Hot and Cold in Tajikistan

By Rick Jelliffe
February 17, 2010

Oxfam International has just released a campaign report Reaching Tipping Point: Climate Change and Poverty in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan has been rated the country least likely (of the former Iron Curtain or Eurasian countries) to be able to adapt to climate change. Superficially, when you look at the annual mean temperatures, there seems to have only been very little change in the recorded 65 years: at most just over 1 degree in a couple places.

Tajikistan may be a good example that what is on average global warming may in fact have very different local effects. (The recent snowstorms in the US were, apparently, caused by high oceanic temperatures: more evaporation = wetter air = more precipitation = more snow, for example. The recent Chinese snowstorms too.)

The small increase in mean annual temperatures is coming at the same time as very severe winters: which means that the non-winter temperatures must have risen: more days absolutely colder than usual and more days relatively hotter than usual.

"It was the first time that there was this kind of cold weather in 2008 - around minus 20. Before, there was not this kind of weather. This is climate change. The cold winter affected the plants which are mostly sub-tropical in this region - figs, pomegranates and grapes were frozen," reports Boboev Tillo, Director of Botanical Garden, Kulyab.

The graphs on page 6 are fairly, well, graphic: in one area in western Tajikistan the number of days with extremely high temperatures is double that of 50 years ago; in one area in the South, the number of semi-days with heavy rain has doubled.

The Oxfam report focuses a lot on water: rain, snow and glaciers. The Tajiks expect all small glaciers to disappear by 2050, if they continue receding at the current rate: the report provides some balance to the recent Glaciergate beat-up (which concerns an obscure and incorrect paragraph on Vol2 p493 of the UN IPCC compendium report on climate change.)

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