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The year climate change hit

It has been the year 2017. The devastating effects of climate change are becoming apparent — and the world has begun taking action. But, sad to say,  the frequency of extreme weather events has shown, and –  we are starting to run out of time.

I remember my Facebook-friend in Spain emailing me last year about the sweltering heat with 48 Celsius degrees in Seville.

Unprecedented heat waves swept across the globe in 2017, leading to droughts, wildfires and even deaths. Australia started the year with temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), the "Lucifer" heat wave brought the mercury above 40 degrees Celsius throughout Southern Europe in July and August and scorching heat hit India's most vulnerable people. Get ready for next summer… .

"Crazy" weather has been a hot topic for elevator conversations this year — and yes, extremes are starting to become the new normal – also this year 2018. No continent was spared in 2017 when it came to extreme weather. From droughts to hurricanes, from smog to forest fires, these events killed thousands of people — and have been directly linked to climate change. Yes, extreme weather on the rise in Europe – a headline making me as German national speechless.

Southern Europe, Canada and the United States were among the areas worst hit by devastating wildfires. Both in California and Portugal, 2017 has been the deadliest year on record for wildfires. Even icy Greenland wasn't spared. Climate change, along with the dangerous combination of a lack of sustainable forest management and careless — or malicious — human activity, has been to blame. About Greenland later in this write-up.

Major storms were also responsible for the year's most catastrophic events. Hurricane Harvey in the US, Irma and Maria in the Caribbean and Katia in the Gulf of Mexico left destruction in their wake. While hurricanes aren't unusual in tropical regions, the frequency and intensity of these most recent storms — fueled by warming oceans — were out of the ordinary. But they may be a sign of things to come, if the world doesn't take action to limit climate change.

At the same time, at this worry me a lot as resident in the Philippines, global sea levels reached a new high in 2017, with the polar ice caps melting at an accelerating pace. Warmer ocean temperatures contributed to the breakaway of a 1 trillion ton iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica in July, at 5,800 square kilometers (2,200 square miles) one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.

Flooding caused the death of hundreds of people in the Philippines, Greece, Germany and Vietnam, to name just a few countries. Meanwhile, drought is increasing the pressure on regions of Africa and Asia, such as Somalia, South Sudan and Pakistan, where armed conflicts are already making daily life a struggle for survival.

Often forgotten, the struggles of the world's oceans also increased this year. Despite several initiatives protecting the Great Barrier Reef, coral bleaching has continued at an alarming rate. Ocean acidification, meanwhile, is on track to make the seas uninhabitable for many aquatic creatures, endangering entire ocean ecosystems.

Governments across the globe are taking action to address current and upcoming climate threats, and leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, who took office in May 2017 and pledged to fund climate research, have been a source of hope for many. But I won't go so far calling Emmanuel Macron, Europe's climate hero!

But 2017 will also, unfortunately, be remembered for the US withdrawal from the 2015 Paris climate accord, along with President Donald Trump's other moves away from the fight against climate change. It's not his only try to shock the whole world as we could experienced during his London-visit just yesterday and the day before.

Flooding caused the death of hundreds of people in the Philippines, Greece, Germany and Vietnam, to name just a few countries. Meanwhile, drought is increasing the pressure on regions of Africa and Asia, such as Somalia, South Sudan and Pakistan, where armed conflicts are already making daily life a struggle for survival.

And, the Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching even worse than expected.

Climate change will bring some surprising effects: Bumpy plane rides, greater mood swings and more volcanic eruptions are just a few of the things we can expect over the decades to come. And yes, even more lightning.    

We're already familiar with some of the more evident effects of global warming such as melting glaciers and more extreme weather events. But few people are aware of some of the other, less obvious – and completely surprising – impacts of our changing climate, which could have a serious impact on the way we live. 

I experienced it during my last trips. Airplane turbulence will get worse. Unfortunately, we can expect air travel to become even more stressful – thanks to the effects of climate change.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom looks into the relationship between clean-air turbulence and anthropogenic climate change. Using the popular flight corridor between Europe and the United States as an example, they examined various strengths of turbulence and how each will change in the future if carbon dioxide levels were to double.

The results showed that severe turbulence is likely to dramatically increase by up to 149 percent as a result of stronger wind shears within the Earth's jet streams. These are narrow, fast-flowing, meandering westerly currents found near the tropopause, which are frequently used by commercial airlines as a means of saving time and fuel.

Icebergs will clog up shipping lanes. While icebergs are common in these waters, their number and timing is unusual. Experts say climate change could be to blame. The icebergs begin their journey after breaking off a glacier in Greenland, which is influenced largely by winter weather, especially storms accompanied by strong winds. Rising temperatures also lead to the melting of ice sheets, causing more chunks of ice to break off and float into the open ocean.

Lightning will strike more frequently. Heat energy acts as a form of fuel for storm clouds. So as global temperatures continue to rise, we can also expect more active thunderstorms. Although there are a number of downsides to this phenomenon – including a probable increase in wildfires – lightning actually produces a powerful chemical reaction that can be beneficial for Earth's atmosphere. Lightning creates a special form of a greenhouse gas called nitrogen oxide, which indirectly regulates other potentially harmful greenhouse gases, like ozone and methane. 

In places like Iceland, volcanoes and glaciers have coexisted for thousands of years. However, as glaciers melt due to rising temperatures, the pressure on the Earth's mantel decreases, which in turn increases magma amounts while reducing stress on a volcano's magma chambers. This leads to higher volcanic activity, along with the travel chaos that often follows.

There is a historic precedent to this prediction: 12,000 years ago, Iceland was covered by a glacier as thick as 2 kilometers. When that glacier abruptly melted due to a warming trend, a huge surge in volcanic activity followed.

Even our mood isn't immune from climate change. Researchers in social psychology have long highlighted the link between warmer climates and higher levels of impulsive behavior and even violence. This has been shown in regions closer to the equator – if global temperatures continue to rise as expected, we could also begin to see behavioral changes in areas further north. 

In addition to having to contend with warmer weather, there is also evidence that climate change will further fuel global conflict by adding stress on natural resources like food and water. We can expect our oceans to gradually become murkier as the effects of climate change become more apparent over time.

While climate change is often associated with higher temperatures and drought, it is also expected to increase annual rainfall in some areas of the world. This will create faster-flowing rivers, which in turn churns up more silt and debris before this water meets the ocean. 

This phenomenon has already been observed along the coast of Norway, where the ocean water has become increasingly darker due to an increase in precipitation and melting snow. Talking about our health: Allergies will worsen. As if getting angrier wasn't enough: If you're one of the many people who suffer from springtime allergies in Euope, you should probably start stockpiling your medication. Warmer temperatures also mean longer and earlier blooming seasons for allergy-triggering plants like dandelions and ragweed. Pollen counts are likely to double over the next three decades in the United States – and "sneezing season" will also kick off in the future as soon as the first week of April. 

Believe it or not, deserts are actually teeming with life – also in the form of bacterial colonies. These colonies grow so large, in fact, that they form strong layers known as "biocrusts" that prevent soil erosion. 

But different kinds of bacteria thrive in different temperature ranges. So as the climate continues to change quickly, these bacteria could find it difficult to adapt. If desert soil could becomes more prone to erosion, it would not be fertile enough to support plants and feed animals. 

Ants play a more important role in the planet's ecosystem than you may realize. In spite of their status as a pest, ants helps plants by controlling other insects, circulating vital nutrients and turning over the soil, among other things. 

But ants appear to be ill-equipped to handle the rising tempertatures caused by climate change. A study carried out at Harvard Forest in Massachusetts revealed a susceptibility of ants to even slight temperature increases, with the most important seed-dispersing species essentially shutting down and retreating to their underground nests until conditions improved. Think about it, if ants are around you… .

Latest news on my desk: Authorities warned shore-side residents of Innaarsuit Island in Greenland they were at risk of being flooded, after a 100-meter (300 feet) high iceberg was spotted drifting off the coast on last Thursday (July 12, 2018!). The police are on high alert and have moved a search-and-rescue helicopter closer to the remote village, which has about 170 inhabitants.

Climate change and its results. Meanwhile, all of us become victims of it.

Email:doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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