Sunday, 6 September 2015

Hotter than ever, drier than ever…

Gone is probably one of the hottest summers in the history of Poland. Gone are the tiresome heatwaves. Gone is the thermal discomfort we have endured for weeks.

I am fond of statistics, in particular of weather statistics, hence I have taken the troubled to quantify August 2015 which was the warmest August in the history of temperature measurements in Warsaw - average temperature reached +23.0C, beating August 1992 when it stood at +21.5C and was the second warmest month in the history of Warsaw since 1880, after memorable July 2006, when mean temperature was +23.5C.

The chart below displays quite well the temperature anomalies witnessed last month in Warsaw. Over virtually the entire month average temperature was above mean temperature for specific days, with considerable deviations at the end of the first decade of the month and in its very last days.


The month had a misleadingly cool commencement. On 1 August I was setting off to the mountains on 4 a.m. and outside it was quite chilly, somewhere behind Nadarzyn car thermometer showed +5C. I thought I could do with winter tyres as well…On the same day temperature shot up and two days later exceeded +30C.

The heat wave according to the phenomenon’s pure definition lasted 11 days, since each day from 3 August 2015 to 13 August 2015 maximum temperature recorded was above +30C, and was the longest heat wave observed in Warsaw ever (oddly enough the average number of days in a year when temperature is above +30 is mere five). Had the definition been adjusted down by one Celsius degrees, the heat wave would have lasted incessantly for 15 days, until 17 August.

The heat wave reached its climax on Saturday, 8 August 2015, when temperature rose to +36.6C, 0.4C short of heat record set exactly two years earlier. The day was followed by record-hot night, when temperature did not drop below +22C even before dawn. The average temperature over 24-hour interval stood at +29.2, far warmer than in Athens, Rome or in Madrid on an average day in July.

Days between 19 August 2015 and 26 August 2015 brought blissful relief from heat, with day-time highs in mid +20Cs and lows below +15C. Had it not been for that colder period, August 2015 would have gone down as the hottest month ever.

Last days of August 2015 and 1 September 2015 brought another influx of unusual heat, with temperatures in Warsaw reaching +34.7C and +34.5C on respectively 31 August 2015 and 1 September 2015, with the latter breaking the previous heat record for September set on 7 September 2008 (+30.7C).

On top of this deficiency of precipitation also made itself felt – rain fell twice in August 2015 – on 16 August and on 25 August with the two showers being a drop in the ocean that should lash down from heavens to bring back hydrological balance in Poland.

Abnormally high temperatures have given nearly everyone a rough ride. As experts point out, it is not the intensity, but length of the heat wave that determines its tiresomeness for people. Hence three days with temperatures peaking at +37C are more bearable than two weeks of heat reaching only +32C each day.

Despite weather conditions hazardous for health, number of reported diseases caused by heat was not appallingly high, especially if cases of drowning in rivers and lakes are counted out.

Whoever could, took shelter from the heat in air-conditioned interiors. With increasing number of offices, other public buildings and flats having air-con put in and turned on, electricity consumption soared, reaching levels last observed in record-cold first decade of February 2012 (when temperatures at night dropped well below –20C). In the meantime, power-generating blocks in power plants could not be cooled properly (due to shortage of water and its too high temperature) and this resulted in planned blackouts. Several industrial off-takers faced restrictions on consumption of electricity, something that was just a matter of time and what happened for the first time since the ultimate downfall of planned economy in 1990.

Drought also closed the gates to the forests for tourists, on account of extraordinary peril of fire. And last, but no least, many trees began to shed their yellow leaves far earlier than usual. Despite the heat, it felt like autumn. Yesterday, when I cycled via Las Kabacki, paths were covered with a blanket of leaves, something which ought to be observed in late September.

The problem with the heat in Poland is that an average Pole has no chance to shield it. In winters, when temperatures reach –25C you simply stay at home, keep warm (unless your housing conditions are dire) and only the thought of the bottom line on your heating bill wipes the smile off your face. In summer, an average Pole needs to withstand temperature of +30C inside their dwelling. While in shopping malls and modern offices and in cars air-conditioning is nearly always in place (what an incentive to stay overtime), residential housing still lacks it on larger scale, but given the direction of climate changes, air-conditioning will not be just a luxury, but a must, allowing one to survive the summer comfortably. These musts, while once they grow prevalent, will boost energy consumption again… Summer electricity bills might soon become the price to pay for lower heating bills in milder winters…

And what is about to ensue thereafter? Today temperature fails to creep above +17C, it is astonishingly chilly if we bear in mind just five days ago it was +34.5C. Weather patterns do not tend to recur, therefore record-hot August might to followed by: very warm autumn or a very cold autumn, or a typical autumn, or by any combination of the three. Long-term numerical forecasts foresee an anomalously mild winter, while some signs wildlife and plants send to us indicate a harsh winter ahead.

My own tolerance for heat somewhat decreased this year. In 2012, 2013 and 2014 I actually did not mind it when temperature was above +30C. I remember well walking around the office around midday on 8 August 2013. Temperature was +36C, I was wearing suit trousers and long-sleeve shirt with pulled up sleeves and felt no specific desire to rush to the air-conditioned office. This year even in the temperature of +30C I could sit idle, have nearly nothing on and soak with sweat. There were several night when I could not sleep a wink because of the heat. Drained of energy, I began to feel sympathy with Greeks whose laziness is to some extent grounded in the climate they fail to endure.

In the meantime my holiday plans have gone down the drain :(. The travel companions, while I made the reservation and reached out for money to make a confirmatory payment, dropped off, while our destination, Hungary, was invaded by scores of ruffians (pardon the expression) and actually we would be in a quandary, wondering how the situation would unfold. While it is politically correct to take pity on refugees and sympathise with humans who had to flee their war-inflicted homelands, I argue it is advisable to ask ourselves whether not only we can afford to play host to refugees (the answer is clear), but whether those people would assimilate into our civilisation. As a nation, Poles would respect their culture, religion (unless they are lunatic Muslims attempting to wage a war against the rotten West), etc., but in return they would need to adjust to customs of the country which offers them asylum. Frankly speaking, I do not embrace a prospect of thousands of unemployed mouths to feed inhabiting refugee camps or irate hooligans vandalising public infrastructure or robbing trucks with food (as they allegedly did in Hungary), exhibiting their anger with the fact Europe fails to greet hordes of immigrants with open arms.

This may be unpopular, but the influx of migrant to Europe, stemmed or not, is the price to pay for attempting to spread democracy in areas of world where dictatorship would simply prove better. Democracy is by far the best political system, provided a society has reaches the proper level of development. Guys from the United States who excel at breaking out wars thousands of miles from their borders should also realise it.

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