Witness to history

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Friday, March 28, 2014


FOR us in the Visayas, 2013 was a year of living dangerously. And yet we leave 2013 and live again in 2014.

We are living proof of what Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor quipped, “I’m a survivor – a living example of what people can go through and survive.”

We have survived Yolanda, lived to tell our stories how we grappled with Typhoon Yolanda. We Visayans have become living witnesses to history, the way our parents and grandparents witnessed the horrors of World War II, and survived to tell the next generation how we survived the killer mega storm.

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And Yolanda is exactly the kind of horror to share with the next generation.

Said the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations’ authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and climate, Yolanda tops the list of key climate events in 2013.
The WMO report said the extreme weather events of 2013 could not be attributed to naturally occurring phenomena, such as El Niño and La Niña, which are known to cause disasters like droughts and floods around the world.

“Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change,” argued WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud.

“In November, Typhoon Haiyan became one of the strongest storms on record to ever make landfall anywhere on the globe, with maximum 10-minute wind speeds reaching 230 kilometers per hour prior to landfall,” the WMO report said.

The problem, however, is that Yolanda forebodes not the end of megastorms but the omen of dire things to come.

For one thing, the WMO report said 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth-warmest year on record, “continuing the long-term global warming trend.”
Globally, there were 94 storms in 2013 (wind speeds equal to or greater than 63 kph), higher than in 2012 (84 storms), 2011 (74 storms), and 2010 (67 storms), it said.

The Western North Pacific Ocean basin recorded a total of 31 storms, above the 1981-2010 average of 26 and well above the most recent decadal average (2001-2010) of 23, making this the most active season since 2004.

Of these storms, 13 strengthened into typhoons, including Yolanda and Typhoon “Usagi” (locally named Odette), which was one of the strongest cyclones globally to have formed in 2013, with 10-minute wind speeds reaching 204 kph.

The WMO said 2013 once again “demonstrated the dramatic impact of droughts, heat waves, floods and tropical cyclones on people and property in all parts of the planet.”

“The warming of our oceans has accelerated and at lower depths. More than 90 percent of the excess energy trapped by greenhouse gases is stored in the oceans. Levels of these greenhouse gases are at record levels, meaning that our atmosphere and oceans will continue to warm for centuries to come. The laws of physics are non-negotiable,” he said.

Jarraud said governments must continue “strengthening preparedness and early warning systems, and implementing a multi-hazard approach to disaster risk reduction.”

Thus, the story that we will tell the children of the future will not be historical lessons but of current events that they too will tell their children and grandchildren.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 28, 2014.

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