January 9, 2007

Safe To Blog About the Weather

This weather is really strange.

People go about their daily lives and joke “how about this global warming” but you don’t really hear the weatherfolk giving much explanation about why the weather today is so warm and non-wintery.

Still, education about global warming need not be an anomaly for a TV forecaster. It should become part of the routine, when the weather is strange, to remind us that our fragile planet is in peril.

“Global warming” is probably a fairly abstract subject for most people, which is why people joke about it. A particular heat wave isn’t caused by global warming, even though that’s when we tend to think about the phenomenon and joke about it with our friends.

But this latest spate of warmth seems like a strong reminder. If not specifically a global warming warning, it ought to tell you something about the nature of weather. Nature (and weather) doesn’t care what you think the temperature ought to be.

There are a number of sensitive systems that keep our weather relatively stable. But those systems can change. And their changes may not result in subtle differences in our weather. Instead, we could see a sudden shift in what is “normal.”

Should you be worried about climate change? I don’t know. Do you worry that the weather might be hostile in the future? Do you worry about anything? Do you feel we owe anything to future generations?

I guess you have to decide.

Posted by James at January 9, 2007 1:04 PM
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I always thought that the wrong battle was being fought. Its easily provable that global warming is happening, just look at the ice core record. The big question is wether or not we're having any noticable effect. I saw one graph that shows we're right at the peak of a typical whatever-year spike in temperatures (give or take 10 years), but that its steeper than it ever has been, beginning right about when the Industrial Revolution started.

Posted by: bob McCown at January 9, 2007 2:03 PM

Global warming or no, I hate this weather.

I bought my Christmas tree while wearing a T-shirt. That plus the lack of snow ensured I had absolutely no Christmas spirt. We put lights on the tree and one little ornament. It was all I could do to write out cards this year.

Plus, it's been hard to sleep. Too warm! I'm sick of swapping down comforters. It's January and I'm sleeping with the windows open.

I really hate this weather. The only positive is that my heating bills will be smaller this winter.

GAH! Where is the snow?!

Posted by: Patti M. at January 9, 2007 2:21 PM

I'm worried about climate change too. But this eastern warm spell is due to El Nino causing the jet stream to travel farther north than usual, no? It probably happens once a decade or so.

Posted by: Mike at January 9, 2007 2:59 PM

I saw something that said this weather pattern we are stuck in has more to do with a weird blockage in what the gulf stream is doing this year than anything else (normally it dips down in the winter and draws down arctic air this year it isn't doing that, I think, if i remember correctly). these things have always happened and its' not easy to say that any given event or even year is due to gloabl warming but the trend overall over many years certainly indicates something is up. The general consensus seems to be that the extremes will be more extreme. So next year we might be bitching about too many days of sub zero temps and 10 feet of snow. (Anchorage is breaking all kinds of records for snowfall this year).

Do I worry about it? I wouldn't say worry but I definately think about it and would love to do something about it (and I try to behave in a manor that will help in however small a way, car gets >40mpg (but is diesel) use CF bulbs where possible, etc.

Do we owe anything to future generations? I'd say yes but I also believe that the best thing for the planet/ecosystem would be the elimination of humans from it. Anything that does that would mean that something was dramatically screwed up, maybe, irreparably. So yes we should try and fix whatever we've broken. And cut back on the babies.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at January 9, 2007 3:13 PM

jet streat not gulf stream, duh.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at January 9, 2007 3:25 PM

In case it wasn't clear, I'm not saying the current trend is caused by global warming. I'm saying that this spate of weather is a reminder of how, even in our "normal" weather patters, small changes manifest themselves as significant variability.

Posted by: James at January 9, 2007 3:32 PM

Yes, jet streat is much better. ;-)

Posted by: Julie at January 9, 2007 3:33 PM

This weather makes me HAPPY. It's so California, and I so miss California. :) 60 degrees or warmer, the way winter should be.... lol

Posted by: leslie at January 9, 2007 4:39 PM

I like the weather, too. I don't wish to be cold and shivering! I hate getting the tree in the freezing cold, and this is the first year that I put up and took down the pine garland on my porch without wearing gloves!

I'll take warm for as long as it lasts, because usually by February I am miserable and tired of the cold and snow. (Plus I can't run outside when it snows.)

Posted by: Maggie at January 9, 2007 7:32 PM

Sorry to post twice, but the original topic is interesting and rather than post my irrelevant opinion about the weather, since what we like or dislike has no bearing on it, maybe I could try to say something intelligent.

I've heard the comment, usually tongue in cheek, "some global warming" when we have a cold summer (as we did this year), or "must be global warming" when we have a warm winter (as we've had so far).

It seems we just aren't able to perceive larger trends with our natural perceptive abilities. It's partly because of our short life spans, I'm sure, relative to a trend of warming or cooling. It's partly the way our memories work. We don't record every temperature that we've felt and keep an internal graph. We remember things that are memorable for (I think) emotional reasons. I remembered more snow in my childhood than my early adulthood, probably because I did more sledding. I think there's more snow now than in my early adulthood because now I'm (half) responsible for the shoveling, and it's a chore.

Maybe this isn't quite the original topic, but if humans could internalize these changes rather than see them in a graph, perhaps they would be more alarmed.

Bob, I think female reproductive choice is possibly the most important issue facing the world right now. If women in developing nations had reproductive choice, we wouldn't have the population explosion that's adding to hunger and disease. (Also if we didn't have ridiculous "abstinence only" programs in this (sometimes) idiotic country.) I certainly agree that we need to reproduce less.

I wish we would think more about the future, and what we're giving to our children. I care as a parent, I don't know if I'd care if I weren't a parent. I want my children to be able to have children, because to me there's nothing more satisfying. I don't want their lives to be a struggle for survival in a hostile environment.

Thinking about the future is as hard as seeing the trends that shape it. It's hard to change when there isn't an immediate feedback. And people don't trust science. Science education, critical thinking, mathematics, and reproductive choice I think are our best bets to ensure that we don't trash this planet and wipe ourselves out in the next century. (OTOH, I keep wondering if we'll just have a few pandemics which wipe out enormous numbers of people because we are now so populous, and this will cut back on everything, and we'll have a mini reboot. I don't particularly want to die, or watch my family die, from a pandemic, so I try not to think about it too much.)

Posted by: Maggie at January 9, 2007 7:45 PM

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