As of the very moment of which I start writing this post it is the 2nd of January. This is usually the very centre of winter, which means that it is usually bloody cold. However this year I am finding that it is not too bad: it’s positively balmy out there.
I am very aware that perception of temperature is a very subjective matter. I’m generally pretty good with the cold, and instead die when exposed to the slightest bit of heat and humidity. This means that I can be relatively exposed to the cold and still be comfortable. All this aside the weather at the moment is ridiculously out of character.
I walked to the shops earlier, which is a merely fifteen minute round trip, with merely an open jacket and a t-shirt covering my torso, which seems dreadfully under-dressed considering the circumstances. But even in my modest coverings I barely felt the cold, which is unsurprising seeing as it is only 10 degrees outside.
While for some that may seem cold, I find that it is only when we drop below 5 that I really start to feel the cold. So for me, right now, it is feeling rather toasty.
I’m not here to just boast about my prowess as an Arctic explorer, or carry on the British tradition of talking about the weather, but to comment on the increasingly common shift in our seasons. A shift which is primarily due to anthropogenic climate change.
I’m not going to talk much about the actual effects of climate change in any quantitative manner, but instead the chaos which is going to be left in its wake. People often criticise global warming because the summer was really wet, or that it snowed terribly last year, which ultimately shows a misunderstanding of what climate change means in its manifestation. The atmosphere of our planet is extremely complex, with a huge amount of variables involved. A lot has to be accounted for when trying to model the weather, and changes that can occur with variations.
Positive feedback loops are hard to predict because working out exactly how much of a runaway effect they go under. Will it accelerate to set point, merely speed up continuously, or whether it leads to an oscillation. These are exacerbated by the knock on effects of these feedback loops. The melting ice in the Arctic Circle causes further warming by reducing the amount of reflective ice, and instead exposing darker, more thermally absorbent water. While this effect can be accounted for to some extent, more complex effects such as algal bloom within these newly exposed waters, and how that changes the atmosphere (and also the ecosystem) with the production of oxygen or storage of carbon.
This is merely one effect of many. Changes to the temperature lead to changes in pressure, which lead to changes in weather fronts. The circling winds and storm fronts shift from their predictable patterns, which has knock on effects to sea and land in the Northern Hemisphere, which itself effects the entire planet’s weather system.
I will know doubt talk more in the future about climate change, as it is a topic I am passionate about, but these were merely the musings of a mildly amused Brit venturing outside on a surprisingly pleasant January evening.