Thursday, July 02, 2009

OMG it's summer!!!111!!!!ELEVENTY!!!1111!!

Apparently some vague signs of summer have been spotted back in Blighty so everyone has flown into a panic. Summer hasn't been seen there since about...ooh, last August or so. So it's not surprising that they are worried and don't know how to cope. They are now in an "Amber Heatwave" situation in the south east, because the temperature may reach....32C max and 18C overnight min (it's nothing like that warm over most of the country). Genuine question: do they have a "Blue cold snap" warning in winter which also "requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups"?

It is interesting to see the emphasis on overnight min as well as the more exciting daily max. It's still rainy season here, so our max temperatures are reasonably cool. However, we probably won't see much below 20C overnight until mid-October or thereabouts. Here's the latest weather forecast, which I hope is self-explanatory despite the language:

The temperature values don't tell the whole story, as it is also phenomenally humid here, making it feel much worse.

Further south in Okinawa, summer is still some way off, but it's a good bit hotter already:


Okinawa, of course, is famed for the extraordinary longevity of its oldies - high even by Japanese standards.

Meanwhile, mt is "enjoying" 40C plus. There are certainly places in the world where a few more degrees of warming would not be welcome. The UK is not one of them.

10 comments:

Bryan Lawrence said...

Hmm. I think the UK is one of them. The infrastructure and housing is just not ready for this sort of heat. Yes, it's not as hot as other parts of the world, but the houses are pretty much optimised to get sunlight in and when it gets hot, that's a bad thing ...

Also, behavioural norms aren't set up right either ... and I've beaten you up on this riff before, the ecosystem isn't either ... and that's going to be a big deal because it can't change as fast as we can (putting shutters on houses etc).

So, while I agree with the humorous intent I presume was behind this post, I'd be careful of coming across like it's some sort of competition in which the whole world can all agree to have the same (warmer) climate.

Cecile, Seb, Rebecca, Julie said...

A question related to the previous comment. I am living in the south of France after some years in England. Shutters, as i has been said earlier are a critical element to adapt housing to warmer climate. Do Japanese house use shutters ? what is the strategy (if any) to keep the house cool during the summer days ?

Thanks

PS : 34 degrees down here...

jules said...

Well basically, in the Kanto region (Hokkaido is different), the houses are built with no insulation so that is more or less the same temperature inside and outside year round. You get used to being really cold in the winter (to the extent that we found James' family's drafty Scottish house too warm at Christmas when we visited) and really hot in the summer (usually 27-30C in the office, and never below 20C anywhere day or night for several months). The fact it took us only a couple of years to adapt to such a huge change, and that the Japanese survive to ripe old age with such a huge seasonal cycle, is probably the reason we smile at the UK panic over a couple of degrees.

James Annan said...

Bryan and Cecile et al,

What jules said. Also, modern Japanese houses are shoddily built pieces of crap built with no concern for the climate or environment that fall apart after about 30 years (seriously, it's more expensive to buy a bare plot than a 40yo house round here). Old style houses often have large overhanging roof to keep out the sun when it's high, and maybe use external bamboo screens for shade. Modern buildings like our office have acres of single glazing with venetian blinds inside which is far less efficient, but hey we all have air-con, and that is the #1 strategy for keeping cool in Japan. My wearing of shorts at work is still a bit of a novelty, although a few other bare knees can be seen. Some who were brought up in hotter areas wear denim jeans all summer!

Behavioural norms can change in a few years, let alone decades - ours certainly have. Also, going outside and enjoying the summer brings a lot of health benefits that could be (but generally aren't) set against the small number of deaths. Eg cycling in the UK has a strong seasonal cycle.

I think it is pretty much beyond dispute that one or two more degrees (in the UK) will bring benefits for human health and agricultural output. I agree that ecosystems will (have to) change - but it will be a long time before the climate-induced changes match those imposed by direct human intervention. Of course at 5C+ it might well be very different story, and I wouldn't want to downplay the longer-term problem, but the suggestion that a few warmish summers (they hardly deserve the term "hot") is a big scary threat deserves to be ridiculed IMO.

Bryan Lawrence said...

I don't really disagree with your last point: a few hot/warmish summers are not really a big deal, but I do disagree with the assertion that "it is pretty much beyond dispute that one or two more degrees (in the UK) will bring benefits for human health and agricultural output".

Care to back up either point with enough information to make it beyond dispute? (You and I both know enough to be careful about what we mean by 1 or 2 degrees here ...)

James Annan said...

For modest warming, the cold v hot deaths thing is given in the reports I linked to previously, and here is a direct link to one relevant section. For agriculture, I didn't have such a clear ref in mind but my first google found this NFU doc in which Table 3 estimates significant increases in yield for all 4 of the major crops listed there (the message is repeated in general and unequivocal terms throughout the document, with supporting refs).

Chuck said...

A few extra degrees may be fine for England, but most people don't live closer to the pole than the equator. Most people live in the tropics and subtropics, where heat is more of an issue.

James Annan said...

Well, I'm not sure that a couple of degrees more heat is actually going to kill many people anywhere. Also, remember that the tropics will warm up a lot less than the poles (polar amplification). But my point is not to claim that AGW is good for the planet, but that at least in moderation it will bring some significant benefits to the UK, contrary to what you might gather from the press coverage.

I wonder if Bryan (or anyone else reading) still disagrees with this, after reading the documents I linked to above...

Brian said...

From James' link it looks like they're excluding the effect of heat on making air pollution worse. Until someone can calculate that long-term impact, admittedly a difficult task, I'd say the "beyond dispute" statement hasn't been satisfied.

Maybe I'm coming at it with my California bias though, and air pollution isn't nearly as big a problem in the UK as it is here.

James Annan said...

Brian,

You can rest assured that the reason it isn't featured is because the effect is either too small to mention or works in the other way to what you suppose :-) Note that windier conditions would reduce pollution, changes in which are in any case dominated by controls on emissions rather than weather.