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  • Mridul Mittal

Global Warming No longer an Apocalyptic Chapter in Geography Books

Updated: May 22, 2019

Global Warming is no longer the apocalyptic chapter in our science books that used to be tucked in the footnotes or in the end. It is happening all around us at an alarmingly faster rate.

Let me give you an example from Hollywood.

Have you seen the movie Revenant by Leonardo Di Caprio (of Titanic fame)?

A tale of an explorer named Hugh Glass who is betrayed and left to die in the snowy landscape of American wilderness. The story was that of survival, revenge, and redemption. The casting was perfect. Leonardo even won an Oscar for the film.

But the most disturbing thing about the movie was not the story, the violence or the acting. It was the fact that they almost couldn’t shoot the climax because there was no snow!

Check out what the director of the movie Alejandro G. Iñárritu had to say about it while they were shooting in the South Pole –

“The snow melted down, literally, in front of our eyes. We experienced global warming; we were planning to shoot the ending scene in a location that supposedly will have snow … [But there were] bees. So we had to shut down.”

It’s no wonder that Leonardo Di Caprio took up the cause of Global Warming in his Oscar Acceptance speech no less and this is what he said –

“Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.”

He ended his speech by saying that ‘Let’s not take the planet for granted’ which I think is the most powerful quote uttered by the actor in today’s context.

Greenland is Melting

Once upon a time, we thought that the glaciers would be self-sustaining but we can’t delude ourselves with such theories anymore. Not when the ice is melting right in front of us…

Do you know that Greenland is the largest ice body in the world after Antarctic ice sheet? This vast body of ice covers 1,710,000 square kilometers which are roughly 80% of Greenland’s surface.

Vulnerable to the alarming rise in global warming Greenland has experienced record melting in the past few years.

How will it impact us?

Very disastrously I am afraid.

According to recent statistic if the Greenland Ice sheet melted scientists estimate that the sea level would rise by about six meters (20 feet)! If the entire sheet melted sea level would increase by 23 feet! We are right now staring at something that can cause a global catastrophe among all the coastal cities of the world because one-third of our population lives near the coast.

Today we see the edges of Greenland’s ice melting faster than ever and the surface melt is seeping through the ice to lubricate the junction between the glaciers and the rock beneath. With ice being shot through crevices and tunnels made by the melting ice it looks like very soon the attachment between the ice and the rock below will be broken.

Why is this significant?

It’s significant because when the attachment breaks a mountain of water will flow into the sea and unleash a major tipping point in climate change. That said, the US Navy surveys have also pointed out that by the end of 2016 there will no more ice left in Arctic!

Hottest year in historical record

Did you know 2015 was the hottest year ever in the recorded history?

The average temperature recorded in land and oceans was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th-century average temperature. In other words, it was the highest among all the recorded temperature for the past 136 (we have been recording temperature since 1880).

What is remarkable is the fact that this is the fourth time a global temperature record has been set in this century. However, 2015 was by far the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken.

Weather Anomalies of 2015

With the planet warming up to unprecedented levels extreme weathers have become the order of the day throughout the world.

In the US, it was wetter than usual and hotter than ever in the month of December!

In the Artic Ocean, the sea ice extent was 6% below 1981 – 2010 average. This was the fourth smallest December Sea ice extent since we began keeping satellite records in 1979.

Europe experienced an unprecedented heat wave especially in the month of December.

Many regions in Russia recorded 5°C above average temperature in the recorded history!

Japan experienced a wet winter across many parts in December. Australia recorded sixth warmest December since they began marking the national records in 1910.

Antartica’s ice extent in December 2015 was 0.1% above the 1981 – 2010 average!

Fierce Blizzard in Boston 2015

2015 also saw the city of Boston literally buried in snow in February with over 58.8 inches within the space a week while the highest recorded snowfall in the area was 53 inches in a 30-day period.

This is what climate researcher Micheal Mann had to say about this bizarre anomaly –

“Sea surface temperatures off the coast of New England right now are at record levels, 11.5C (21F) warmer than normal in some locations. There is [a] direct relationship between the surface warmth of the ocean and the amount of moisture in the air. What that means is that this storm will be feeding off these very warm seas, producing very large amounts of snow as spiraling winds of the storm squeeze that moisture out of the air, cool, it, and deposit it as snow inland.”

Four Tropical Cyclones

Australia was hit by not just one but by four tropical cyclones…. simultaneously!

While two tropical storms in the same basin are quite common, four hurricanes at the same time have happened only twice in the recorded history.

Dust Storm in China

A massive dust storm engulfed China’s capital Beijing and other parts of the country. Shrouded in red dust the skyline of Beijing turned orange in the afternoon and the national observatory of China had to issue a yellow alert which is the third most serious warning for high-level of pollution in the air.

Massive Floods

Extreme rainfall that resulted in floods engulfed Chennai and many cities in the UK in 2015. What is even more alarming is the fact that places that never experienced much rain felt the full brunt of it.

Chile’s Atacama Desert is known as one of the world’s driest places on earth. The Port city of Antofagasta boasts of a mere 0.07 inches of rain every year. Imagine what would happen to a place like this if it gets 14 years worth of rain in a single day?

In March 2015, Antofagasta experienced 0.96 inches of rain within the space of 24 hours! A desert city at best where there is no vegetation or trees to absorb the moisture, the rainwater ran in torrents of flood engulfing the city that was not prepared in any manner to handle such extreme weather.

Chile’s Deputy Minister called it the ‘worst rain disaster’ and he was right!

A senior meteorologist said that such massive rainfall in South America was not a coincidence or freak of nature by any means. While the rain was pounding the desert, the Antarctica Peninsula at the same time was setting the record high warm temperature in history.

“That extreme rainfall in South America wasn’t just from an isolated thunderstorm…it was with a larger-scale pattern, the key being a very strong ridge of high pressure aloft, as has been the case with so many precipitations and temperature extremes in recent years.”

Extinction has begun

Dinosaurs went extinct some 65 Million years ago due to climate change, food chain disruption (a popular theory during my school days) or due to meteorite colliding with earth. Today, we cannot blame any external forces but only us for the extinction of animals brought about by the climate change.

The first casualty of climate change was a small rodent species called Melomys that used to live in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Spotted for the first time in 1845, by Europeans, hundreds of Melomys used to live on the small island of Bramble Cay in 1978. However by 1998, due to high tides the island has shrunk from 9.8 acres to 6.2 acres that have led to the destruction of the Island’s vegetation.

Polar Bear is yet another species that might soon be extinct. With the glaciers retreating several hundred meters every year in the Arctic Ocean we see emancipated polar bears trying to survive in a climate that is fast becoming warm. With their hunting ground disappearing the Polar Bears need to resort to alternative food sources on land but we do not know for sure they could adapt to the change.

Adélie penguin birds live primarily on tiny crustaceans called krill. The Krill, however, lives in the underside of ice sheets where they find refuge and food in the form of algae. With the ice sheets of Antarctica melting the population of Krill is coming down and this means that the Penguins will need to migrate farther north just to scourge for their food. Experts believe that their very survival is under threat because they spend too much energy and time looking for food and that has an adverse effect on their breeding.

The way forward

What is needed is a global change in habit and attitude of the people. Climate change is no longer a textbook threat but is happening all around us. We need to reduce our carbon footprint and use renewable energy to power our systems. We need to switch to solar power, plant acres of trees all around and stop polluting our environment.

Unless we take these measures globally we might be the next in line for extinction.