Climate change is an oft-debated, much discussed topic lately, and has been for quite a while. It seems that in the last five years especially, repeated natural disasters and climate events have really caught peoples’ attention. The instances I can think of off the top of my head are extreme heat in Australia, unusual and unseasonal temperatures in much of the United States, the increased ferocity of many storms such as the June derecho in the DC area last year, and hurricanes hitting places they aren’t generally supposed to hit, such as the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
So when the following status message popped up on my Facebook newsfeed today, it got me thinking.
It really bugs me when people rejoice when the temperature’s really warm in the middle of winter.
Now, I hate the cold. Hate it with a passion. I hate being cold, and do not willingly venture outdoors when it’s cold. I certainly don’t go outside unless I have to when there’s snow on the ground. So on one level, I don’t mind when it’s warm in the winter. You know, those rare days of 40 degrees, or even 50, when it’s supposed to be only in the 30s.
But 70? SEVENTY? In the middle of January? That just screams to me that there’s something very off-kilter in the natural world. Sure, once in a rare while we might have an unseasonal temperature spell like that, maybe once every ten years or so. But then I reflected back on the past 3-4 winters. In 2010, my area saw two major snowstorms that dropped a foot of snow or more each. My area normally does not see that much snow all at once, much less twice in a row. And after that, 2011 and 2012 were very warm winters. 2012 was so warm I remember there being mosquitoes and even some bees buzzing about in the dead of winter. And now this winter, we started off very mild, finally dipped into proper winter temperatures, and have been zigzagging across the temperature and weather charts ever since. In this week alone, we’ve seen ice, snow, freeing rain, temperatures 30 degrees above normal, and an unseasonal severe thunderstorm with the possibility of tornadoes.
Does this just sound wrong to anyone, or is it just me?
And it’s not just the winters. Last summer was one of the hottest on record, even hotter than the one before, which also broke records. Then we have a hurricane slide straight up the East Coast, which happens maybe once a decade, if that. The last one that came up he coast was Isabel in 2003, but it had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to the Mid-Atlantic, which is par for the course. Not only do hurricanes just not come up this direction often, but Hurricane Sandy was a monster of a hurricane, and so unusual that it even astounded weather experts all over the world. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane in recorded weather history. For a hurricane to combine with an oncoming front and another portion of a weather system to its east, and turn itself into a nor’easter afterward is basically unheard of.
What I’m saying with all of this is the weather seems to be trying to get our attention. Humans are notoriously stubborn and willfully blind to unpleasant facts. Why have natural events such as hurricanes been causing so much damage in the past few years? Yes, the population has continued to grow in such areas as coastal states and that leads to an increase in property damage and loss of human life when disaster strikes. But we can also no longer ignore the fact that the weather appears to be shifting, and storm systems have consistently grown stronger. Hurricane Sandy is perhaps the best example of this.
I can imagine some of the reactions to this post. “You’re being alarmist.” “You’re making a big deal of nothing.” “You’re crazy.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Well, if this post from a small blog like mine is what alarms you, then where the heck has your head been hiding? The Earth will survive. She will recover from anything we throw at her, given enough time. But as she recovers, she may not be able to support us, sustain us. If you don’t care about the environment because it’s “just the environment”, then think selfishly: if there is no food, no clean water, and no clean air, how will you eat, drink, or breathe? How will you live given those conditions?
People have shrugged aside previous reports from scientists and global weather agencies before now, and shrugged aside environmentalism as a “hippie” or even lost cause, but it’s my feeling that Mother Nature is shifting to account for the harm we have caused her with our pollution and unsustainable habits.
And if we’re in the way, that’s just too darn bad.