British Military Fitness

How is your new year’s resolution going?

 

Surprisingly ours is going well, recently we went to visit a British Military Fitness class in Clapham Common, London to find out what their members’ climate questions were. Click here to watch the video but remember to stretch before and afterwards, we don’t want you pulling anything!

 

Check out our latest high flying video with the boys at Go Ape!

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Recently My Climate & Me went to visit the lovely boys at Go Ape at Haldon Hill in Exeter, Devon. Once we convinced them to come down from the trees they had some great climate questions they wanted to ask the scientists. Click Here to watch the video and Click Here to vote for your favourite Go Ape climate question.

 

Enjoy!

 

Bisham Abbey was built 800 years ago and I would like to know what the weather in the UK was like back then.

Bisham AbbeyWe visited Bisham Abbey for our Halloween special and this was the winning question. It’s thought that the Abbey was built in1260. It’s not possible to be specific about the weather that far back, so Professor Philip Jones from the University of East Anglia explains that it’s better to ask about the climate in the same period.

 

“Weather occurs on day-to-day scales and needs the development of a weather map requiring pressure measurements. The barometer wasn’t developed until 1644 by Torricelli. The first attempts at weather forecasting were made in Tuscany in the 1720s, but the first extensive observation network wasn’t begun until the 1780s. Weather charts for this period have been developed by Kington (1988).

 

The best source of information about past climate for England during the Medieval period is from documentary data. Analyses have been undertaken for a number of regions (e.g. for East Anglia, Pribyl et al., 2012), mostly emphasizing the summer season. In the Low Countries (Netherlands and Belgium), there are summer and winter temperature reconstructions developed by van Engelen et al. (2001). Finally, Ogilvie and Farmer (1997) look at summer wetness and winter severity. In these types of reconstructions the winter and summer seasons are emphasized, with often little being recorded for spring and hardly anything said about the autumn.

 

In these various series, most winters in the 1260s were either average or warmer than average for the 13th and 14th centuries for both southern England and for the Low Countries. The same decade had a number of warmer and drier summers from the English sources. Only the winter of 1260/61 is picked out as being cold and frosty, but not cold enough for the Thames to freeze over, which it did in 1205, 1282, 1310 and 1408.

 

So, in short, the climate of the 1260s was very similar to today’s climate.

 

Just before 1260, in 1257 or 1258, there is growing evidence of a major volcanic eruption that possibly occurred in Lombok in Indonesia (Lavigne et al., 2013). A source for a major ash layer with these dates in ice cores in both Greenland and the Antarctic has been sought for some time. Explosive volcanic eruptions (such as Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in June 1991) often lead to widespread hemispheric-scale cooling, particularly in the summer months. The English sources indicate nothing unusual happening in 1258 and 1259, but the Dutch sources indicate cool summers in both years, but at this time their available information is reduced to just three categories (cool, normal, warm). Later years and the winter season reconstructions have greater number of sources enabling their 9-point category to be used. Here 5 is average, with 4-1 increasingly warmer and 6-9 increasingly cooler”.

 

References

Kington, J., 1988: The weather of the 1780s over Europe. CambridgeUniversity Press, 164pp.

Lavigne, F., Degeai, J.-P., Komorowski, J.-C., Guillet, S., Robert, V., Lahitte, P., Oppenheimer, C., Stoffel, M., C. M., Vidal, Surono; Pratomo, I., Wassmer, P., Hajdas, I., Hadmoko, D. S., and Belizal, E., 2013: Source of the great A.D. 1257 mystery eruption unveiled, Samalas volcano, Rinjani Volcanic Complex, Indonesia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. doi:10.1073/pnas.1307520110

Ogilvie, A. and G. Farmer, 1997: Documenting the Medieval Climate. In Climates of the British Isles: Present, Past and Future (M. Hulme and E. Barrow, Eds.) Routledge, London, pp112-133.

Pribyl, K., R. Cornes and Ch. Pfister, 2012: Reconstructing medieval April-July mean temperatures in East Anglia, 1256-1431, Climatic Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0327-y.

Van Engelen, A.F.V., J. Buisman and F. IJnsen, 2001: A millennium of weather, winds and water in the low countries, in History and Climate: Memories of the Future?, edited by P.D. Jones, A.E.J. Ogilvie, T.D. Davies and K.R. Briffa, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, N.Y., 101‑124.

 

 

Fox Umbrellas: “How much does the earth’s orbit around the sun affect climate change?”

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Recently My Climate & Me visited Fox Umbrellas to find out 1. what climate question they wanted to ask the scientists and 2. how they make their famous umbrellas.

 

Hugh from Fox Umbrellas asked “How much does the earth’s orbit around the sun affect climate change?

 

CLICK HERE to watch the video

Warsaw – Day 10: Talks falter over climate funding for poor

 

 

 

This news report is courtesy of Paul Brown, reporter Climate News Network

 

A 4 AM walkout from the COP 19 negotiations by the G77 group of developing countries in protest at the lack of progress in the talks has left ministers arriving in Warsaw with a lot to do.

 

Key to the success of the talks is the plan to set up what is known as “a loss and damage mechanism”, through which rich countries will channel money to poorer nations when they are affected by climate disasters.

 

Details of how this would work were continuing during the night when Juan Hoffmeister, from Bolivia, the coordinator of the G77 group, walked out, complaining that the Australian delegation was attempting to wreck the talks by going back on all the text agreed so far.

 

Despite this setback, the arrival of the politicians to take over from their civil servants was expected to move the talks forward. But all agree there is a lot of ground to cover if the negotiations are to end on time on Friday.

 

Abandoned to their fate

 

Although the Warsaw negotiations are designed only to prepare the skeleton of a new climate deal to be signed by all countries in Paris in 2015, new pledges on finance and methods of delivering it to poor countries are expected here.

 

Meanwhile a hundred of the world’s giant insurance companies put forward their own plans at the talks to make sure that the poorest people, worse affected by climate change, could recover after climate disasters “rather than just be abandoned to their fate.”

 

Countries in the Caribbean and Pacific that are repeatedly hit by climate disasters struggle to recover. In many cases insurance is almost impossible to obtain because premiums would be too high.

 

To help the poorest people, the insurance industry has been developing micro-insurance, where for a small affordable premium whole families can insure against storms. If a storm hits, then people get an automatic cash payout within a few days.

 

Building resilience

 

Thomas Loster, chairman of the Munich Re Foundation, a non-profit organisation, said that only 4% of the people affected by the Philippines super-typhoon had traditional insurance – but 20% had micro-insurance.

 

Rather than having to go to a loan shark for money to provide capital to start rebuilding their lives, those insured received a rapid payout to provide capital to begin restoring their homes and businesses.

 

Micro-insurance does not require large premiums. In fact in some areas the payment is made by poor people giving their labour to pay the cost, for example collecting seeds for future use.

 

Dr Koko Warner, from the Institute for Environment and Human Security in Germany, said that companies involved in micro-insurance provided advice and resilience against storms.

 

Caribbean storms

 

For example, in Jamaica a scheme has begun where there is an automatic insurance payout if the wind reaches 80 miles an hour, whether or not there is damage to your property.

 

No-one has to make a claim, as pay-outs are triggered automatically once a given wind speed, level of rainfall or other threshold is reached. The idea is that people get early warning of an approaching storm, so they can make their houses as weather-proof as possible and keep everyone safe.

 

Even when no damage occurs, those insured receive a payout within ten days, because an agreed threshold has been crossed. It is an incentive to make homes as disaster-proof as possible. If there is damage, the payment means repairs can begin at once. The scheme aims to ensure that next time the property is strong enough to withstand the storm.

 

Professor Peter Hoeppe, from Munich Re, said the idea was to reduce risk by providing early warning systems and making houses as safe as possible. But even so premiums were based on risk, and it was sometimes not possible for poor people to pay them.

 

There was a case for the rich countries, which had caused the climate problem, paying part of the premium for the poor so they could be insured.  This proposal had been put forward by the insurance companies at the negotiations, but not all developed countries had been in favour.

 

Professor Hoeppe said: “I believe we cannot abandon people to their fate. They did not contribute to the problem, but we clearly carry some responsibility for the first real global environmental crisis. We must help.” 

 

If you have a climate question that you would like to see answered by an expert you can submit it HERE

Warsaw – Day 8: King Coal gets a kicking

 

News report courtesy of Paul Brown, Reporter – Climate News Network

 

Coal has dominated the agenda in Warsaw, with demonstrations against the Polish Government’s decision to hold a coal summit during the climate talks.

 

Scientists, UN officials and green groups said coal reserves must be left in the ground if the climate is not to overshoot the internationally agreed safe maximum temperature increase of 2°C over pre-industrial levels.

 

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who had left the climate talks to address the Coal and Climate Summit, had an uncomfortable message for the assembled chief executives of coal companies.

 

“I am here to say coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake”, she told them. Coal use could continue only if carbon dioxide was captured and stored, otherwise the world should switch to wind and solar, which she said were already competitive on cost in many parts of the world.

 

During the coal summit 27 of the world’s leading climate and energy scientists issued a statement saying investment in new coal plants without capturing the carbon dioxide emissions from them was unacceptable.

 

Banks’ “hypocrisy”

 

One of them, Dr Bert Metz, a former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said even the most efficient coal plants were unacceptable if the climate was to be kept safe – they were twice as polluting as gas and 15 times more so than renewables. Alternatives to fossil fuels are readily available and affordable, he said.

 

Beata Jaczewska, head of the Polish delegation at the climate talks, defended her Government’s decision to call a coal summit at the same time as the climate talks by saying that “coal has to be part of the solution.” Poland produces 86% of its electricity from coal.

 

Environment campaigners exposed what they called “the hypocrisy of banks” in claiming they care about the climate while providing billions of dollars to finance new coal mines, underwrite share issues and even own mines themselves.

 

A report, Banking on Coal, “provides a Who’s Who list of the financial institutions undermining the Earth’s climate system and our common future.” The report says American, Chinese and British banks are currently the biggest investors in coal, and if all the investments pay off then there is no hope of saving the planet from the ravages of global warming.

 

Heffa Schücking, one of the report’s authors, said: “It is mind-boggling to see that less than two dozen banks from a handful of countries are putting us on a highway to hell when it comes to climate change. Big banks already showed that they can mess up the real economy. Now we’re seeing that they can also push our climate over the brink.”

 

American banks lead

 

In the period since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005 four American banks, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, have been the biggest coal investors. Between them they have ploughed more than €24 billion into mining coal.

 

To expose their “hypocrisy”, the report says some of the banks claim to be carbon-neutral while investing in the fossil fuel that is most damaging to the planet. Citi claims to be “most innovative investment bank for climate change and sustainability.” Morgan Stanley will “make your life greener and help tackle climate change”, while Bank of America claims to be “financing a low carbon economy.”

 

The Americans do not have a monopoly on any hypocrisy, because most of the 20 leading fossil fuel banks mention their relatively tiny investments in renewables or energy efficiency, and make their underwriting of vast coal developments hard to find. All of them claim to be responsible lenders.

 

Chinese on the rise

 

European and Chinese banks fill most of the remaining top 20 places in the table of what the report calls “mining banks.”  Researchers note that since 2011 the Chinese have stepped up their coal investments and have leapfrogged other banks to take four of the top seven places in the coal investment league.

 

Despite this, the US has still been the biggest coal investor in the last two years, with more than €15 bn in direct loans or underwriting shares and bonds. China is second, with just below €15 bn, the UK third with €8 bn and France fourth with just under €5 bn.

 

Top 20 mining banks 2011- mid-2013. 1 Morgan Stanley, 2 Citi, 3 Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, 4 Bank of America, 5 China Construction Bank , 6 Agricultural Bank of China, 7 Bank of China, 8 Royal Bank of Scotland, 9 BNP Paribas, 10 China Development Bank, 11 JPMorgan Chase, 12 Standard Chartered, 13 Barclays, 14 Deutsche Bank, 15 UBS, 16 Credit Suisse, 17 Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, 18 HSBC, 19 Sumitomo Mitsui, 20 Goldman Sachs.

 

Banking on Coal was published by the German environmental NGO Urgewald, the Polish Green Network, the international NGO network BankTrack and the CEE Bankwatch Network.

 

If you have any climate or sustainability questions that you would like to see answered by an expert please submit them here

Warsaw – Day 8: China ‘is unsure progress is possible’

News report courtesy of Paul Brown, Reporter – Climate News Network

 

The UN climate talks in Warsaw move up a gear in this second and final week, as countries scramble to make some progress on outstanding issues. A key player is China. Fu Jing, Deputy Chief of China Daily’s European Union Bureau, sent this report.

 

WARSAW, 18 November – The leader of China’s climate negotiating team at the talks, Su Wei, says he is “not sure whether we are able to make much progress.”

 

Having said he should “keep silent for a while” over Japan’s reduction in its efforts to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide, Su said: “I don’t know how to describe the meetings and negotiations here in Warsaw.” But he said the European Union’s targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions were “not at all ambitious”.

 

Nor did he accept any responsibility for events which many believe are connected to climate change. Asked what linked Typhoon Haiyan and China’s growing carbon emissions, he said historic and accumulated carbon concentrations in the atmosphere should be blamed for the disaster.

 

Though China is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, he said: “We are below or around the world’s average in terms of emissions per capita and historical accumulations.

 

“In spite of this, we have made great efforts to transform our development patterns and decrease the carbon intensity of our economic output.”

 

Finance crucial

 

Speaking at a media briefing here, Su also urged the developed countries to come up with a specific timetable and roadmap to deliver on their promises of finance and technology for poorer countries.

 

He said it was not clear whether the developed countries had implemented their plan to give US$10 bn to poorer countries annually from 2010 to 2012. Nor was it known how they would fulfill their promise to give $100 billion from 2013 to 2020, while they were gradually emerging from the economic downturn.

 

“We are almost at the end of 2013 and so it is urgent to have actual provisions of resources confirmed and to achieve the finance goal by developed countries by 2020,” said Su.

 

This week government ministers are gathering in Warsaw in an effort to raise the political will to solve the human challenge of climate change.

 

High hopes

 

Su said China and other developing countries had come to Warsaw with expectations, hoping progress to enhance efforts to address the threat could be made.

 

“We saw the Warsaw conference as an important occasion for all the parties to implement the decisions made from the Bali talks in 2007 to Doha last year,” said Su.

 

But one of the key issues of implementing that consensus was financial transfers from the developed countries, which had used much of the carbon budget during their process of urbanisation and industrialisation.

 

“At the core of implementation in Warsaw is finance, and we hope we can make progress on that,” said Su. “That is a very important starting point, and also is key to the successful conclusions of post-2020 climate talks.”

 

Su Wei said China had been implementing programmes for reducing carbon intensity, with the target of cutting it by 40-45% by 2015 on 2005 levels. “China is very committed to delivering its promises agreed by previous UN climate change negotiations,” said Su.

 

If you have any climate questions that you would like to see answered by an expert please submit them at www.myclimateandme.com/ask

Could $300 billion of trees slow climate change?

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Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall, has set climate scientists a unique challenge during a recent My Climate & Me interview.

 

Sir Tim asked the scientists the following question: “For approximately $300 billion US dollars could you plant swathes of trees across the sub-Saharan latitudes and into India to a quantity that would be sufficient to remediate climate change for a thousand years.

 

“Do scientists believe [the extra clouds] caused by planting these trees could have this effect?”

 

Sir Tim is keen to get a scientific answer to this question to determine whether it could be effective in slowing climate change.

 

Rob Hutt, presenter for My Climate & Me, said Sir Tim’s question has prompted a science discussion to be hosted at the Eden Project which will see climate scientists gather in person and via video conference to look into the question.

 

Rob explains: “We are really excited to be organising this science discussion to find an answer to Sir Tim’s question. We will be filming the discussion and posting the video on My Climate & Me  when we have an answer. In the meantime my job is to make sure that the right people are invited to take part and work through the science to provide Tim with some insight. We’re just as interested as anyone else to find out so watch this space!”

 

Sir Tim Smit’s interview is now live here.

“Are global surface temperature records that show a 30 year rate of warming subject to a natural 60 year cycle?”

This question won our public poll. Here, Gareth Jones, a Met Office Climate Scientist, explains why the simple answer is ‘No’…

 

“Just because trends and cycles can be fitted to a dataset and appear to explain most of the variability it does not mean there is any real association or that the fit can provide any predictive ability.

 

For instance a purely random process can produce trends and cycles which have nothing to do with the process that created them.

 

Take for instance a random walk process. A rain drop will take a path through a canopy of leaves of a tree. If you measured the horizontal distance travelled by the raindrop you could fit a curved line that could apparently explain most of the variability. However another similar raindrop would take a completely different path with a subsequent different, yet equally convincing, fit to the data. Of course if the process was one that could be repeated and be shown to give the same/similar observations and fit then one would have increased confidence that it wasn’t a purely random process. Or the “cycle” may disappear as more observations are made over time.

 

Surface Temperature Data Map

Example of map showing surface temperature data

In isolation just looking at the global mean near surface temperatures all that could be pretty much said is that the temperatures have increased with different variability on different timescales. It would not be possible to say whether the changes were purely random or if some other process, an external forcing, had caused some or most of the changes.

 

This is where understanding the physics of the system being observed is important. We know through observation that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have increased over the same period as the temperatures have been observed. We know, through experiments, that greenhouse gases have a warming influence. We know through observation, that aerosols and other man made pollutants have varied over the last 160 years and that, again through observation and experimentation, they have a cooling influence.

 

Climate scientists use climate models to try and estimate how much impact these forcing factors have on climate. Then the output of the models are compared to observations of climate, not just the global mean of surface temperatures, to try and understand how important each factor is to the overall climate response. There is very strong evidence that greenhouse gases dominate the warming that has been observed with a sizable contribution offset by cooling from aerosols. Because these two factors evolve differently, due to the different sources changing over time, the overall contribution to global temperatures has also an evolving structure. Other factors, such as volcanic activity and solar activity also contribute to the climate variations.

 

This doesn’t mean internal variability within the climate system, such as variations in how energy is distributed throughout the oceans, has not also made a contribution to the observed temperatures. The latest IPCC assessment of many peer reviewed publications looking at the causes of past climate deduced that “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (of approximately 0.6-0.7C) and that over the same period the contribution from “internal variability is likely to be in the range of −0.1°C to 0.1°C”.

 

To simplify the variations in observed temperatures to a simple linear trend and a 60 year cycle is not very informative in the understanding of what has caused climate changes or in the making of predictions. The cycle fit can be just a coincidence or some of the external forcing factors happen to follow part of a cycle, although it would not continue into the future.

 

It is only by combining the observations with physical understanding of the process being observed can a synthesis of what could be causing the observed changed be possible”.

 

To find out more about the data that the Met Office climate scientists use for their modelling, try the Hadley Centre’s page on observations data.

 

Do you have a question about the climate? If so, you can submit it at http://www.myclimateandme.com/ask and if it wins the public poll, we’ll get an expert to aswer for you.

Warsaw – Day 3: World faces more ‘perfect storms’

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Story courtesy of Paul Brown – Climate News Network

The world continues to heat up in 2013, with regional temperature records being broken and sea level rise accelerating, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says in its latest report, Provisional Statement on Status of Climate in 2013.

 

Sea level rise was particularly significant in the Pacific around the Philippines and had contributed greatly to the devastation caused by the super-typhoon Haiyan, Jerry Lengoasa, deputy general secretary general of the WMO, said here.

 

The population should have been warned about the tsunami effect of a seven-metre storm surge caused by the typhoon, he said, so that they could have been better prepared to retreat to higher ground.

 

With the typhoon season not over yet there had already been 30 named storms in the Pacific this year; this was above the average of the last three decades.

 

Mr Lengoasa said: “What the science tells us is not that there will be more storms, but that the storms we do have will be more violent. ‘Perfect storms’, if we can call them that, like hurricane Sandy last year and typhoon Haiyan this year will become the normal.”

 

Sea level had risen a third of a metre in the central Philippine area since 1901, making the area much more vulnerable to storm surges. The average sea level rise round the globe was much lower but was speeding up, and was now 3.2 millimetres a year. This is double the annual average of the last century – 1.6 mm.

 

Australian heatwave

 

Mr Lengoasa made special mention of the unprecedented heatwave in Australia, which had the hottest month ever observed in January 2013, and the hottest summer on record. On 7 January a new national averaged daily maximum for Australia was set at 40.3°C, and Moomba in South Australia reached 49.6°C.

 

At the same time as Mr Lengoasa was speaking the Australian Government was being attacked in a nearby meeting for watering down its commitments to tackle climate change.

 

The German organisation Climate Analytics said that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plans to dismantle the current climate legislation in his country could lead to Australia increasing emissions in 2020 rather than meeting its target of reducing them by 5% on their 2000 levels.

 

Even the 5% target was inadequate and consistent with an increasing global temperature rise of 3.5 to 4°C, well above the 2°C danger level that world leaders have agreed must not be exceeded. Climate Analytics claimed that under the Abbott plan emissions would increase by 12% by 2020.

 

Australia ‘the new climate pariah’

 

Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, said: “The existing legislation would have bent the relentless upward curve of Australian emissions downwards, a first step towards a low carbon, climate-safe future. The new policy will see this dismantled and replaced by a climate policy that goes against the science.”

 

An Australian climate campaigner for Climate Action Network, Julie-Anne Richards, said her country was the new pariah in climate action. “Even the United States and China take more action in fighting climate change than Australia”, she said.

 

Mr Lengoasa’s presentation was a summary of the weather statistics up to the end of September this year. He said that the year was on course to be among the ten hottest years ever recorded, and warmer than both 2011 and 2012. “It looks as if after a dip during the La Niña episodes, the temperatures are rising again”, he said, cautioning that the statistics were for nine months only.

 

The year had also been notable for regional floods and droughts. In South America, much below average temperature was recorded in north-east Brazil, where parts of the region suffered their worst drought in 50 years. The Brazilian plateau, the monsoon region of South America received the least rainfall since records began in 1979. The southern African countries of Angola and Namibia “were gripped by one of the worst droughts in the past 30 years.”

 

At the other extreme in Europe Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland had intense and extended flooding in late May and early June, and the West African summer monsoon brought welcome rainfall over most of central and western parts of the Sahel.