World Meteorological Day, which occurs today, coincides with apologies from the Beijing Meteorology Bureau for delivering inaccurate weather forecasts that left residents unprepared for much lower temperatures than predicted.
At the same time, there are far greater grounds for concern over long-term global warming than over a few unexpectedly chilly days.
The variables in weather, intensified by what we humans have done to the planet, are evidence that meteorology still has a long way to go before we will be able to catch even the minor changes of weather for the benefit of our life and work.
"Polar Meteorology: Understanding Global Impacts" is the theme for this year's World Meteorological Day. It is of deep significance in several dimensions.
Our knowledge of the Arctic and Antarctic is far from sufficient, although research on both poles started more than 100 years ago.
Changes at higher latitudes have significant impacts on all ecosystems and on all human societies, regardless of their location. And human activities in densely-populated regions impact the Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems.
The discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole and its growth have helped us realize the impact of human activities on atmospheric changes, as have findings on both poles' melting glaciers, sea ice and permafrost.
These discoveries help us predict weather changes in the near future. They also serve as a warning that we must exercise constraint elsewhere on earth to slow the speed of weather change and, hopefully, to reverse the damage.
Research indicates that the earth's global surface temperature increased by approximately 0.6 C over the past century. Scientists estimate that the globe's average surface temperatures will rise by 1.4 to 5.8 C in the next 100 years.
As a result, the melting of the ice at both poles will cause the sea level to rise, inundating some low-lying areas.
Global warming is proved to be the culprit, caused by the emission of greenhouse gases.
This day should serve as a reminder to all of us that what we do now will have an impact on the world's weather, and this change could be a matter of life and death.
(China Daily March 23, 2007)