Global warming primes technical timebomb

Wednesday 11th May 2011 by theWeather Club

In our increasingly technical world where the capabilities of the mobile phone and the iPad are becoming increasingly embedded into our lives, the first warning bells are being sounded of potential trouble ahead. Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary has warned that climate change will disrupt Wi-Fi connections, cause regular power failures and lead railway lines to buckle unless Britain spends billions of pounds. She claimed that intense rainfall, droughts and heat waves in the next 50 to 100 years because of man-made global warming were priming a technical time bomb.

"Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies." The minister said. "But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals."

While the effects of rain and hot weather on the transport network are understood by many the effects of climatic conditions on the Wi-Fi network will come as a surprise. It seems that the distances that a Wi-Fi signal can travel start to fall once temperatures hit a certain level and then continue to fall as temperatures rise. Heavy downfalls of rain can also affect the ability of a Wi-Fi device to lock on to a signal.

The comments came within the context of speeches about preparing the country's infrastructure for the climate challenges ahead. Ms. Spelman was speaking at Blackfriars Station in London, which is currently being fitted with solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems to protect against future power and water disruptions. The minister confirmed that the UK is already investing £200 billion over the next five years. But continued that this will not be enough to stop economic impacts of climate change if it is invested in the wrong areas.

"£200 billion is expected to be invested in the UK's infrastructure over the next five years." She explained. "But if the facilities which support our society cannot cope with floods, droughts or freezing winters then that money will have been wasted.

A cross-government report published today outlines how the planning and design of new infrastructure needs to take into account the impact of climate change – especially as many projects will still be in place in 50 to 100 years time. Amongst the things being considered is the digital communication network which is vital to the prosperity of a 21st century economy.  However the network increasingly appears to be just as susceptible to a changing climate as the more traditional infrastructures.