reposted | 03.01.2007 21:47 | Ecology
Published: 29 December 2006
It has been a hot year. The average temperature in Britain for 2006 was higher than at any time since records began in 1659. Globally, it looks set to be the sixth hottest year on record. The signs during the past 12 months have been all around us. Little winter snow in the Alpine ski resorts, continuing droughts in Africa, mountain glaciers melting faster than at any time in the past 5,000 years, disappearing Arctic sea ice, Greenland's ice sheet sliding into the sea. Oh, and a hosepipe ban in southern England.
You could be forgiven for thinking that you've heard it all before. You may think it's time to turn the page and read something else. But you'd be wrong. 2006 will be remembered by climatologists as the year in which the potential scale of global warming came into focus. And the problem can be summarised in one word: feedback.
During the past year, scientific findings emerged that made even the most doom-laden predictions about climate change seem a little on the optimistic side. And at the heart of the issue is the idea of climate feedbacks - when the effects of global warming begin to feed into the causes of global warming. Feedbacks can either make things better, or they can make things worse. The trouble is, everywhere scientists looked in 2006, they encountered feedbacks that will make things worse - a lot worse.
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