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Not something you see everyday — a snow-covered desert. The Taklimakan Desert in western China, the country’s largest desert, was covered with snow after a storm swept through the area in late December 2012 and continued into early January (the area also received snow in 2008). The cold wave hit different parts of China including Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China and northeast China. Could it be attributed to the melting of arctic sea ice pushing colder weather south? This seems a question worth further exploration. Clearly, extreme weather events of this kind are not limited to certain geographic areas as last year’s cold snap in Europe also demonstrated.
References and Further Reading
Storm turns Taklimakan Desert White. Earth Observatory
Temperature continues to drop as cold snap lingers. Xinhua News Agency
China’s ice weather shatters records. Mother nature network
The cold wave that swept through parts of Europe, especially Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia and Poland wreaked havoc killing more than 600 people. This may seem unusual during a time when everyone is talking about ‘global warming’, but it is really a powerful reminder that these events still continue even as the global temperature rises. While it appears unknown as to whether this cold snap was in any way directly attributable to human-induced climate change, the primary culprit – Arctic Oscillation – isn’t unfamiliar to scientists as it plays a large role in global climate change. According to NASA, the Arctic Oscillation is basically ‘a see-sawing pressure system over the North Pole’ and recently it has been responsible for driving cold air from north to southern latitudes, hence the reason why it was snowing heavily in Tripoli, Libya. Read more
The number of older people in the UK and other parts of the world is projected to increase significantly in the future. By 2031, people 65 or older will make up over one in five of the population of England. Extreme weather events in areas where older people require care are also projected to increase due to climate change, including floods and heat waves.
Researchers from IHRR and Heriot-Watt University part of the project BIOPICCC (Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change) have recently published a study that has mapped the likely patterns of heat waves, cold waves and flooding in England. BIOPICCC is a 3-year project funded by the EPSRC part of a major research network known as ‘Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate’ (ARCC). It is dedicated to developing strategies to make infrastructure for older people, including health and social care systems, sufficiently resilient to withstand the harmful effects of climate change, up to 2050.
According to the study, the warmest conditions in the future will be experienced in South and South West England, while the East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber will likely experience an increase in heat waves compared to present conditions. While cold waves will be less common they will still present a challenge to health and social care providers.
Professor Sarah Curtis, Director of Frontier Knowledge in IHRR and a researcher in the Department of Geography in Durham University said: ‘It makes sense to plan ahead. Cold waves will continue to occur in the future and pose a significant health risk to older people. The 2009/10 cold wave resulted in 25,400 excess winter deaths in England and Wales, the majority amongst those aged 75 and over.
‘Service providers must take into account the increasing numbers of retired people living in rural settlements and moving to the coast. In some areas the oldest population will more than double by 2031, so needs for health and social care provision will increase’.
‘When extreme weather events occur, special measures are needed to make sure people have access to the care they need in the community as well as in hospitals. Planning is important to try to keep road networks and utilities functioning, to ensure community care teams can reach their clients, and to help people manage in their homes in extreme weather’.