Wednesday, January 16, 2008

World warming despite cool Pacific and Baghdad snow

OSLO (Reuters) - Climate change is still nudging up temperatures in the long term even though the warmest year was back in 1998 and 2008 has begun with unusual weather such as a cool Pacific and Baghdad's first snow in memory, experts said.

"Global warming has not stopped," said Amir Delju, senior scientific coordinator of the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) climate program.

Last year was among the six warmest years since records began in the 1850s and the British Met Office said last week that 2008 will be the coolest year since 2000, partly because of a La Nina event that cuts water temperatures in the Pacific.

"We are in a minor La Nina period which shows a little cooling in the Pacific Ocean," Delju told Reuters. "The decade from 1998 to 2007 is the warmest on record and the whole trend is still continuing."

This year has started with odd weather including the first snows in Baghdad in memory on Friday and a New Year cold snap in India that killed more than 20 people. Frost hit some areas of Florida last week but orange groves escaped mostly unscathed.

Iraqis welcomed snow as an omen of peace. "It's the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished."

Last year, parts of the northern hemisphere were having a record mild winter with even Alpine ski resorts starved of snow.

Delju said climate change, blamed mainly on human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, would bring bigger swings in the weather alongside a warming trend that will mean more heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising seas

Baghdad Snow

Winter Bites in SW Asia

Bitter cold, snow (be it unusually heavy or merely to have happened at all) and wetting rain have all marked the stormy winter weather that has dominated the first half of January from central Asia to the Red Sea. Tales of immobilizing snow and harsh cold in Iran as well as rare snow from Baghdad to Arar, northern KSA, have found their way onto the world`s newswires, as has the flash flooding that swept Makkah, KSA.
A thinning out of snow late last week raised bitter cold to fore as the prominent weather aspect Monday. Here are a few highlights:

Turkey: Erzurum...-25 F/-31.8 C; Kars...-26 F/-32.2 C
Iran: Quchan...-7 f/-21.4 C; Tehran...16 F/-9 C
Kazakhstan: Atbasar...-37 F/-38.1 C
Uzbekistan: Buzaubay...-23 F/-30.3 C
Turkmenistan: Ekezhe...-20 F/-28.8 C; Turkmenbashy...-5 f/-20.6
Iraq: Baghdad...28-30 F/-2 to -1 C; Basrah...30 F/-1 C
KSA: Guriat...20 F/-6.8 C (Turayf also -20 F)
Jordan: Ma`an...17 F/-8.4 C

Rainfall was nearly 2 inches (about 4 cms) on the island of Abu Musa, between Iran and UAE

Happy pongal 2008

Lasting for over four days Pongal, a harvest festival is celebrated in the month of Shravan. Pongal literally means, "boiling over". The Tamil harvest festival is celebrated with decorated cows, processions and decorative Rangoli. Pongal is a sweet porridge made from newly harvested rice and eaten by all, even the animals. Each day of this festival has a special significance, however, it is celebrated more grandly in the villages, while the city folk mainly celebrate on the second day only. It is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal (in Tamil). People also prepare savories and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings.

The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic. During the Pongal season, people eat sugar canes and decorate the houses with Kolam.

Even though Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, today it is celebrated by all. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal Sankranti and thus celebrated in some form in various parts of India.