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Global climate latest

  1. Top of page
  2. Global climate latest
  3. Planting grass to reduce flooding
  4. Expanding the WMO data service
  5. Saturn's super-storm
  6. A dry year in Kerala

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) recently published its annual report on the state of the global climate, compiled by the WMO Commission for Climatology in cooperation with the 91 members.

It notes that 2012 was, provisionally, the ninth warmest year since records began in 1850, with an estimated average global temperature about 0.5 degC higher than the 1961–1990 normal of 14.0°C. It was also the 27th consecutive year with global land and ocean temperatures above the long-term normal. This global temperature assessment is based on three independent datasets, maintained in the UK by the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of East Anglia, and in the USA by the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)'s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The report highlights the fact that the warmth was noteworthy as we were experiencing a La Niña phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation early in the year, and this is known to have a global cooling influence.

Other points of note were the record loss of Arctic sea ice from August to September, some exceptional droughts and the impacts of storms such as Hurricane Sandy. WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, commented that global sea temperatures are now around 20cm higher than in 1880, exacerbating coastal flooding during storms such as Sandy.

The full report is available from the WMO website: http://www.wmo.int

Planting grass to reduce flooding

  1. Top of page
  2. Global climate latest
  3. Planting grass to reduce flooding
  4. Expanding the WMO data service
  5. Saturn's super-storm
  6. A dry year in Kerala

A UK-based team of researchers say that they have developed a hybrid type of grass that can reduce the effects of surface water runoff by around half. The study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, claims that this new type of grass can provide efficient forage production whilst also helping to mitigate the risk of flooding.

It is a hybrid of two more common types of grass, the perennial ryegrass used by most farmers for grazing livestock, and meadow fescue, which is a more stress-resistant species. By combining the two they found evidence that changes to root growth and soil can assist in the retention of much more moisture than is the case with the individual species on their own. The project itself had been focused on developing new forage grasses, but they discovered the potential additional benefits during experimentation at a research centre in north Devon.

Expanding the WMO data service

  1. Top of page
  2. Global climate latest
  3. Planting grass to reduce flooding
  4. Expanding the WMO data service
  5. Saturn's super-storm
  6. A dry year in Kerala

The WMO Information System has recently grown, as two new data centres were opened in Seoul and Melbourne. These supplement the existing centres in Exeter, Beijing, Offenbach, Tokyo and Toulouse.

The System is the WMO's mechanism for handling and distributing weather, climate and environmental data, making this vast array of information easily available to users such as national meteorological services, researchers and disaster risk-reduction communities. It also now allows users outside the mainstream meteorological community to access data. The project is part of a collaborative United Nations effort to provide basic climate services globally to organisations concerned with matters such as food security, water management and health sectors as part of their Global Framework for Climate Services.

Saturn's super-storm

  1. Top of page
  2. Global climate latest
  3. Planting grass to reduce flooding
  4. Expanding the WMO data service
  5. Saturn's super-storm
  6. A dry year in Kerala

The first visible-light images were taken recently of a gigantic hurricane-like storm in the atmosphere of Saturn. NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured the high-resolution images and video of the storm as the affected region emerged from the planet's northern polar winter.

The storm, dubbed a hurricane as it had some similarities to tropical storms on Earth, has a largely cloud-free eye around 2000 kilometres (1250 miles) across, roughly 20 times larger than its Earthly counterparts. It is situated over Saturn's north pole and has winds of up to 150ms−1 (335mph), around four times the speed of our own hurricane-force winds.

Scientists studying it hope to gain a greater insight into hurricanes on Earth. However Saturn differs from Earth in that there is no body of warm water nearby to help sustain the system and the storm, being centred over the north pole, was locked in place as it could travel no further north. One question they hope to answer is how, on Saturn, the hexagonally-shaped vortex is maintained with only small amounts of water vapour in the hydrogen atmosphere. Aside from the differences, though, the similarities include eye-wall clouds, high cloud spiralling out from the eye, and the anti-clockwise rotation in the northern hemisphere.

The team believes this storm may have been raging for years – certainly since Cassini arrived around Saturn in 2004, when it was detected in the infra-red spectrum. However, until recently, Saturn's northern pole had been in darkness during the course of its 29 Earth-years annual cycle, so no visible images were possible.

Information on the international collaborative Cassini-Huygens mission can be found on their website: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

A dry year in Kerala

  1. Top of page
  2. Global climate latest
  3. Planting grass to reduce flooding
  4. Expanding the WMO data service
  5. Saturn's super-storm
  6. A dry year in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital of Kerala, India, recorded 1190mm of rain in 2012, making this the second driest year there since records began in 1901 (after 1976, when 1137mm fell). The city's normal annual rainfall (for the period 1971–2000) is 1754mm; its wettest year was 1933, when 3035mm was recorded.

The southwest monsoon season (June to September) is the wettest period of the year in the region, normally bringing 840mm, 48% of the normal annual total. In 1976, only 394mm fell during this season, but the ‘driest’ monsoon season was that of 1918, which had 356mm. In 2012, 518mm fell during those four months.

This monsoon season is vital for an adequate water supply in the city: the months of January to March are normally very dry, and the Kerala Water Authority has expressed concerns that this resource may be seriously depleted before the 2013 monsoon arrives. (Information courtesy of R Lakshminaray-anan.)