Global warming …fact or fiction?

‘In every month this summer, evaporation has been much higher than the long-term average.’…
Issue date:23 March 2007

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‘In every month this summer, evaporation has been much higher than the long-term average.’

A few weeks back I bumped into a fellow farmer I have not seen for ages. He believes he has some special talent when it comes to the weather. Over a cup of coffee and after the normal moans about Eskom, Telkom and the roads department, he gave me a blow-by-blow account of his reading of the present weather patterns, namely: this summer has been the hottest since the rinderpest; it’s all to do with the bloody coal mines and global warming. The whole place is going to become desert by 2050, and we might as well pack up.

Well, I’ve also been farming for a while. I only started after the rinderpest, but my experience of human nature is that it can’t be trusted when it comes to judging how hot, cold or windy it’s been compared to the past. I’m a sceptic of zealous, home-grown weather prophets, and on more than one occasion have taken delight in proving their reading of a situation wrong.

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However, my friend got me thinking. This summer does seem to have been very hot. Everyone has been complaining. I’ve also felt it, so I decided to have a good look at the weather records. As irrigators, the figure that means the most is the daily millimetres of evaporation. integrates temperature, humidity, radiation and wind, and probably provides the best measure of how the weather feels to plants and people. T he records were a shock.

Every month this summer, evaporation has been much higher than the long-term average. In October it was up 17%; in November up 13%; December up 16%, and January up by a whopping 35%. While temperatures have been close to average, it’s felt so much hotter.

While pondering these figures, my copy of Popular Mechanics arrived, with a thought-provoking article on global warming. The editor wrote: “We are confronted with a flood of terribly earnest articles about atmospheric pollution, melting ice caps, deforestation in the Amazon basin, and the risk to an obscure species of frog … but global warming is happening, and it will change the world, and it won’t be for the better.”

The gist of the article is that the world may be close to a tipping point on global warming, where human perception suddenly shifts from personal denial to personal responsibility. B ut as a small farmer what can I do? The problem is huge and I am so insignificant. What management action can I take to help solve the problem? Let’s think about it this week. Contact Peter Hughes on (013) 745 7303 or e-mail [email protected]. |fw