Mike Ko Personal Portfolio


Home-School Education
Hong Kong

University of Durham
Bachelor of Science
United Kingdom

2017 - 2018
United Kingdom

    Beast from the East a Man-made Monster or Random Anomaly?

         At a time when people were eagerly awaiting the end of winter, the ‘Beast of the East’ swept across Britain and extinguished such hopes with an unexpected cold spell at the end of February. A countrywide blanket of snow and low temperatures brought joy and misery as schools were closed and logistics chaos ensued. The troubles were not over even after the cold front departed as frozen water pipes burst across the land. As normalcy gradually returned, people directed their attention towards the causes of this rare weather. Unsurprisingly, the prime candidate was climate change and there are signs to back it up.

         Essentially, the Artic experienced abnormally high temperatures that subsequently forced cold air across Europe. This “warm air intrusion” used to be rare, occurring in four winters between 1980 and 2010. Yet now it has happened to various extents in all but one of the past five years. Given how much society has been altering the environment, there are certainly good grounds to suspect a link to human-caused climate change.

         To this at least one climate sceptic blogger countered that this was no cause for alarm, simply because it has happened before. Paul Homewood pointed out that comparable freezing conditions occurred regularly in the past, such as in 1976. The implied conclusion was that this year’s conditions were not due to global warming or climate change but some existing natural trends. While it may be true, the subsequent reasoning is not exactly robust. Just because the past ‘spring freezes’ happened naturally does not necessarily mean that climate change has not caused the modern versions. Basic science strongly suggests that greenhouse gases from our cars and power plants will warm the atmosphere and cause climate change. The ultimate question is what kind of changes actually does result.

         Of course, this is not an automatic vindication of climate change’s role in summoning the ‘Beast from the East’. As some scientists have cautioned, the event can be either a short-term anomaly or a part of a new reoccurring trend. The safe answer to the search for a culprit is that we cannot be sure at the moment. The climate is a very large system with a myriad of influencing factors. We know that the climate will probably change, but the final effect is mostly a dynamic but confusing secret. Some areas of the globe might experience one phenomenon while others will simultaneously face the exact opposite. While the general problem has been identified, the finer details will require effort and time to disentangle. Thus it would be foolish to blame our as yet miserable spring on climate change or to absolve us of responsibility immediately. The verdict will have to wait.

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