Local resident contemplates the roof of his home perched on a nearby tree after Hurricane Charley.
Every year our planet awes us with meteorological phenomena, like monsoons in Asia and hurricanes off the Americas. But however devastating these have been, there was at least some form of continuity and predictability in their seasonal appearances. Now it seems that predictability is a thing of the past, with cases of extreme weather on the increase.
Poor harvests, caused by this summer's bad weather and flash floods, are having serious consequences for farmers in northern Europe.
More and more scientists are indicating that global warming is to blame for these recent erratic weather patterns. The concentration of carbon dioxide (a "greenhouse gas") is now at its highest concentration in at least 420,000 years, and stands 34 percent above its level before the Industrial Revolution.
The 1990s were the warmest decade on record and the three hottest years recorded - 1998, 2002 and 2003 - have occurred in the last six years. The global warming rate is now almost 0.2 ºC per decade.
Hurricanes are predicted to be larger and more damaging with stronger winds and more rain because of global warming according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001.
A new study by U.S. scientists to be published in the Journal of Climate concludes that,
"...if the frequency of tropical cyclones remains the same over the coming century, a greenhouse gas-induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive Category 5 storms."
Hurricanes were here before we began to heat up the planet, but we cannot afford to stand by while hurricanes - the most extreme storms on the planet - pick up strength.
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Meadow's End (MotherJones)
For 14 years Professor John Harte has been baking a Rocky Mountain meadow to demonstrate the effects of global warming. The results aren't pretty.
Signs from the Earth (National Geographic)
There's no question that the Earth is getting hotter-and fast. The real questions are: How much of the warming is our fault, and are we willing to slow the meltdown by curbing our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels?
Global Warming May Spur Fiercer Hurricanes (Reuters UK)
As Hurricane Ivan and its powerful winds churned through the Gulf of Mexico, scientists told Congress on Wednesday that global warming could produce stronger and more destructive hurricanes in the future.