Cli­mate change threat­ens daily life

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kang Seung-woo [email protected]­re­

Un­til re­cently, cli­mate change had of­ten been per­ceived as hap­pen­ing “over there” and to “some­one else.”

Melt­ing glaciers in the re­mote Arc­tic threat­en­ing the habi­tat of po­lar bears, and El Nino and La Nina were be­lieved to be top­ics for cli­mate sci­en­tists to deal with.

How­ever, the time has ar­rived when the en­vi­ron­men­tal woes are hav­ing an im­pact on the Korean Penin­sula — and much more fre­quently.

More fre­quent ty­phoons

With 21 ty­phoons form­ing this year, seven of them di­rectly af­fected the penin­sula, ty­ing 1950 and 1959 for the largest num­ber in any given year. More no­tice­ably, three made land­fall here in Septem­ber alone — the first time since 1904.

“Due to cli­mate change, sea sur­face tem­per­a­tures in the paths of the ty­phoons have in­creased to 29 de­grees Cel­sius, lead­ing to more trop­i­cal cy­clones,” said Jung Jong­woon, head of the Jeju Is­land­based Na­tional Ty­phoon Cen­ter.

Ac­cord­ing to him, high ocean sur­face tem­per­a­tures that help storms in­ten­sify and the ex­pan­sion of the North Pa­cific an­ti­cy­clone sys­tem re­sulted in this year’s high fre­quency of ty­phoons.

“More than half of the ty­phoons that formed in Au­gust and Septem­ber hit the penin­sula,” Jung said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Korea Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion (KMA), six out of 11 ty­phoons that formed in Au­gust and Septem­ber this year af­fected the penin­sula, com­pared with four out of 13 last year.

In ad­di­tion, the num­ber of ty­phoons that reached the penin­sula in Oc­to­ber has quadru­pled over the past 10 years, lead­ing ex­perts to fore­cast that Korea will see more in­tense and fre­quent storms in that month due to cli­mate change.

In ad­di­tion to the cli­mate cri­sis in­creas­ing the chances of strong ty­phoons, it has also brought heav­ier rain­fall.

“Nowa­days, we have in­creas­ingly had tor­ren­tial rain of over 100 mil­lime­ters per hour and this is due to higher tem­per­a­tures and hu­mid­ity, caused by cli­mate change,” a KMA of­fi­cial said.

Heat wave

In Septem­ber, the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WMO) fore­cast that the five years from 2015 to 2019 will have been the hottest five-year pe­riod ever recorded.

“The five-year pe­riod from 2015 to 2019 is likely to have been the warm­est of any equiv­a­lent pe­riod on record glob­ally, with a 1.1 de­grees Cel­sius global tem­per­a­ture in­crease since the pre-in­dus­trial pe­riod and a 0.2 de­grees in­crease com­pared to the pre­vi­ous five-year pe­riod,” the WMO said in a re­port.

“Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous fiveyear as­sess­ment pe­riod from 2011 to 2015, the cur­rent five-year pe­riod, 2015 to 2019, has seen a con­tin­ued in­crease in car­bon diox­ide (CO2) emis­sions and an ac­cel­er­ated in­crease in the at­mo­spheric concentrat­ion of ma­jor green­house gases (GHGs), with growth rates nearly 20 per­cent higher.”

Worse, Korea is warm­ing more rapidly than other coun­tries as its av­er­age tem­per­a­ture rise and in­creased green­house gas emis­sions are above the global av­er­age.

Ac­cord­ing to the KMA, the coun­try’s av­er­age tem­per­a­ture for the five-year pe­riod was 13.3 de­grees Cel­sius, up 0.3 de­grees from the pre­vi­ous five-year pe­riod.

Its CO2 concentrat­ion last year, mea­sured at the KMA’s Global At­mos­phere Watch Ob­ser­va­tory on An­myeon Is­land in South Chungcheon­g Prov­ince, was 415.2 parts per mil­lion (ppm) — the global CO2 concentrat­ion is on track to reach 410 ppm by the end of 2019. The CO2 concentrat­ion has grown by 2.4 ppm per year here over the past decade, com­pared with the global av­er­age of 2.3 ppm.

Last year, Korea recorded the long­est pe­riod of ex­treme heat when the mer­cury hit 40.3 de­grees Cel­sius in the north­east­ern town of Hongcheon, Gang­won Prov­ince, Aug. 1, the high­est tem­per­a­ture since 1907 when the coun­try be­gan mea­sur­ing weather ac­tiv­ity. In ad­di­tion, the tem­per­a­ture in Seoul also soared to its high­est level in 111 years.

Last Au­gust, the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry an­nounced that the dan­gers of ex­tremely hot weather will rapidly in­crease na­tion­wide over the next decade if the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions fall through.

“The na­tion’s in­creas­ing CO2 concentrat­ion and tem­per­a­ture rises were higher than the global av­er­age, prompt­ing the need for the gov­ern­ment to take ag­gres­sive ac­tions to fight cli­mate change,” KMA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Kim Jong-seok said.

Fish catch

Cli­mate change has taken a toll on fish pop­u­la­tions glob­ally, with the East Sea also fall­ing vic­tim to the cli­mate cri­sis, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study.

Sci­en­tists from Rut­gers Univer­sity pub­lished the study in March say­ing that warm­ing ocean wa­ters had led to an es­ti­mated 4.1 per­cent drop on av­er­age in sus­tain­able catches for many species of fish and shell­fish from 1930 to 2010.

The great­est loss was found in the East Sea, or the Sea of Ja­pan in the study, with an es­ti­mated de­cline of 35 per­cent.

Ac­cord­ing to a Statis­tics Korea re­port on cli­mate change-re­lated fish­ing, re­leased in June 2018, rising ocean tem­per­a­tures have changed what kinds of fish are caught around the penin­sula.

In gen­eral, warm-wa­ter fish, in­clud­ing mack­erel and an­chovy, are be­ing caught more as the pop­u­la­tions of cold-wa­ter species such as pol­lack and Pa­cific saury are fall­ing.

In the East Sea, the amount of pol­lack caught in 1970 was 11,411 tons, but it dras­ti­cally de­clined to 1 ton last year. That of Pa­cific saury also de­creased by 97 per­cent from 22,281 tons to 725 tons dur­ing the same pe­riod.


This Aug. 3, 2018 im­age cap­tured from the web­site of Earth Nullschool, a provider of global vi­su­al­ized weather informatio­n, shows the sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture around the Korean Penin­sula is sim­i­lar to that of ar­eas in the Tropic of Can­cer. Dark red and pur­ple in­di­cate the tem­per­a­ture ranges from 28 de­grees to 31 de­grees Cel­sius, while orange and red mean 23 de­grees Cel­sius to 28 de­grees Cel­sius. The av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of the Korean Penin­sula from 2015 to 2019 was 13.3 de­grees Cel­sius, up 0.3 de­grees from the pre­vi­ous five-year pe­riod.

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