Depending on whom you asked, Super Typhoon Wipha either exceeded or disappointed expectations. China's local news showed people in northern Shanghai wading through several feet of water and sweeping water out of their shops. Seven people died, and 2.7 million were evacuated. Meanwhile, all I saw from my downtown perch was three days of rain.
Regardless of its strength, however, Wipha marked a turning point in the perception of extreme weather events.
The past year has seen several milestones in government acknowledgement of the effects of climate change. In April, China released a report on the effects of climate change [PDF], forecasting an increase in droughts, floods and desertification, and a decline in agricultural output. And at a press conference in August, China Meteorological Administration official Song Lianchun connected this summer's increase in floods, droughts and heat waves to climate change.
Last Tuesday, as Wipha neared Shanghai, People Online (the People's Daily website) and China Meteorology Times co-produced an online video in which Central Weather Station deputy director Bi Baogui echoes the connections made by Song. (Note: last time I checked, the video wouldn't load. A transcript is here.) Here's a rough translation of key parts:
Host: Can you tell us a little bit about what's special about the typhoons that have touched down in our country in September?
Bi Baogui: The overall characteristics of this year's typhoons -- up to now, there have been 13 typhoons. Looking at the entire year, on the whole the number of typhoons is relatively low. But...these typhoons have been very active. To look at the influential typhoons, there have been four that have affected our country, either by passing through Japan or by touching down in our country. It should be said, going into September, that overall typhoon intensity has been extraordinarily strong....From June of this year until now, overall [atmospheric] circulation has in fact been abnormal. For example, this year the Huai River rose to cataclysmic levels not seen since 1954. When that was over, on the upper reaches of the Yangtze, Chongqing, which last year experienced drought, saw the biggest floods in years...Overall, this year's weather has been extraordinarily abnormal....
Host: You're an expert. What do you think is causing this sort of serious climate change?
Bi Baogi: It should be said that this sort of big change in events, first of all it has intrinsic causes. At the same time, we can't rule out external factors. Global temperatures are rising -- since 1849, overall temperatures have steadily increased. And after temperatures increase, to give an example: if you drop a tea egg in cold water, it won't get hard. It only gets hard when you put it in boiling water. To use this example, after surface temperature increases, it's possible that instability rises -- and as instability rises, the probability that this sort of extreme weather event will occur goes up.
In other words, while it's difficult now to link every single climate change to a specific event, if you look at it from the macro level, as overall temperatures rise, instability increases, and this sort of extreme weather event increases, causing changes in atmospheric circulation.
Tea eggs are eggs boiled in soy sauce and tea, and I don't know much about them other than that they're delicious. Still, this sort of discussion is encouraging. There is a lot of pessimism in the West about China's attitude toward its environment, much of it taking the form of "The Chinese will start buying cars and eating meat, so what can we do?" (I submit as a prime example Thomas Friedman's astonishing column from up-and-coming Dalian published in The New York Times on September 19 -- it's an indictment of development that reads like an endorsement of American excess.) But the more people in China connect extreme weather to their actions, the greater the chance that they will start to do something about it. Typhoons aren't the worst of it, after all: if the sea level rises one meter, more than a third of Shanghai will be under water.
Image: Super Typhoon Wipha approaching the coast of China on the afternoon of September 18, 2007. [link] Credit: NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center.
The reason Red China is getting such extremes of weather of such Biblical proportions is because of their Godless and wholly corrupt Communist leadership. Once the People rise up and institute a Constitutional Republican form of government (What some call "Democracy.") only then will the seven plagues leave them, and the Heavens smile down on them again.