Oct 11, 2013

    Mercury to hit a high in S'pore 'by 2028'

    STARTING around 2028, Singapore will probably be off-the- charts hot - permanently. Other places will soon follow: Mexico City in 2031, Cairo in 2036 and Honolulu in 2043.

    And, eventually, the whole world in 2047.

    "One can think of this year as a kind of threshold into a hot new world from which one never goes back," said Carnegie Institution climate scientist Chris Field. "This is really dramatic."

    A new study on global warming has pinpointed the probable dates for when cities and ecosystems around the world will regularly experience hotter environments the likes of which they have never seen before.

    For dozens of cities, mostly in the tropics, those dates are a generation or less away.

    Unlike previous research, the study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, highlights the tropics more than the polar regions. A 3 deg C change is not much to polar regions, but is dramatic in the tropics, which hold most of the earth's biodiversity.

    To arrive at their projections, the researchers used weather observation, computer models and other data to calculate the date at which every year from then on will be warmer than the hottest year recorded over the last 150 years.

    For example, the world as a whole had its hottest year on record in 2005.

    The new study said that, by the year 2047, every year that follows will probably be hotter than that record-setting scorcher. For Singapore, that could be 36 deg C, a record set in 1998, the hottest in over 60 years, based on government data.

    Eventually, the coldest year in a particular city or region will be hotter than the hottest year in its past.

    Besides discomfort from the searing heat, Singaporeans could face food and water shortages, said Singapore Environment Council executive director Jose Raymond.

    "The areas in which we may be severely affected would be in food supplies, the threat of water shortages...(and) the threat to our biodiversity," Mr Raymond told My Paper.

    "It could also mean that people will move out of Singapore if the temperatures become too extreme, leading to a possible loss of talent."

    A 3 deg C rise in Singapore's temperature could also mean that very heavy storms will become even more frequent and intense, The Straits Times reported last month.

    In the study published on Wednesday, author Camilo Mora and his colleagues said they hope this new way of looking at climate change will spur governments to do something before it is too late.

    The 2047 date is based on continually increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil and natural gases.

    If the world manages to reduce its emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases, the date would be pushed to as late as 2069, according to Dr Mora.

    For now, the author said the world is rushing towards the 2047 date. He forecasts that the unprecedented heat starts in 2020 with Manokwa, Indonesia. Then Kingston, Jamaica.

    There's a five-year margin of error on the estimates.