Climate changes in 2009

Climate changes in 2009

In 2009 global warming very much went global, with the sobering news that the continent of Antarctica is warming rapidly. Conversely, however, certain parts of Antarctica- particularly those near the southern polar region – appeared to be inexplicably cooling.

January saw climatologist Eric Steig report in the journal Nature that warming was a widespread phenomenon across Antarctica. Historical weather data indicated that average temperatures in Western Antarctica had increased by 0.1 degree Centigrade per year over the last 50 years. These findings were corroborated by a further report published in October in Geophysical Research Letter by Liz Thomas, et al.The study stated an ice core extracted from the south-western Antarctic Peninsula indicated a warming of 2.7 degrees Centigrade over the last five decades. The studies indicated that warming caused by man-made devices is occurring on a global scale.

There has, conversely, been some confusion over cooling and climate variability. It was found that they may have been periods of “climate increase pause”, where warming did not occur, but temperatures began rising after this point. Short-term occurrences such as El Niño throughout some equatorial regions could explain this pause and shift between climate phases. In any case, the data and ensuing arguments caused much debate in the academic community and confusion among lay-people. However, the general consensus seemed to be that global cooling was not occurring, rather the period was simply a temporary pause in warming.

September saw the topic of cooling raising its head once again after Mojin Latif addressed the World Climate Conference in Geneva. Himself a climatologist, Latif spoke in regards to the need of greater accuracy towards predicting reasonable climate change decade-on-decade. His main concern was due to the aforementioned factor of climate variability, and the fact that, as a result, it may be possible to see a decade or possibly two when global temperatures cool relative to what we are currently facing.

Mr Latif’s words led some to suggest that he had, in fact, predicted the phenomenon of global cooling and that these “claims” were echoed by so-called climate change deniers. In fact, it is fair to say that, in general researchers seem to accept that warming is, overall, happening and will continue to occur in the long run.

To underscore the point the Meteorological Office as well as the Natural Environment Research Council in conjunction with the Royal Society, all based in Britain, issued a joint statement confirming that the last ten years were indeed the hottest in known records.

Rising sea levels have also been a continuing cause for concern, and 2009 saw much evidence and debate on the subject. In March, Copenhagen played host to the Climate Change Congress which declared that sea levels may increase by as great as one meter before the year 2100. This is thought to be due, in part, to the fact that oceans appear to be warming 50% more rapidly than was previously believed, and water expands when it heats up, thus causing thermal expansion. The rise is also believe to be caused as a result of contributions made by ice caps melting at a faster pace than previously expected in Antarctica and Greenland. This phenomenon is, however, not well understood, and the one meter estimate could be on the conservative side.

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