Recent heat-wave sign of global warming?

Photo: CTK

Although according to the calendar it was still officially spring, a heat-wave hit the Czech Republic last week with temperatures shooting up to the mid-30s. Every year Czech weathermen record more and more of what they call "tropical days", that is days with maximum daytime temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. For at least the past decade the Czech Republic has been experiencing fewer ice days - days when the temperature stays below freezing point. Is this only a random quirk of nature or a more profound change of the country's climate? Pavla Horakova has more.

Hails, Photo: CTK
Although gradual climate change is to some extent a natural process, human activity has been interfering with weather patterns for more than a century. The warming of the atmosphere is blamed on certain man-made gases, referred to as greenhouse gases, which allow incoming solar radiation to reach the surface of the Earth but prevent infrared radiation from flowing back. In this way the gases create what is commonly known as the greenhouse effect. But how do greenhouse gases affect the Czech Republic. Jaroslava Kalvova is from the Department of Meteorology and Environment Protection at Charles University.

"During the 20th century, the temperature was rising. It was rising in two distinctive stages - between the years 1910 and 1945 and then again from 1976 until today. In between those two periods we had the 1970s - with genuine winters and plenty of snow. It's unfortunate for winter-sports lovers that winter temperatures are rising again, and there are fewer and fewer days with temperatures below zero."

While Czechs are generally content with the milder winters of the last decade, summer heat-waves are less agreeable. But the climate does not affect only human beings. Plants and animals are more sensitive to temperature than humans and they respond to differences smaller than one degree Celsius. Such a minute change, which you or I hardly notice, can cause plants to bloom and birds to lay eggs earlier than usual. In the end a tiny rise in temperature can affect the whole food chain, and also agriculture. Vaclav Cilek from the Institute of Geology of Charles University studies global climate changes. Is the rest of Europe experiencing similar shifts of temperatures?

Photo: CTK
"The climate in Europe is changing. There are likely to be major changes especially in Southern Europe. It's already happening that droughts, more dry seasons take place. The harvesting of crops is likely to be more difficult. The frequency of heat-waves is getting higher. Northern Europe and Scandinavia is getting a little bit warmer but the precipitation is higher."

That was Vaclav Cilek from the Institute of Geology ending that report on climate changes in the Czech Republic. And if you'd like to hear more on that topic including some future trends we can expect, listen to this week's Talking Point on Tuesday, June 25.