Footprints on the weather

Are you having trouble keeping up with the weather forecast?

Temperature averages are increasingly reaching extremes around the globe and in many cities no other time of year – be it autumn/fall or spring – can bring out the biggest of temperature fluctuations.

Melbourne, in south-eastern Australia, is prone to fluctuating weather, a well-known fact among its residents. Senior forecaster from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Scott Williams, said October was notorious for big temperature fluctuations in Melbourne due to the weather patterns over the continent. Winds over central Australia warm up at the end of winter, bringing warm northerly winds over the city and then cold southerly winds reach up from Tasmania and beyond.

However, Scott said, Melbourne had just experienced its hottest October on record. The mean temperature for the month in the city was 24.3 degrees Celcius in October – almost five degrees above average.

“This last October would have to be viewed as a very extreme month and I’m sure climatologists will claim there’s significant human impact in that,” Scott said.

We know that the global surface temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Celcius or 1.4 degrees Farenheit since 1880, as highlighted by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research. The majority of that warming occurred in the past three decades.

 

Mount Discovery in Antarctica

Photo courtesy of Michael Studinger, Operation IceBridge project scientist. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

 

So, how should you respond to such news?

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is part of an award-winning team as Senior Science Editor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She also teaches oceanography at a college in the US.

She recommends:
a) knowing that you have power with your personal choices
b) focusing on what you can change – with a huge emphasis on can. For instance, if you live in an apartment, you won’t exactly get to grow your own food but you can choose to buy locally-grown produce or catch the bus to work.

“Calculating your carbon footprint and understanding your specific impact on the environment is a huge first step,” Laura says.

Take this quick video game-like quiz to get a fair idea of your carbon footprint: Global Footprint Network calculator.

“Then you get to decide how to lessen that impact. Try to lower your footprint by 10 per cent or 20 per cent,” Laura says.

Remembering the power of your money is also important, she says.
“Minimize disposable single use items and buy things that last. Buy locally produced items and minimize purchases of things that have to be transported long distance,” Laura says.
“Try growing some of your own food. That is something we all can do.”

At the end of the day, anthropogenic climate change – otherwise known as human-induced climate change – is the greatest threat of our time, but Laura adds, it’s also a great opportunity.

“As a society, we now have the opportunity to come together, to connect with each other and the world around us, to re-evaluate what’s important in a big way and to build a cleaner way of living using new technologies,” she says. “Without impetus, nothing would ever shift and climate change will certainly provide a big impetus.”

Check out The Green Herald’s road-test of online carbon calculators.

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