Reaction flies over mock forecast

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Norway’s state meteorologists prepared a mock weather forecast for a day in December 2050 and reaction to it has been swift. “We didn’t mean to scare anyone,” said state meterologist Bente Wahl. “Just show the facts,” about what climate change can mean, even in the not-too-distant future.

State meteorologist had a scary weather forecast for a day in 2050 that brought the climate change problem into Norwegians' living rooms on Sunday. PHOTO: yr.no/NRK

State meteorologist Bente Wahl had a scary weather forecast for a December day in 2050 that brought the climate change problem into Norwegians’ living rooms on Sunday. PHOTO: yr.no/NRK

Wahl, a popular weather expert on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), was selected to present the forecast, which mostly followed the format of the current weather report aired on NRK’s nightly nationwide newscast Dagsrevyen.

“In eastern Norway, you can mow your lawn in time for Christmas,” Wahl reported in the mock forecast. “In the west, people must evacuate.” The forecast showed photos of Bergen’s central city square submerged under at least a meter of water after severe flooding. The only snow in the country was at elevations well over 1,000 meters.

Last week’s real-life floods in the mountains not far from Bergen were so violent and caused so much damage, after an unusually warm autumn and hot summer this year, that the meteorologists were inspired to realistically look into the future. Using their reams of weather statistics and tracing trends over recent decades, they predicted what the situation in Norway will be like 36 years from now, if temperatures continue to rise at their current pace.

Hurricanes, floods and rockslides
The end result that Wahl duly reported, as if she was reporting a normal forecast like those broadcast daily, included hurricanes along Norway’s west coast, extreme downpours in southern Norway, avalanche and rockslide danger in Northern Norway and hot, mild weather in and around Oslo in the southeast. Temperatures reached as high as 37C  (nearly 100F) in Oslo and 40C (over 100F) in the mountain valley town of Nesbyen.

Temperatures actually did rise nearly that high this past summer, as Norway baked in its warmest July and August on record. The warm, mild weather has continued into the autumn, with unusual double-digit temperatures even now in early November. Just 20 years ago, it was common to have snow on the ground by now.

“We want to really show people how the weather can be in the future,” Wahl told yr.no, state broadcaster NRK’s popular weather site that’s run in conjunction with the state meteorological institute. “There’s really nothing new that comes forth in our forecast, just things told in a different way.”

UN climate report reaction
The mock forecast was also a reaction to the latest UN climate report, and NRK, which aired it on its evening newscast Sunday, said the response has been overwhelming. “What’s nice is that 95 percent of the reaction is positive,” Kamilla Pedersen of the Meteorological Institute told NRK. “We wanted to put climate issues on the agenda and it worked.”

The mock forecast comes just a day before the government starts negotiations over its state budget for 2015 that critics say falls short of providing enough funding and programs to help reverse climate change. Even the government’s support parties in parliament are calling for tougher measures including more money for trains and public transport, much higher fuel taxes and more money for renewable energy projects.

Norway, which likes to flaunt an environmentally responsible image, is in a particularly awkward position because of its oil and gas industry. It arguably keeps contributing to climate change, but the country’s economy still relies on it. Calls continue to go out to reduce exploration and production activity instead of sending money to preserve rain forests in other parts of the world. Critics claim Norway must dramatically cut is own carbon emissions along with all other countries, not least from its North Sea oil installations. Instead, state oil company Statoil unveiled the start-up of its new huge offshore oil field, Johan Castrup.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund