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中国日报网 2023-10-09 10:18



To pick a key word for summer 2023, “extreme” must be a top candidate. We’ve had an average temperature of 22℃, the highest in recorded history except other than 1961. The rainfall has been limited but also concentrated, so much so that Beijing saw its heaviest rainfall since 2012 while some regions in the Northwest suffered from drought.


Unfortunately, experience from the past several years show that after every extremely hot summer there follows an extremely cold winter. So what about the winter in 2023? Will it be extremely cold?


For Zhu Dingzhen, retired chief expert for meteorological services at China Meteorological Administration Public Meteorological Service Center, it’s hard to answer with a definite “yes”, but the probability is very high. “There is no direct link between the temperatures of summer and winter,” he said, “but when the former is extremely high that’s a sign of the total climate system being turbulent, which means the latter has a much higher possibility of being extremely low.”



The climate radicalization is like a swinging pendulum — the left side is swinging at a higher amplitude, so it’s possible the right side might swing higher too, although no one can be 100 percent sure.



Zhu stressed that extreme cold is more about weather than climate, referring to single-day temperatures rather the average temperatures of the whole season. A good example is the “warm winter” in Beijing 2021, which saw the lowest single-day temperature in history. “Warm winter doesn’t mean being warm every day,” Zhu warned: “especially with climate change intensifying, there might be quite frequent cold waves in warm winters, so one must always take caution.”



Chen Wei, an associate researcher at Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, explained that further in terms of the global atmosphere movement. As the air pressure near the ground is higher in hot tropical regions than in cold poles, there is always a constant air flow from the former to the latter that turns right in the northern hemisphere and becomes western wind in the middle latitude. “Such western wind is a protection wall that turns any cold wave from the north into western wind, thus preventing it from going further south,” Chen said.


However, with climate change, the temperature in the arctic region is growing so the temperature gap with the celestial equator shrinks. Chen pointed out that this weakens the western wind in middle latitude regions thus weakening its ability to prevent cold waves from going south, which, combined with the increasingly frequent unstable polar vortex that unleashes more cold waves, the frequency of cold weather naturally gets higher.


In worse conditions the process can turn into a vicious circle. The huge piles of ice in the Arctic are like a big mirror that reflects part of the solar rays back into space, but as they melt the reflection gets weaker so more heat is accumulated, accelerating the meltdown process, which in turn further weakens the reflection. Chen said that this is called the “Arctic amplifying effect”, a process which has already begun and won’t be reversed until humankind pulls the brake on global warming activities.



“Heavy rainfalls are getting more frequent and have caused severe flooding in North and Northeast China, causing U-turns between droughts and floods. Typhoons are few in number but more destructive in force, of which Typhoon Doksuri had caused heavy flooding. There are more days with high temperatures, of which some are highly extreme. More catastrophes such as short-term strong rainfall, lightening storm and hurricane are located more widely.”



While for urban residents, a “weather catastrophe” might mean inconveniences of travelling or having to stay at home, for agricultural production that may mean actual losses. Some outdoor construction or engineering projects have to suspend or face lower efficiency in cold or hot weather;Crops might wither in extreme cold or die in heat, thus posing a bigger challenge to the national food security;The cities have to either face losses of floods or raise the standards of buildings to withstand such floods, both of which cost money.



There have been doubts and challenges that climate change is a lie. There were even some articles that went viral carrying headlines such as “10 benefits of global warming”, which claim that with the global warming process, some tropical or sub-tropical fruits would be able to be planted in northern regions while northwestern dry regions would become wet.





甚至早在五年前,位于乌鲁木齐的中国科学院天山冰川观测试验站就观测到一组令人忧心的数据。在2016年4月到2017年4月间,1号冰川的东西两支分别退缩6.3米和7.2米,其中西支退缩速率为1993 年1号冰川分裂以来的最大值。

As early as April 2017, the Tianshan Mountain Glacier Observatory found that two branches of the No.1 glacier in that area had retreated by 6.3 and 7.2 meters respectively, of which the western branch saw its biggest retreat since its formation in 1993.



In September 2022, a study by Oxford University researchers published on Joule, an online research magazine on global challenges, estimated that if the current trend continues, global climate change might cause a loss of $23 trillion by 2050. As a comparison, China’s GDP in 2022 was only $18 trillion.


It’s hard to imagine what would happen if the global temperature rises by 2 degrees, which is the dead limit set by Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 and stressed again by the Paris Conference in 2015. Unfortunately, even that goal will be hard to achieve because some key clauses of the Paris Agreement, such as the one about nationally determined contributions, are voluntary instead of legally binding, which means the participants have the choice to implement it or not as they wish.



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