Snow in Australia, Siberia melting

Posted on August 13, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized

We interrupt this programme for the weather report:

Snow falls in Australia’s southern cities

VICTORIA was blanketed yesterday by the most widespread snow in 50 years as the state was gripped by an Antarctic snap.

Surfers’ paradises became winter wonderlands as snow fell along Victoria’s coastline and beaches.

The extreme weather conditions also caused havoc on the road and forced schools to close.

Snowfalls were reported in the coastal towns of Inverloch, Apollo Bay, Geelong and Torquay, and across the Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island.

Weather bureau forecaster Claire Yeo said a fast-moving air stream from the Antarctic caused the freezing conditions.

She said it was the state’s largest widespread snowfall for decades.

“What makes it such an unusual event is that we have had snow near sea level,” she said.

“We have never had reports of it, ever.”

Ms Yeo said it was amazing that snow was reported on Inverloch beach.

She said the temperature in Melbourne hovered around 7C and only reached a maximum of 10. But the CBD escaped the predicted snowfall.

MORE.

Siberia’s rapid thaw causes alarm

The world’s largest frozen peat bog is melting, which could speed the rate of global warming, New Scientist reports.

The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago.

The area, which is the size of France and Germany combined, could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear.

The situation is an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming,” researcher Sergei Kirpotin, of Tomsk State University, Russia, told New Scientist magazine.

The whole western Siberian sub-Arctic region has started to thaw, he added, and this “has all happened in the last three or four years”.

Western Siberia has warmed faster than almost anywhere on the planet, with average temperatures increasing by about 3C in the last 40 years.

The warming is believed to be due to a combination of man-made climate change, a cyclical atmospheric phenomenon known as the Arctic oscillation and feedbacks caused by melting ice.

The 11,000-year-old bogs contain billions of tonnes of methane, most of which has been trapped in permafrost and deeper ice-like structures called clathrates.

But if the bogs melt, there is a big risk their hefty methane load could be dumped into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

Scientists have reacted with alarm at the finding, warning that future global temperature predictions may have to be revised.

“When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it’s unstoppable,” David Viner, of the University of East Anglia, UK, told the Guardian newspaper. “There are no brakes you can apply.”

MORE.

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