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Posts Tagged ‘snow

Can you read this map Mr Ramesh?

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Surface temperature change map

This map shows the 10-year average (2000-2009) temperature anomaly relative to the 1951-1980 mean. The largest temperature increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula. (Image credit: NASA/GISS)

Scientific jingoism has reached a new peak with India’s minister for environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, announcing that his ministry will provide new funding for climate research done by Indians for India, which in effect is a nationalistic science agenda. Ramesh – whose penchant for making sweeping and irresponsible statements is matched only by his ability to reckon all events as PR opportunities – seems to not realise or not care that climate change is not a region-specific phenomenon. His ministry’s carefully timed attacks on climate science has reached a new pitch with India’s mainstream english dailies now broadcasting a daily barrage of reports sceptical of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fourth Assessment Report and on what Ramesh is now calling “western science”!

There has been evidence aplenty of the growing impacts of climate change throughout this decade of 2000-2009 and this evidence has been seen, and reported on, as affecting all sectors so important to our daily lives: agriculture, water resources and health. This month alone, there are two news reports on AlertNet Reuters that tell us so explicitly.

‘India’s northern nomads hit by changing weather’ tells us about how the nomads of the high Ladakh mountain ranges (in the state of Jammu and Kashmir) have been herding sheep, goats and yak for generations. But now hundreds are now being forced to abandon their traditional way of life as wide variations in winter snowfall threaten their livestock. Researchers in the region say that climate change is alternately bringing unusually heavy snow that prevents livestock from reaching fodder and, more often, very little snow, which leads to drought and changes in traditional pastures. A researcher with the World Wildlife Fund based in Leh said that grasses have started to die out due to less level of snowfall in the region, a continuing phenomenon for a decade or so, which now has become alarming.

Surface temperature change map India

Surface temperature change map India

‘Cold wave kills scores, destroys crops across South Asia’ tells us about a cold wave across parts of South Asia has killed scores of people – mostly children and the elderly – in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. The Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, both bordering Nepal, as well as New Delhi have been amongst the worst affected areas with temperatures falling as low as 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). In Bangladesh, low temperatures coupled with fog and cold winds in northern and southwest parts of the country have killed over 40 people and resulted in over 3,400 being hospitalised, according to the United Nations. In Nepal, weather officials said the southern plains bordering India were reeling below normal temperatures for more than two weeks causing cold waves in the region.

Global land ocean temperature index

Earth's surface temperatures have increased since 1880. The last decade has brought the temperatures to the highest levels ever recorded. The graph shows global annual surface temperatures relative to 1951-1980 mean temperatures. As shown by the red line, long-term trends are more apparent when temperatures are averaged over a five year period. (Image credit: NASA/GISS)

Reports such as these only support what careful research has been saying loudly for all the last decade. 2009 was tied for the second warmest year in the modern record, a new NASA analysis of global surface temperature shows. The analysis, conducted by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), USA, also shows that in the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year since modern records began in 1880. January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Throughout the last three decades, the GISS surface temperature record shows an upward trend of about 0.2°C (0.36°F) per decade. Since 1880, the year that modern scientific instrumentation became available to monitor temperatures precisely, a clear warming trend is present, though there was a leveling off between the 1940s and 1970s. What’s significant about the GISS method is that it builds in the importance of anomalies – such as the severe cold weather in South Asia – to arrive at its findings.

The image of a map with this post is one that can be generated by anyone visiting the GISS website. It shows the planet’s surface temperature change from 1959 to 2009. Where India is concerend, the two temperature change bands that cover the sub-continent are 0.5-1ºC and 1-2ºC. It’s plain to see that the Himalaya also lie across both these temperature change bands. The absurd, ill-timed, motivated and arrogant attack by Ramesh’s ministry (and its media servants) on the evidence that glaciers in the Himalaya are in danger of melting ignores the big picture that this map presents: climate change is taking place in the region. The question is: can they read this map?

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Carpets and climate change

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What does climate change have to do with Kashmiri carpets? A lot, as it turns out. Here’s why.

A few days ago I met Firdaus Ahmad, who with his brother manages two handicrafts shops in the hill station of Panchgani, in the hills of western Maharashtra. You can find shops like those of the Ahmad brothers in most hill stations and tourist spots in India, for domestic tourists are very likely to wander in and buy a few of the items on display to take home as gifts or keepsakes.

Firdaus Ahmad and his carpets

The Ahmads stock carpets too and these tend to be the highest priced goods in the shops. The most common size is 5×3 feet (left picture) which currently costs around Rs 2,300 (you can bargain, naturally). There is a larger size and a couple of smaller sizes.

“It is getting more difficult to find new stock, that’s why we have to keep what we have carefully so that it doesn’t get spoilt,” said Firdaus. Why more difficult, I asked.

“The younger generation doesn’t like to do this work much any more,” he said. “They want education.” Surely they could have education and learn a traditional skill at the same time, I suggested.

“Yes, but there’s also less snow now.” What did that have to do with carpet weaving, I wanted to know.

Papier-mâché boxes and decorations

“There is less snow because the winters are less cold. In earlier years, there was so much snow we would stay indoors most of the day in the winter months. That’s when the families and all family members would sit down to do carpet weaving and other handicrafts all day.”

Firdaus said that the handicrafts work done through the three coldest winter months – when the snow outside had piled high and movement was limited – was often enough to sustain the families for the rest of the year. Smaller works are made out of papier-mâché, the distinctive lacquered boxes and balls, leather and wood (right picture).

“Less snow now means the younger ones want to be out more and spend less time at home working on these,” he said, gesturing at his stock of carpets. “It is climate change, this less snowfall. It is bad for our handicrafts.”

Written by makanaka

November 27, 2009 at 11:13