If This Is Global Warming, Why on Earth Are We All Shivering? Daily Mail Special Analysis on Why the World's Weather Has Been Going Completely Haywire

Daily Mail (London), May 20, 1996 | Go to article overview

If This Is Global Warming, Why on Earth Are We All Shivering? Daily Mail Special Analysis on Why the World's Weather Has Been Going Completely Haywire


THE NEW chill in East-West relations following the expulsion of four British diplomats from Russia for alleged spying is, it seems, also making itself felt in our weather. The Russians appear to have been trying to steal our spring sunshine as well.

While Moscow enjoys its hottest May on record, Britain has been shivering in the coldest May spell for nearly half a century. The first half of the month was the chilliest since 1941-at almost seven degrees Fahrenheit below average-and Friday and Saturday were among the coldest days in the second half of May since 1948, at about 14 degrees below what ! might have been expected.

What is causing this unseasonally cold blast, which has set back crops and plants for up to a month? The answer is a huge mass of high pressure near Iceland which is blocking the way for the spring's usual warm breezes, instead bringing dull, dry and cold weather. And, more importantly, why, in a decade when we are being warned about the imminent perils of global warming are we reduced to wearing our winter overcoats at the end of May? In fact, this unseasonal weather is part of a cycle of climatic change which has been caused largely by the lack of westerly and south-westerly winds, which would normally be the most frequent in Britain.

Weather expert and broadcaster Philip Eden says: 'Mother Nature is just balancing things out. For seven years we have had a tremendous excess of westerly and south-westerly winds, giving hot summers and mild winters. A change was bound to come and when it does, the contrast is very marked.'

Of course, to the British, the weather is an unfailing talking point. But, even given our keen interest in the subject last year our national preoccupation broke all records-as did the weather itself. The wettest spring on record ushered in the hottest summer, succeeded by one of the coldest winters. In short, chaos reigned-and then it rained.

That wasn't all. Freak conditions were obliging the 'global apocalypse' theorists wherever you looked. In Antarctica, an iceberg the size of Jersey broke off from the main continent and flowers bloomed on the ice shelves.

The seas off California warmed up so much that plankton populations-a vital part of the marine food chain - were devastated. Blizzards brought New York to a standstill. And our European mainland neighbours were deluged by some #appalling spring floods.

Extremes were so common that even the most hard-bitten cynics suspected that something odd was going on. Climatologists, however, needed no convincing.

Scientists on the Intergovernmental PaneI on Climate Change (IPCC), which was convened by the United Nations in December, all agreed that global warming is now an undeniable fact. They forecast a rise of 3.2f to11f in world average temperatures by the year 2100. Since the IPCC can hardly agree on what to order for lunch, that unanimous prediction was a milestone. Even Kuwait agreed-it usually resists the global warming theory because it could bring about restrictions on oil. So what exactly is going on around the globe, and what is it all leading to? Here the Mail answers the key questions . . .

YES, BUT IS IT GOING TO GET WORSE?

There may be a broad acceptance that global warming is now a fact of life, but there is still disagreement over what it will actually mean.

The optimists predict milder winters and bumper crops. They say the differences between the poles and the equator will even out, resulting in fewer severe storms. But pessimists warn that many of the world's bread baskets could empty as an ever-warming earth causes a serious mismatch between climate, soil and rainfall. They fear that small islands could be wiped out as sea levels rise by 6in to over 3ft. Eastern and North Africa could expect widespread droughts, and a balmier North Pole could alter ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, which at present warms Western Europe. …

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