It was 20 years ago today

that a cuddly hairy botanist was seen leaping about on BBC explaining that ‘the biosphere is under threat’, global warming would start changing our ‘bweatiful’ world unless we acted soon.

Twenty years on it is now happening, the climate is now our weather and David Bellamy who predicted the dangers back then now believes it is all made up. The Arctic reaches its ice minimum around the middle of September, it reached the historic record breaking minimum in August. link . Click the link and be concerned.

My vegetable and fruit growing enterprise has produced little this year, commercial growers in the UK are predicting at least 20%  lower yields and of a poor quality,  in the US the maize and  wheat crop has suffered because of the drought. Food prices are set to rise. The wettest [and coolest] summer on record or for at least 100 years [depending on what months you measure]  in the UK may have washed out festivals, BBQs, and holidays for the city dweller but in the countryside the impact is subtle. Insect numbers are noticeable very low, although some species [like cabbage white] have seen massive and sudden increases. Bird numbers are noticeable down especially compared to a couple of years ago. Certainly species are adaptable to a degree and if next year is better the numbers can recover. Some weeds do well and other wild plants suffer, some trees flourish whilst others struggle. In the UK sitka spruce as a timber crop has had to be planted either higher up the mountains or further north as the decades have passed by as a warm climate produces soft pulpy timber with low value. Tree species that are native to areas further south like sweet chestnut have done well in recent decades but have hardly grown this year. Climate change means winners and losers. [see the latest update on food security]

A part of me 20 years ago optimisticly expected Britain to move into a warmer climate similar to the south of France but things rarely work out as expected. The big player in UK [as well as US, Russia etc] is the Jet Stream, its position determines if warm air will move up or cold Arctic air will move south, it will be no surprise to know it spent it time located just south of the UK dragging wet cold air in from the Atlantic. In the US it has snaked its way so far north that it has brought drought to grain belt. Research is in its early stages but there seems a link between the lack of Arctic ice and the location of the Jet Stream.

“In a paper published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters last March titled “Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes,” Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University and Stephen Vavrus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison offered a hypothesis that may explain why world grain prices have risen 30 per cent in the past four months (and are still going up).

First, a warmer Arctic reduces the temperature gradient between the temperate and polar zones. That, in turn, slows the wind speeds in the zone between the two and increases the “wave amplitude” of the jet stream. The jet stream flows around the planet in great swooping curves, like a river crossing a flat plain, and those curves — Rossby waves, in scientific language — are getting bigger and slower.

This is a recipe for extreme weather. In the old days, the Rossby waves went past fast, bringing the alternating of rainy and sunny weather that characterized the mid-latitude climate. Now, they hang around much longer and generate more extreme weather events: droughts and heat waves, or prolonged rain and flooding, or blizzards and long, hard freezes.”

Nobody expected global warming to have this effect although it was predicted that the Arctic would warm up faster. So with a future of extremes preparation and adaptation is a priority, so last year after 2 consecutive dry Springs causing an early drought when watering was a priority I spent money building a dam to retain winter rain and installed a large tank and irrigation. It has remained unused. This winter I will invest in polytunnels to bring on blueberry shrubs until they are big enough to cope with the rampant weeds and rain. No-doubt the coming year will totally surprise me.

The thing is, if you go back in time and read the articles 20 years ago it was all neatly predicted, except the complete melting of the Arctic summer ice was set to happen another 20 years from now.