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Patterns of Climate Change (continued)

Invading Disease Carrying Insects

Mosquito born diseases, such as dengue fever, yellow fever and malaria that have been restricted to the tropics, are traveling ever northward as the planet heats up.

Paul Epstein, of Harvard, says of climate change: "Things we projected to occur in 2080 are happening in 2006. What we didn't get is how fast and how big it is, and the degree to which the biological systems would respond."

Epstein said in an interview in Boston: "In Sweden, cases of tick-borne encephalitis have risen in direct correlation to warmer winters. Asian tiger mosquitoes, the type that carry dengue fever, have been reported recently as far north as the Netherlands. As the seas warm, other breeders thrive. Cholera, a waterborne disease, emerged in South America in 1991 for the first time in the 20th century. Abetted by poverty and poor public health, it swept from Peru across the continent and into Mexico, killing more than 10,000 people.

Diseases are also expanding in a surprisingly complex dance with their environment, taking advantage of the swings from deluge to drought made more frequent by global warming. A common house mosquito, called the Culex pipiens , for example, unexpectedly thrives in drought. It lives in drainpipes and sewer puddles. During long dry spells, the stagnant pools teem with protein and attract thirsty birds on which mosquitoes feed. Meanwhile, droughts reduce the populations of dragonflies, lacewings and frogs that eat the mosquitoes."

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More Severe and Erratic Weather Patterns

Scientists predict that global warming will cause weather patterns to become increasingly more extreme. Hurricanes and typhoons are becoming stronger and are longer-lasting. These upswings correlate with a rise in sea surface temperatures. The duration and strength of hurricanes have increased by about 50 percent over the last three decades, according to a study authored by Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT.

"As the world warms, we expect more and more intense tropical hurricanes and cyclones," lectured James McCarthy, a professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University. "Large parts of the world's oceans are approaching 27 degrees C or warmer during the summer, greatly increasing the odds of major storms. When water reaches such temperatures, more of it evaporates, priming hurricane or cyclone formation. Once born, a hurricane needs only warm water to build and maintain its strength and intensity."

Planetary wide atmospheric circulation patterns known as Hadley Cells are being affected by global warming. The downward flow of hot dry air at the 30th parallel has determined the location of major deserts around the globe. This characteristically hot, dry air flow from the Hadley cells is expanding and shifting poleward with global warming. Predicted shifts in the flow of hot dry air has determined the location and severity of many of the droughts and firestorms (video) taking place around the world (including the Moscow fires (video) of 2010). Linked to these patterns of dry air are the fire seasons which now begin earlier, are more intense and last longer. Giant and expanding dust storms (video) are happening as well. A reporter for the L.A. Times tried to put these dangerous levels of climate change in human terms as she covered the Murray-Darling Basin during the Australian drought of 2009.

A Google Earth time lapse video shows the regions in the United States that have been struck by severe drought (video) over the last five years (2005-2009).

With increased temperatures, comes increased evaporation and precipitation. Not surprisingly, this increased precipitation and the resulting flooding (video) has also become more common and more extreme in areas prone to rain, such as the East Coast of the United States. Record breaking (video) floods are happening more frequently and are predicted to become increasingly severe. In the year 2010, indeed, an extraordinary degree of flooding was experienced on almost every continent. The most severe were in Pakistan and Australia's Queensland but even parched Saudi Arabia experienced a freakish flood!

Heavy precipitation, whether in the form of flooding rains or blinding blizzards may well be coupled to global warming. The U.S. Climate Impacts Report of 2009 "found that large-scale cold-weather storm systems have gradually tracked to the north in the U.S. over the past 50 years. While the frequency of storms in the middle latitudes has decreased as the climate has warmed, the intensity of those storms has increased. That's in part because of global warming — hotter air can hold more moisture, so when a storm gathers it can unleash massive amounts of (rain or massive amounts of) snow. Colder air, by contrast, is drier; if we were in a truly vicious cold snap, like the one that occurred over much of the East Coast during parts of January, we would be unlikely to see heavy snowfall ....Whereas, warmer air supercharged with moisture and, as long as the temperature remains below 32°F, will result in blizzards rather than drenching winter rainstorms...

Ultimately, however, it's a mistake to use any one storm — or even a season's worth of storms — to either prove or disprove climate change. Weather is what will happen next weekend; climate is what will happen over the next decades." Time Magazine (2010)

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