Signs of a changing climate

Last Thursday a giant ice island broke off of the Petermann Glacier in Greenland. Now, this "ice island" is ginormous -- scientists say it's 4 times the size of Manhattan, easily.

This is the first glacier "calving" event (meaning, when a part of a glacier breaks off) in the Arctic since 1962 -- way before we were even around! -- and a certain sign of changing times in the Arctic. Some people are even worried that it will disrupt ship movement around in the Arctic.

"It's so big that you can't prevent it from drifting. You can't stop it," said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.

It's hard to imagine how big this is, no matter how many pictures are shown, so here's one more relation of scale: the glacier contains enough freshwater to keep the Hudson River flowing for more than two years. I hope the comparisons to size and resources around NYC gives some sense of scale.

Also happening around the world:

Pakistan is suffering with the worst monsoons on human record. More than 20 million people have been affected – this is just one face – many left without access to clean water or sufficient food and 4 million people are currently homeless. Humanitarian needs, as well as national security issues, rest upon our global community’s ability to deal with this crisis.

And, over in Russia - extreme heat and drought have left this country ripe for wildfires.

Death rates in Moscow have doubled from 360 to 700 per day. As of Aug. 2, fires had scorched more than 300,000 acres and destroyed 1,500 homes in more than 12 regions.

Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev issued a reaction and call to action as a result: "What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate."

Now, what makes his statement particularly interesting is that it is pretty much an about-face for Russia - a country not known to change its mind easily.

Dimitri Medvedev has denied climate change for a long time. Just last winter, he called the global-warming debate "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects."

These examples of extreme weather, and strong positions by heads of state, are sure signs of a changing climate.