Climate change is here – UN

After months of debate and reviews of a mass of scientific reports, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has this last week produced its long debated (second) report on the effects of a warming planet. The report includes a summary of the ten “climate related drivers of impacts” – see figure below.

The report is clear and deeply worrying and affects all of us. No country can avoid the ‘overwhelming’ impact of climate change, but most at risk are those living in low lying areas where rising sea levels will force mass migrations of population to other areas.

Other results of our unwillingness to cut back on carbon emissions will mean tundra regions will warm and polar ice caps melt, crop levels will be affected and fish catches will be smaller. The BBC’s website provides an excellent summary of the report. (

It’s obvious that despite the evidence of the Impact of global warming on our climate and on future generations, there has been since 2009 – when we first started commenting on this issue on this blog – a growing reluctance by many governments to take the robust actions we need to avert the growing crisis.

Perhaps because of this, Chris Field, the Chair of the IPCC Committee indicates that effective actions can actually be taken. For instance we can build defences against rising sea levels and locally cut CO2 emissions. These actions will require in the words of the report ‘ambitious investment’, but politicians and the constituencies they serve need to understand that in the long run this is the safest and only route that we can take.

A copy of the full report (in pdf format) can be downloaded from the IPCC website.

After the rainstorms

This year has been the wettest we’ve had for years and Cumbria has taken its fair share of the rain. But this last month we’ve been up at The Larches several times and had some good sunny days and wonderful views. Why do so many people stay away from the Lakes at this time of the year and wait for the summer!

The photo above shows off the magnificent view we had from the Belevedere deck to the north east in the early morning. It’s hard to beat The Larches for this view of the Derwent Valley, showing – from left to right – Ullock Pike, Skiddaw, Blencathra, Latrigg and Clough Head. If you walk a few yards to the north to the seat on our High Point crag, you’re able to see Great Dodd too on the Helvellyn range.

From April onwards you’ll have a good chance of having this view with warm sun over a breakfast of coffee and croissant on the Belvedere deck!

The picture below is from one of my favourite local walks in the Keswick area. It’s taken during the late afternoon near the dilapidated shepherd’s cottage on the wide expanse below Blaeberry Fell. There’s a quietness here with only the wind and an occasional cry of the kestrel. The view is of Blaeberry Fell’s northern point, Great Dodd (mostly in cloud) and Clough Head (again) to the left.

Get up there if you can. Take the A591 road out of Keswick towards Thirlmere, which climbs steeply and then turns to the east on a long curve. Then take the turn off to the right to Castlerigg, which comes shortly. You can extend the walk to Ashness Bridge and Watendlath if you want.

‘Dark sky’ app – now in UK

I noted in a blog last November from the west coast of the US that I had discovered a new app, Dark Sky, for my iPad. When you see dark clouds starting to mass like in the picture above, does it mean rain is imminent?

Dark Sky can give you very accurate forecasts of the weather in your immediate vicinity – wherever you are – over a span of one hour. It’s ideal if you are planning a short walk or a run, provided the developers have negotiated use of the weather data for the country you are in.

The snag back in November was that this app was not yet available for use in the UK.

The good news is that the data has been made available for the UK. You can now get Dark Sky from the App Store for the price of about £2.50 and have it working for you – in the UK as well as the US! The image below shows the position on a rainy day in Manchester last month.

Climate change and Alaska

I wrote last September – after flooding had badly affected us at The Larches – that for many round the world it can be far worse, bringing loss of home, possessions, livelihood, even life.

At the time I hadn’t thought that we would be seeing natural disasters so soon – disasters that can be directly linked to climate change and flooding. In October however Hurricane Sandy prevented our return from America for four days and caused millions of dollars of damage on the US eastern seaboard.

Now this last week a report in The Guardian (May 16th) by Suzanne Goldenberg has shown dramatically how small communities in Alaska are being affected by warmer temperatures and the melting of the permafrost, which until now has provided a firm enough base for housing and other facilities.

Goldenberg’s three part report looks at Newtok on the west coast of Alaska and some 400 miles from Anchorage. As Spring approaches, the adjacent River Ninglick carries off huge chunks of land as its melt waters race towards the Bering Sea.

The nearest doctor and hospital is 100 miles away and by 2017 the US Army Corps of Engineers estimate that the highest point of the existing township, now 20 feet above the river, will be underwater.

Destruction of up to 180 indigenous communities in Alaska’s low lying areas, adjoining rivers and coastal areas, is almost certain. Yet US officials indicate that there will be no additional federal monies available to meet the costs of creating new settlements for these displaced people, which could cost in the case of Newtok up to $130 million.

Could the Newtok community become the first of “America’s Climate change refugees”? asks Goldenberg. An initial start in tackling the issues in Newtok has been made by identifying an area nearby where volcanic rock will provide a solid base for construction of housing and facilities.

But if the Newtok community is to survive intact, it will have to raise the money and do much of the building work itself – no mean task for a group of just 350 people.

Rain forecast: stay inside?

You know the scene, only too well these days! You’re inside the house and have finished off a job, sent off some emails and now want to go to the shops, stretch your legs in the park, go biking or have a short fell run up Cat Bells above Derwentwater.

You put your hand out of the window. Is it spitting or just my imagination? You go outside and see a lot of clouds. Which way is the wind blowing? Will it pass over? Do I need a cag? How long have I got before the rain starts? The usual questions.

Well this last week, while we’ve been on the US west coast in Seattle, we’ve been introduced to the answer! It’s a new app for iPhones and iPads called Dark Sky. The design and a display are shown in the illustration opposite.

We were out in the city’s Discovery Park last weekend, with an overcast sky. Rounding a bluff as we reached the shoreline of Puget Sound, I asked my daughter ‘Is it going to rain?’ Pulling out her iPhone, she said ‘Hang on a moment. Yes I have it now. It’s saying could be sprinkling coming’. Thirty seconds later we felt the first drops! Amazing and it wasn’t the only time this happened.

The app uses GPS information for your position and deploys weather radar data and some sophisticated software and algorythms to predict type, extent and timing of the rainfall. It does not attempt to predict weather over more than one hour in advance. It is not clear how accurate it will be in very mountainous terrain where weather patterns can change very fast and unpredictably. The app was developed by a small company, with financial backing from 1200 people. A detailed account and visualisation by the developers of what the app does can be found here.

It’s a must have app, but there is a snag for anyone outside the USA. It depends upon the developers getting the weather radar data, which can involve detailed and legal issues with individual countries. They want to extend the app for wider use and invite people to indicate an interest in getting the Dark Sky app in their own country.

Why not sign in and indicate your interest and country – and while you are doing that, just send me a note in our ‘Comments’ section (below) that you have done this!