate change - would constitute "hidden costs" of non-sustainable (fossil fuel based) development. These costs are, in effect, "hidden subsidies" to pollutors who get to damage life for others without having to pay compensation, install pollution abatement equipment or switch to more expensive, non-fossil energy based, production processes. Their non-sustainable economic activity is payed for by the misery of others. In the end, of course, since the ecosystem is a closed circle, someone pays: what goes round, comes round. And given the interconnected nature of the ecosystem, this eventually means everyone, rich or poor.

As a man sows, so shall he reap - Jesus, the Buddha, the Upanishads, etc

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