Untameable: Unable to contain wildfires which have been raging for weeks and inching towards Sydney, a state of emergency was declared in New South Wales|Photo: Weather Underground

Australian state declares emergency amidst record heat wave, raging wildfires

The Australian state of Victoria shattered its own monthly heat records this month after it sizzled at 47.9°C on December 20, shattering the previous record of 46.6°C set in 1976. The rising temperatures only fuelled the country’s bushfire crisis and the government had to declare a state of emergency in New South Wales.

Fire fighters were seen rushing to put out more than 100 bushfires, which have been blazing on for weeks, three of which are inching towards Sydney, which was engulfed in thick smoke, bringing normal life to a screeching halt. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was forced to apologise and cut short his Hawaiian vacation after reports surfaced of two fire fighters being killed while trying to put out bushfires.

2020 to be one of the hottest years on record, says UK’s Met Office

Don’t expect any respite from rising heat in the New Year. The UK’s Met office predicted 2020 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with the global temperature forecast expected to be 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This forecast is based on observations of trends over recent years, when temperatures have largely remained 1°C above pre-industrial levels – a ‘clear fingerprint’ of global warming due to human activity, meteorologists said.

Cooling would only be possible in case of unforeseeable events such as the eruption of a major volcano, which would lower temperatures because of the dust thrown into the atmosphere.

50% of Indians believe climate change causes extreme weather events: Survey

One in 2 Indians or 50% of the country’s population believes climate change caused by human activity is the primary cause for the rise in extreme weather events in the world today, according to an IBM survey. In comparison, 23% of the US population believes the same. The study conducted online interviews of 4816 people, including 2,000 each from India and the US, and 400 Indian business leaders and 195 of their US counterparts. 

Amazonian rainforest regrowth may be much slower than commonly thought

A new study, based on the monitoring of Amazonian forest regrowth over two decades, has shown that rates of regrowth in the rainforest can happen much slower than previously thought. Brazilian and British researchers have shown in their research, published in the journal Ecology, that even after 60 years of regrowth secondary forests (forests regrown after clear-felling of trees) hold just 40 per cent of the carbon held in forests left undisturbed by humans. Observed biodiversity in the studied area was also just 56 per cent of the biodiversity seen in undisturbed forests. The findings hold significance for climate action as secondary forests regrown on cleared lands are considered to be an important tool in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and fighting climate change. The researchers hypothesize that increase in temperatures, climate change and wider loss in Amazonian rainforests may be hampering the regrowth in the region.

Power of future tropical storms underestimated due to missing phase transition principle in forecasts

A new paper published in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology suggests that current forecasts might be underestimating strength of future tropical cyclones. Using historical data compiled on Atlantic storms, the author, Edward Wolf, a professor emeritus at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, demonstrated that power and intensity of tropical cyclones or hurricanes increased linearly and rapidly as water temperature increased in the seas. Wolf noted that this was in line with the principle of physics known as phase transition which did not feature in the literature on the meteorology of tropical storms resulting in an underestimation in projections. According to the paper, warming of 2 degrees Celsius could result in a tripling of destructive power of tropical storms off the coast of Africa. The WMO noted in its State of Global Climate 2019 report that “More than 90% of the excess energy accumulating in the climate system as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases goes into the ocean. In 2019, ocean heat content in the upper 700m (in a series starting in the 1950s) and upper 2000m (in a series starting in 2005) continued at record or near-record levels, with the average for the year so far exceeding the previous record highs set in 2018.”