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Archive for the ‘Extreme weather’ Category
We have frequently discussed climate change on this website and the adverse effects of extreme weather conditions, so I thought it would not be out of place to give you an account of the ‘extreme’ journey we took last Wednesday, 7th January.
We set off from our home in sunny Provence at 5.30 in the morning. Just as a quick reminder, this is what it normally looks like in sunny Provence on the Cotes d’Azur, France on a mid-winter afternoon…
Within half an hour of leaving home, and driving parallel to the coast we noticed that there was light snow on the road. No problem we thought. That happens occasionally even as far south as here. However, by the time we got to the Aix en Provence péage (toll booth), things had got slightly more dramatic:
… and, within a few more minutes, the light snow on the road had become a bit of a major snowstorm:
Within about 10kms from Aix we were in a ‘bouchon’ (traffic jam) from hell, and subsequently sat there for 8 hours!
Eventually, the powers-that-be (who were all working incredibly hard) had to admit that there was no ways they were going to have the autoroute (motorway) re-opened before the following day. Let’s face it, this is, after all, the south of France and 40cms of snow in a few hours is a little unusual, and even though the area has a surprising number of snowploughs – there were not nearly enough to cope with this sort of situation.
At this stage all cars that could reach, or be pushed to, an exit took the opportunity to get off the autoroute.
The only problem was – every other road was blocked too. Very few people carry snowchains in their cars down our way so there were cars in ditches, cars skidded into each other, broken branches and trees everywhere and cars with their noses buries in these too! Luckily, since we were on our way to the Hautes Alpes for a few days skiing we had chains so were able to shunt our way around obstacles where possible. But most times we were in another jam like this one:
We had been told that the snow stopped at Avignon, and we knew the roads had been closed behind us making it just as difficult to return home, so we decided to push on. It took us another 4 hours to do the 24kms necessary to get back onto the autoroute, only to find that it was now snowing at Avignon, and then Orange, followed by Bollene, and it only abated around Valences where we forked off to head up the Isére valley towards the Alps.
The 6 hour journey took us 22 !!! How’s that for severe weather conditions and an epic voyage.
But we made it to the Portes du Soleil (one of the biggest ski areas in Europe) at about midday the following day – and by 12.30 were flying down the mountain with the wind in our hair and that very special sound of skis gliding over crisp, clean snow. More on that later…
As our regular readers will know this is a subject about which we sometimes rant. And today we have to find ourselves apologising as here in the south of France we have been affected by our own extreme weather.
For two days now we have been lashed by severe rain which has dumped another 10 inches of rain, and that is on top of the 10 inches that fell in both October and November. which is more than you would expect for this area in a whole year – mind that has been after one of the driest periods, which went on for 5 years – and so it is not as if it wasn’t needed.
The consequence of this heavy rain has been to knock our internet connection out and hence the apology as we were unable to get online yesterday.
But we have heard of the dreadful weather that the north eastern United States has been suffering from and although we have been unable to locate any footage of the current troubles you have been experiencing there is plenty of print.
CBC news reports, ‘A storm that has blanketed much of the northeastern United States in ice has left 1.25 million homes and businesses without electricity, and officials say the power outages could last for several more days.
Parts of New England were hit with freezing rain that began late Thursday and continued Friday.
The storm hit seven states, striking New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine and New York the hardest. The governors of New Hampshire and Massachusetts have both declared a state of emergency.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said power outages will continue throughout the weekend and “longer than Monday” for some areas. He said officials will know more after debris is cleared in the next few days.
Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire said the power may be out for some until Wednesday. At a news conference Friday, Lynch said the ice storm was an “unprecedented event.”‘
So our sincere sympathy goes out to you guys but you know what – these freak conditions are happening more and more often and in more and more places around the world – and note John Lynch of New Hampshire said, ‘the storm was an unprecedented event’.
That means it hasn’t happened before……….come on guys, we’ve gotta do something about the way we are living before its too late. The trouble with that is that its human nature to put things off, to procrastinate. Time for change…….time to be proactive.
Last night at about 9pm we were about to settle down and watch a movie – ping – the lights flashed and fluttered and came back to life – good, the credits rolled and outside the wind howled. Pop – total darkness, oh damn – out came the candles, a look outside, it was the whole area – none of the neighbours had any power – what to do – no power, no video, no television, no light, no internet connection, no telephone – go to bed.
The point being we are SO dependent on the modern conveniences of life and so this storm raging outside, and here we have to admit it was not extreme, got me thinking to do some research into extreme storms and what the consequences might be.
The first port of call has been the IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – and their technical paper VI entitled Climatic Change and Water and dated June 2008. Its a 214 page document, lets delve into the executive summary.
Its italicised opening paragraph reads, and we quote, ‘….abundant evidence that freswater resources are vulnerable……….with wide ranging consequences for human societies and ecosystems’.
In the interest of the readers time we will quote a few other sound bites.
‘ Increased precipitation intensity and variability are projected to increase the risks of flooding and drought in many areas’….
‘Higher water temperatures and changes in extremes, including floods and droughts, are projected to affect water quality and exacerbate many forms of water pollution’……
‘Changes in water quantity and quality due to climate change are expected to affect food availability, stability, access and utilisation’…….
‘Water resources management clearly impacts on many other policy areas, e.g., energy, health, food security and nature conservation’.
And the editors of the IPCC – Polish, Australian, Chinese and British………..impartial we suggest.
So the consequences of not changing our ways is huge as you can see in the video below…
Thanks to the BBC Worldwide and did you catch the soundbite ‘it would destroy a culture in todays world’. Sensationalist? We guess only time will tell.
Following my article earlier about Lewis Gordon Pugh and his attempt to kayak to the North Pole to draw the worlds’ attention to how quickly it is melting, and also following our rant the other day about extreme …. everythings, including climate, plus our mention of the swing towards the environment at the Banff Mountain Film Festival, I thought I would post, at this opportune time, Lewis Pugh’s helpful hints as to what YOU can do to help the environment.
The Arctic is in serious danger, but there are many things we can do to make a difference. And every one person can make a difference!
Change at Home
Wherever you are – at work, out shopping, outdoors, on the road, in schools, or at home – there are opportunities to save energy and reduce your environmental impact.
01 Know Your Footprint
A footprint calculator measures the impact of our activities on the environment, and relates to the resources we use and greenhouse gases we produce daily. Decreasing the size of our footprints can make a big difference in battling climate change. We recommend measuring your footprint online at footprint.wwf.org.uk and making a commitment to reduce it every six months.
02 Offset Your Emissions
In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, a great way to help stop global warming is by off-setting carbon emissions. We encourage you to support a Gold Standard carbon-reducing project like energy efficiency and renewable energy.
03 Find a Greener Way to Get Around
You can save energy by taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking instead of using automobiles for transportation. If you buy a car, make fuel efficiency a top priority, and carpool and consolidate errands as often as possible.
04 Use Green Power
Switch your home electricity to a renewable energy supplier. Also ask your place of work, worship and local shops to make the switch as well.
Change the World
01 Know the Issues
Knowledge is the best defense. Arm yourself with the facts. Learn everything you can about Arctic Issues. Our Get the Facts page is a starting point. Once you see how quickly the North Pole is changing, you’ll see why we need to tackle climate change today.
02 Talk to Your Friends
Word of Mouth is our most powerful tool! Talk with others about climate change to encourage your family, friends and coworkers to make changes at work, home and school. Tell your friends about the Polar Defense Project! Link to the PDP from your website or blog, or share this website with your friends.
03 Talk to Local Leaders
Tell your legislators why climate change is important. If you live in the US, you can find your senators at http://senate.gov and your representative at http://www.house.gov. If you live in the UK, you can find out who your MP is at parliament.uk/commons and you can learn more about contacting Lords here parliament.uk/about/how/members.
If you feel strongly about this subject – you know what you can do to help… over to you!
On 27 May in Paris, the French Sports Academy announced that Lewis Gorden Pugh had won the Sports Adventurer of the Year Award. However, he doesn’t think of himself as an ‘adventurer’ (nor a tree hugger) – but as a new breed of a hands-on, act-now activist.
“As a maritime lawyer, I have decided to combine my legal skills with a deep commitment to get my message through to decision makers and the media to achieve change within our lifetime. Because I’m not sure there will be another,” he says.
“Each time I return to the Arctic, I am shocked by how much ice has melted and how rapidly it’s happening.”
Lewis Gordon Pugh is an explorer and environmental activist who is quickly becoming a Voice of the Arctic. Do you remember the article I posted in September re his Arctic swim? 1 km in 18 mins, 50 secs. Brrr… I also mentioned how he was about to start kayaking to the North Pole.
He said he was undertaking the herculean task of paddling 1,200 kilometres to draw the world’s attention to the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic.
One of his sponsors for this expedition, and for others in the past, was Investec Asset Management. CEO of Investec, Hendrik du Toit, said “Our philosophy as a business has always been that ‘ordinary won’t change the world’. Lewis Gordon Pugh personifies this attribute, and it is an honour to support him in both his physical expeditions and his quest to raise awareness of the way climate change is affecting our world.”
“I hope I don’t get all the way to the North Pole because if I do get all the way to the North Pole, then that’s very worrying,” he said.
This information is a little out of date as the expedition did not take as long as was forecasted. However, if you read about his swim with interest you might like to hear that his trip ended at 81 degrees north, about 1,000 km from the Pole… He was stopped by a barrier of sea ice which blocked his route north, after a week-long, 135km paddle from the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitzbergen.
And if that ice barrier had not been there… if it had not been too difficult to manoeuvre around – how close does he think he would have got to the Pole? More on that later…
The expedition lasted 9 days in total – including a day returning to dry land.
They, Lewis and Robbie – the kayakers, and the members of the team on the back-up boat, assembled nearly 200 flags on the ice sheet to represent the fact that the Arctic belongs to no-one in particular but to all of us – and it’s importance to all of us is paramount to our survival. It was to demonstrate to us that this region, no matter how far away it seems, is an area that we all have to protect. It was to make us aware of the fact that in the Arctic, sea ice is disappearing up to 30 years ahead of predictions… that no matter how distant our home is from this place, we will be affected by what goes on here… that it is a matter for the entire world to sort out.
They then took the flags down, packed up and went home…