In a recent article in the Sunday Times, Jonathan Leake quotes Met Office advisor Vicky Pope, who warns us that 2010 may turn out to be the hottest recorded year ever.
‘”Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “It was a cold winter in Europe but, globally, January to March was one of the seven warmest starts to the year on record. This year has more than a 50% chance of being the warmest on record.”’
“It was a cold winter in Europe…” Yes it was, and also in North America, where this winter saw plenty of new records for low temperatures and snowfall. Also in China, Korea and northern India (record snow, transport chaos, cold-related deaths) and in Mongolia, where over 2 million herd animals perished, causing great hardship for the people there. Wikipedia has quite a thorough overview.
I think Vicky Pope might be guilty of just a little understatement, don’t you?
Japan is a country I have ties with and often visit. I was last there in December, when it was sunny and almost spring-like in Tokyo; however, things then changed for the cooler. A phone conversation earlier this year, which touched on rising food prices, sent me searching for news articles, and I found an interesting one, which I’m posting here in full. It was originally published in April by Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun, but appears to have since disappeared from their site, although copies of it remain in Google’s cache.
Setting aside the issue of whether globally averaged temperatures are accurate, or indeed useful, I think the following article helps to demonstrate a couple of important points. Firstly, this recent winter was unusually cold, not just in the UK, but over much of the northern hemisphere.
Secondly, excessive cold has adverse economic consequences (due partly to the delayed onset of growing seasons) that appear to be curiously absent during times of warmth.
Here’s the article:
Apr. 17, 2010 (The Yomiuri Shimbun) — These days people might be enjoying warm weather one day but shivering from cold the next, thanks to up-and-down spring temperatures that have greatly impacted agriculture, businesses and events featuring cherry blossoms.
Due to the recent unseasonably cool weather, vegetable prices have been rising and sales of coats have increased at department stores in Tokyo and surrounding areas. The cold weather has slowed the blooming of cherry trees in northern Japan, affecting cherry blossom events.
On Friday, a 28-year-old saleswoman put a trench coat on a display mannequin at Tobu department store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. “I’ve never put coats in our shop’s front displays in April,” she said.
On the ladies wear floor, a store official checks temperatures every morning, and has shops on the floor feature sleeveless shirts on warm days and coats on cold days. Such efforts apparently have resulted in a 40 percent year-on-year rise in coat sales this month for the store.
According to the Meteorological Agency, the daily high temperature has exceeded more than 20 C on nine days since March but did not top 10 C on seven others.
This time of year usually sees back-and-forth temperature changes due to the collision of cold air from the north and warm air from the south. This year, these weather fronts have been stronger than usual, leading to the recent drastic temperature changes, according to the agency.
Due to such factors as the El Nino phenomenon, the unusual rise in surface temperatures of equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean off Peru, high-pressure systems have been stronger than usual in the south of Japan.
Additionally, in the north of Japan, higher-than-usual atmospheric pressure near the North Pole has pushed cold air over the country more frequently, due to springtime low-pressure systems over much of the country.
Meanwhile, the collision of strong cold and warm air fronts created by low-pressure systems has led to heavy rain and fewer hours of sunshine in areas ranging from northern to western Japan.
Some areas saw recent unseasonable snowfall. About 10 centimeters fell around Ashinoko lake in Hakonemachi, Kanagawa Prefecture, early Friday.
“We haven’t seen a snowfall that requires snow removal work at this time of year for at least 10 years,” said an official at the prefectural government’s regional civil engineering office in Odawara.
On 877-meter Mt. Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, snowfall was reportedly observed at the Tsukuba-san Jinja shrine located at an altitude of about 270 meters the same morning.
Such irregular weather patterns have hindered the growth of vegetables and driven up prices.
According to the Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market’s Ota market in Ota Ward, Tokyo, a decline in the shipping volume of green onions produced in Chiba Prefecture caused prices of the product to double in the April 2-8 period from the same period last year.
Also, prices of many other vegetables, such as cabbages produced in Kanagawa Prefecture and cucumbers from Saitama Prefecture, have increased due to the unstable weather.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu said after a Cabinet meeting Friday he hoped farmers would make efforts to ship vegetables ahead of schedule to help stabilize prices.
Meanwhile, in the Tohoku region, where cherry trees only now are fully blooming, the cold weather has affected events featuring cherry blossoms.
At Tsutsujigaoka Park in Miyagino Ward, Sendai, which is famous for its cherry trees, a local committee had planned a cherry blossom viewing event last Saturday and Sunday. However, trees did not flower in time for the event.
Meanwhile, at Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, cherry trees bloomed earlier than usual and petals fell in early May in the past two years.
However, this year, cherry trees at the park likely will be late blooming due to the cold temperatures. Yet one official expressed a positive view. “Cherry trees will be in full bloom during the Golden Week holiday period, and so many tourists will be able to enjoy cherry blossoms,” an official at the city government’s tourism section said.