Whether or not you believe in climate change, it’s going to happen—all over you! The Montana thunderstorm illustrated above looks like something from a science fiction movie, but it’s just typical of the kind of intense weather we can expect from now on.
The reason my mind dwells on the subject right now is that we are having a heinous heat wave in Southern California, the kind of heat wave that makes a good night’s sleep impossible. My apartment building was built just after World War Two, so it wasn’t insulated. When I woke up at 6:30 this morning, it was still 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the bedroom. Tonight I expect it to be still hotter.
At lunch today, I read an interesting article in The New York Review of Books (June 20, 2013) on Henry Petroski’s To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure. In it, reviewer Bill McKibben writes:
In the course of Petroski’s life, and all of ours, we’ve left behind the Holocene, the ten-thousand-year period of benign climatic stability that marked the rise of human civilization. We’ve raised the global temperature about a degree so far, but a better way of thinking about it is: we’ve amped up the energy trapped in our narrow envelope of atmosphere, and hence every process that feeds off that energy is now accelerating. For instance, this piece of simple physics: warm air holds more water vapor than cold. Already we’ve increased moisture in the atmosphere about 4 percent on average, thus increasing the danger both of drought, because heat is evaporating more surface water, and of flood, because evaporated water must eventually come down as rain. And those loaded dice are doing great damage. The federal government spent more money last year repairing the damage from extreme weather than it did not education.
Now I’m not going to point any fingers, because, frankly, it’s too late. We can expect a lot of terrible weather all around the globe, from hundred-year floods to hundred-year-droughts—except occurring in much less time than a hundred years. Every year we seem to break new records, such as the Rim Fire now threatening Yosemite National Park.
Speaking as a Californian, I hope that the phenomenon we are now facing does not affect the movement of tectonic plates under the earth, or we are in for a wild ride. No, California won’t fall into the ocean, but it will continue to shake and bake … at an accelerated rate.