As we traveled through Asia we encountered many stories of unusual weather, and heard more often than not that “the weather is not normal for this time of year.” To me it is quite obvious that something is rapidly changing in our world which is affecting the weather. Whether it is due to global warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is debatable, and for a long time I myself was not entirely convinced that the changes were not part of a natural cycle. However, it is well supported that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and is capable of trapping heat, and there is absolutely no denying that we are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so even if global warming is a natural cycle we must be contributing to its increased rate which is rather frightening.
The following is a compilation of the unusual weather stories from our recent travels.
- Hoi An, Vietnam, February 08–It was so unusually cold in Hoi An that a local woman was wearing 5 layers.
- Hue, Vietnam, February 08–We were so cold in Hue that we had to go the market to buy warm clothes. Though Vietnam does experience cool weather, this is the coldest weather Hue has ever seen (according to the locals), and the city was not prepared for such cold weather. There is no heating in the buildings, so we slept with all of our clothes, hats and 3 blankets.
- Hue, Vietnam, February 08–Our tour guide Tam hadn’t seen the sun in 40 days. The longest he could ever remember not seeing the sun prior to this season was for 2 weeks (to give further credit to Tam, he is a numbers guy–he rattles off precise distances between 2 towns, populations of cities all over the world and dates like he was an encyclopedia).
- Kecil Perhentian, Malaysia, February 08–The dive shop owners said they planned to open on February 1st because by then the rainy season is usually over. We were there on March 11th, and it was still too rainy and wavy to go to all but 2 dive sites. The locals said that normally by this time of year the bay where we were staying was completely calm, but the waves and current were so strong that we didn’t even venture into the water.
- South China, February 08–Though we were not in China, news came while we were traveling that snow had hit South China. This region of China never sees snow and was consequently ill prepared to handle it. The result was fatalities and riots.
- We met a couple from Holland that said they used to have 4 very distinct seasons, but now they just blend together.
- Singapore, March 08–It was supposed to be the hot and dry season in Singapore, but we were caught in several torrential downpours, and our friend Jai confirmed that it has been raining unusually often for that time of year.
- Kinabatangan River Basin, Malaysia, March 08–Usually, the pygmy elephants come around Uncle Tans camp (where we stayed) in March, and the camp is flooded from December to February. This year however, the elephants came in January and it was flooded when we were there. Thanks a lot global warming! I could have seen elephants!
- Fellow divers from England explained that they used to get snow in the winter, but now it is very rare. Additionally, unusually high temperatures in the summer have caused fatalities in the elderly. I even read an article on the BBC that someone found an avocado growing in London–very unusual!
- Derawan, Indonesia, April 08–We experienced super strong currents while diving, so strong in fact that we had to abort 2 dives at different sites. Our dive master said that in 10 years of diving he has never seen currents like that at those sites.
- Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, April 08–It rained every afternoon while we were in Ubud. Many locals commented on how unusual the weather was since it was supposed to be the dry season. Our friend Wayan said, “Maybe the rainy season is becoming the dry season and the dry season becoming the rainy season.” Having rain this time of year is not good for the rice because only young rice needs a lot of water. This time of year is supposed to be harvest season when the older rice needs to dry out.
- Phang Nga, Thailand, May 08–Though it isn’t supposed to be the rainy season until the end of May or June, it poured down rain every afternoon.
- Myanmar, May 08–While in the neighboring country of Thailand, we got news that a cyclone hit Myanmar and killed over 100,000 people and left 2 million people homeless.
- Khao Sok, Thailand, May 08–Hiking through Khao Sok National Park, we were soaked to the bone, and it poured down rain pretty much all day everyday. Though Khao Sok is a rainforest, the rainy season is not supposed to start until June.
In addition to our travels, we have experienced some unusual weather at home in Colorado. For example, for the past 2 years we have had white Christmases. All of the Christmases in my memory were of very pleasant weather (which is surprising in itself, and a white Christmas does seem more appropriate, but it is nonetheless unusual for here). The winter before last, Colorado had 3 back-to-back blizzards, and the snow in Boulder didn’t melt until March. Usually snow in Boulder only lasts a few days. Though Colorado is no stranger to snow, this amount of snow was record breaking, causing airports, roads, and stores to shut down for days. Farmers lost thousands of cattle that were essentially buried in all of the snow. This past winter was similar in the amount of snow it saw though it was not quite as drastic but still unusual. It seems that we are getting more heavy, wet snow and up-slopes in the winter that we normally don’t see until spring. It is the kind of storm we get in the spring when it is warm enough to quickly melt what falls. Coming when the days are still cooler and shorter, the snow just doesn’t go away. Meanwhile, relatives in NY are having unusually mild winters.
Some may argue that these accounts of unusual weather patterns are simply climate change, part of a natural cycle of change and not related to global warming or the carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere. Cold weather in Vietnam and more snow in Colorado seem to actually contradict the theory of global warming. However, evidence suggests that the overall warming of the earth is causing ocean currents to change resulting in unusually cold weather some places, or more extreme weather such as Hurricane Katrina or the cyclone in Myanmar. If you need more convincing, check out the recent National Geographic Magazine dedicated entirely to global warming and climate change and also The Inconvenient Truth.
And it is an “inconvenient truth.” Even for me it is hard to accept that I might have to give up my passion for travel. I feel so guilty for flying–in fighting gravity, planes are putting ridiculous amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The problem of global warming seems overwhelming when you witness a sea of motorcycles and burning trash in developing countries or when you are stuck in traffic for 2 hours on your way to work here in this country and you wonder how you are going to convince all of these people to give up their cars or their current lifestyles.
But global warming is going to have serious consequences. Tropical diseases could spread; plants and animal species could go extinct. The places that we have just visited and loved may be completely submerged if we don’t change something soon. Something has to be done.