2016-01-24 env science

Findings of GCUF researchers are coming true during these days of climate change

Department of Environmental Sciences & Engineering at GCUF is engaged in multidisciplinary research. Researchers of this department are exploiting the phenomena of phytoremediation, biodegradation, and climate change among others. Phytoremediation is a low cost cleanup technique comprising direct use of living green plants for in-situ (in place) removal of contaminants from soils and surface waters. Biodegradation is the chemical dissolution of materials by bacteria, fungi, or other biological means. Climate change is variability in the statistical distribution of weather patterns when the change lasts for an extended period of time. In other words, it may refer to a change in average weather conditions. Odd weather patterns cause shifting of seasons, weather complexities, and resultantly high values of Heat Index.

The group working on climate change publishes in the journals edited by the American Society of Meteorology – journal of Theoretical & Applied Climatology and journal of Earth Interactions (Abbas, 2013, Abbas et al., 2014, Abbas et al., 2016a & 2016b). Findings of this research for major cities of Punjab include that over the past 30 years, the regionally averaged occurrence of extreme cold (10th percentile) nights and days has decreased by 24 nights per decade and 21 days per decade, respectively. Occurrence of extreme hot (90th percentile) nights and days has increased by 4 nights per decade and 1 day per decade, respectively. The number of summer days (when the day maximum temperature is more than 25 degree Celsius) has increased by almost 3 days per decade on average for Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Faisalabad, and Bahawalnagar. Multan was the only city where the number of summer days has declined by 5 days per decade. Regionally averaged increase in tropical nights (when the night maximum temperature is more than 20 degree Celsius) was 8 nights per decade. Therefore, over the past 50 years 15 summer days and 40 summer nights were added in our calendar.

These findings depict a seasonal shift in Punjab which is being experienced now-a-days. For example, among the last three months of the Lunar Punjabi calendar, i.e., Poh, Magh, and Phaggan that start during mid of December, January, and February, respectively the first two are historically the coldest months of a year. This year, Poh went normal (not extremely cold) and ended on January 15 while we are experiencing the extreme cold weather since the start of Magh (with at least a shift of 25 days). Fog, which is a resulting phenomenon of extreme cold days/nights and presence of high humidity accompanied by slow breeze has been historically observed during December in Punjab. The current shift has brought it to us during January now. Those who are in fourth or fifth decades of their age may remember in the twilight of their minds the occurrence of heat waves (hot winds or the Loo) during early May every year. As dictated by the reported research findings we do not come across Loo until mid June when monsoon season starts in Indo-Pak sub-continent. The feel-like effect of such combination of weather conditions can be fatal to populations of slums (Kachi Abaadi areas) of the big cities since the high values of Heat Index are computed from a multiple effect of high temperature of June-July-August and increased relative humidity potentially to be sourced from late monsoon in this region. Researchers of the Department of Environmental Sciences & Engineering are exploiting optimum stages of Heat Index in the slums of Faisalabad in order to be able to recommend to the city and district government for adoption mitigation strategies including planting of good number of trees in vulnerable areas.