What the coming climate has in store for us…
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As says Alexander Makarov, in his opinion column published in the Vedomosti newspaper, climate change is rooted in natural processes, which humanity is unable to stop but has an opportunity to slow them down, calculate and reduce their probable negative effects.

The data resulting from the analysisof ancient ice more than 400,000 years old that was lifted from an ancient glacier beneath the Vostok Station revealed that the climate during that period was similar to the one occurring today. “We can say that we live in a similar interglacial epoch. We are now in the middle of a warm period of one of interglacial phases occurring on the Earth over and over again at approximately 100,000 year intervals. It is a natural process, and the main question is its pace,” the expert notes.

According to him, the climate change processes are of cyclical nature. “There are periods of cooling and warming, glacial and interglacial. The most noticeable changes occurred during the ending of glacial epochs, transition from the maximum of the next glaciation to the next interglaciation. The planet’s temperature during those periods previously increased by about 5° C and the sea level rose by 100-120 metres, which led to flooding of vast areas of land,” he adds.

At the same time, the research has shown that today we have rapid changes ever observed on the Earth. “This strikingly coincides with development of our economic activities. It is greenhouse gases, or to be exact, their atmospheric concentration changes that accelerate and intensify the cyclic processes,” Alexander Makarov emphasises.

To our regret, it is beyond humanity to stop climate changes, but we are able to slow them down, we can try to calculate and reduce possible negative consequences. If we let things go on their own, the increase in the CO2 concentration is sure to intensify the climatic transformation. This will be followed by intensive ice melting, change of the global ocean level and flood over large areas of land,” he adds.

The containment mechanisms are not a secret: it is necessary to develop green technologies, renewable and alternative energy, lessen the impact of industrial and other economic activities, make them more energy efficient and preserve forests. All these measures will help to clean up the planet and improve ecological situation. The most alarming factor is global ocean level rise. A large number of infrastructure facilities and coastal settlements would be at risk, but we have to prepare for these changes, calculate and minimise the risks, make use of the situation and the time lag we’ve got,” Alexander Makarov adds.

According to the recent observations, the rate of climate change and its consequences are going to differ from region to region. For example, the Arctic will warm 2-3 times faster than the global average, as warming will reduce the area of snow and ice reflecting the Sun’s rays.

Summers in the Arctic will be completely sea-ice-free in some years by about the middle of the century. Moreover, it may become the norm by the end of the century. In winters, ice will freeze in any case, but its thickness will be 1-2 metres – about the same as we have now on the rivers and lakes in the country’s north. Ice sheets, such as Greenland’s, will melt more slowly, but the process is also irreversible. In Antarctica, the situation is different: ice may even remain in some areas, and decrease somewhere. The total amount of ice will decrease, but if no catastrophic collapse of the ice sheet of West Antarctica occurs, Antarctica ice cover will remain on the continent during the next 300 years,” the expert explains.

If the scenario is unfavourable, the sea level may rise by 1-1.5 metres by the end of the century. Under a more optimistic one, warming will be 1.5°C by the end of the century. In this case, we can expect water rise by about 60 cm. “But even this level is enough for making a serious impact on the coastal zones: the risk zones are territories at the height of 0 to 10 metres above the sea level. Here we consider not only the level in a calm state. It is important to consider extreme water rises, for example, during tsunamis and hurricanes,” he warns.

Ocean levels will not rise uniformly everywhere – water rise will be more noticeable in the tropics, and less – in northern latitude regions. The entire ecosystem will change. Equatorial zones are going to experience higher negative impact from climate change processes. In addition to flood over large areas, side effects are also possible, for example, crop failures due to droughts in some regions and crop diseases.

But not all changes will be negative, a lot will change for the better. “Wetlands will appear in permafrost areas, and later, forests would appear there. Taiga would appear instead of desert tundra. For example, the climate in St. Petersburg might become milder. Maybe, its residents will have to put up with snowless winters, but agricultural conditions in the area will become much more favourable. Warming will open up new logistical opportunities, and the Northern Sea Route is a good example here,” Alexander Makarov adds.

The Arctic climate is the most sensitive to changes in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Having no hydrometeorological information from the Arctic zone, we are unable to make long-term forecasts. A simple example: comparison of the results of modern observations with the archival data demonstrates a steady upward trend in the permafrost temperatures over the past 20-30 years, which means that as time goes on, stability of all the structures built in these territories may disrupt,” Alexander Makarov writes.

The model of the permafrost monitoring system our institute offers can solve this issue. It will allow us to collect data on the state of cryosphere at 140 points, almost in real time. The data obtained will make it possible to reduce the risks from possible destruction of various objects in the Arctic zone and, as a consequence, avoid ecological disasters. Building an early, proactive warning and a response system can and should begin in the Arctic zone. This is probably the most urgent task for climatologists around the world, he summarises.

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