Wednesday, August 08, 2007

UN Reports record-breaking extreme weather in 2007

The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heatwaves in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the United Nations weather agency said on Tuesday.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said global land surface temperatures in January and April were likely the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than 1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.

There have also been severe monsoon floods across South Asia, abnormally heavy rains in northern Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay, extreme heatwaves in southeastern Europe and Russia, and unusual snowfall in South Africa and South America this year, the WMO said.

"The start of the year 2007 was a very active period in terms of extreme weather events," Omar Baddour of the agency's World Climate Program told journalists in Geneva. While most scientists believe extreme weather events will be more frequent as heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions cause global temperatures to rise, Baddour said it was impossible to say with certainty what the second half of 2007 will bring. "It is very difficult to make projections for the rest of the year," he said.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a U.N. umbrella group of hundreds of experts, has noted an increasing trend in extreme weather events over the past 50 years and said irregular patterns are likely to intensify.

South Asia's worst monsoon flooding in recent memory has affected 30 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, destroying croplands, livestock and property and raising fears of a health crisis in the densely-populated region.

Heavy rains also doused southern China in June, with nearly 14 million people affected by floods and landslides that killed 120 people, the WMO said.

England and Wales this year had their wettest May and June since records began in 1766, resulting in extensive flooding and more than $6 billion in damage, as well as at least nine deaths. Germany swung from its driest April since country-wide observations started in 1901 to its wettest May on record.

Mozambique suffered its worst floods in six years in February, followed by a tropical cyclone the same month, and flooding of the Nile River in June caused damage in Sudan.
Uruguay had its worst flooding since 1959 in May.

Huge swell waves swamped some 68 islands in the Maldives in May, resulting in severe damage, and the Arabian Sea had its first documented cyclone in June, touching Oman and Iran.

Temperature records were broken in southeastern Europe in June and July, and in western and central Russia in May. In many European countries, April was the warmest ever recorded.

Argentina and Chile saw unusually cold winter temperatures in July while South Africa had its first significant snowfall since 1981 in June.

The WMO and its 188 member states are working to set up an early warning system for extreme weather events. The agency is also seeking to improve monitoring of the impacts of climate change, particularly in poorer countries which are expected to bear the brunt of floods, droughts and storms.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

More evidence says that Hurricane Katrina is caused by Global Warming

A detailed analysis revealed that Hurricane Katrina and the recent emergence of a series of Hurricanes are caused by Gobal Warming. The study says that warmer sea surface temperatures and changes in wind patterns caused by climate change are fuelling much of the increase.

Some researchers say hurricanes are cyclical and the increase is just a reflection of a natural pattern. But the authors of this study say it is not just nature - they say the frequency has risen across the century.

Hurricanes are a spinning vortex of winds that swirl around an eye of low pressure. Thunder clouds surround the edges of these storms and they can wreak devastation on people and property when they hit land - most famously in the case of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.

Scientific analyses in recent years suggest hurricane numbers have increased since the mid-1980s.

This new study, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in London, looks at the frequency of these storms from 1900 to the present and it says about twice as many form each year now compared to 100 years ago.

The authors say that man-made climate change, which has increased the temperature of the sea surface, is the major factor behind the increase in numbers.

"Over the period we've had natural variability in the frequency of storms, which has contributed less than 50% of the actual increase in our view," said Dr Greg Holland from the United States National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, who authored the report.

"Approximately 60%, and possibly even 70% of what we are seeing in the last decade can be attributed directly to greenhouse warming," he said. Experts say that 2007 will be a very active season with nine hurricanes forecast, of which five are expected to be intense.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wind Industry survives despite shortage of components

The wind industry is struggling to survive despite the shortage of components because of the excessive growth of the industry. This is similar to the shortage faced by the PV industry for the last couple of years. There are simply not enough materials or manufacturing capacity to keep up with the increasing demand for wind turbines. The need for steel, copper, concrete and other materials has driven up project costs, restricted turbine supplies and created a difficult market for smaller wind developers.

But despite a two-and-a-half year stretch of materials shortages and rising costs, the global wind industry is experiencing steady growth worldwide and increased acceptance by utilities, governments and citizens.

Much of that new demand was caused by the two-year extension of the production tax credit (PTC) in the U.S., which provided certainty for wind developers and encouraged a slew of new projects. In addition, China and India emerged as major players in the wind market, further straining supply of materials.

As the global market expanded rapidly starting at the end of 2004, the manufacturing capacity was not in place to handle demand. Since 2005, manufacturers have been playing catch-up and pumping out turbines as quickly as developers can put them into the ground. However, because it takes about 20 months to ramp up manufacturing capabilities, the cost increase and turbine shortage is not expected to level out until sometime in 2009, it is predicted.

The long-term economics of wind energy are still very attractive to utilities and their customers. While the price of fossil energies continues to rise, the cost of wind will always stay the same—free.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the global wind industry will grow at an average rate of 19% over the next three years.

As the wind industry sorts itself out and deals with higher project costs, analysts are anticipating continued, steady growth all over the world. According to GWEC, the U.S. could overtake Germany in cumulative installed wind capacity by 2010. China and India will also represent a major force in Asian wind development, leading an expected average annual growth rate of 28% on the continent.

Overall, the industry is on track to reach almost 150 gigawatts of installed capacity in the next three years, which is more than double the cumulative installed amount in 2006.

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