Big question: Is it colder or warmer?
Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:02 pm
By: By JIMMY WILLIAMS Special to The Messenger
The vagaries of weather have fascinated (and infuriated) me since Day 1.
In my hunting days, everything depended on the weather. Duck hunting needed blustry, cold days that forced the quarry to move about in search of food. Squirrel hunters like calm, cool mornings with no wind, so that the bushytails can be detected as they jump from limb to limb and shake the leaves. When there were quail here, hunters wanted cool, moist days with light wind that was amenable to scenting birds.
Then, when gardening became my sinful obsession, the weather continued to be a critical factor. Too much rain, or too little, too much heat, or too little, too much cold, or too little, et cetera, made the difference between a superlative growing season and a bummer.
We’ve had, over the years, plenty of bad weather and, it must be admitted, plenty of the other kind. Recent times have seen weather become a focal point for more people than just sportsmen and tillers of the soil.
The global warming debate has intensified public recognition of the importance — nay, critical necessity — of “good” weather (as we have defined it over the past 10,000 years or so) to the well-being, even survival, of the species Homo sapiens.
What man (and woman) kind requires is a climate benign enough to grow wheat and corn and hogs and cattle, but severe enough to keep down a devouring explosion of pests and pestilence. It’s a fine line we walk on this fragile orb.
Climatologists tell us that a variation up or down in average world temperatures of only a few degrees over 100 years can have catastrophic effects.
Forget Chicken Little; we’re getting more panicky predictions from some of those climatologists than Little ever thought of. Apparently falling of the sky would be a minor occurence compared to global warming.
The whole global warming posit is based on less than 50 years of data. In some cases, dire scenarios for the almost immediate future are extrapolated on much less than 50 years of the past.
No longer ago than the 1980s, a series of severe winters saw temperatures here of 17 below 0 degrees F. more than once. Gardeners were distraught year after year as defunct (frozen) azaleas, hollies, eleagnuses, euonymuses, and on ad nauseum, were hauled spring after spring to the landfills or trash gullies.
Since then we have returned to what was long considered “normal” winters and, yes, summers. The latter have been hot (they’re supposed to be in Tennessee) and winters have moderated back to about where they historically averaged over the past 100 years or so. Azaleas and hollies are back.
Meantime, the global warming brouhaha continues unabated, with the Chicken Littles saying east coast cities will be inundated by raging floods after the polar ice caps melt away, while those on the other side of the fence poo-poo the idea.
The debate is healthy, I suppose, but Hollywood movie stars and left coast pop culture adherents do not meteorologists make, notwithstanding their attempt at popularity in getting on the “green” bandwagon and such shenannigans as throwing paint on those wearing valuable furs.
Planting a two-foot seedling oak in some public park, that will probably die before the night is over, may bring notoriety but little else. The “carbon footprint” of some headline grabbing personality hasn’t shrunk a whit, and maybe even has grown as the persona drives home in a big gas-guzzling SUV.
One climatological group reported a few weeks ago that since 1997 the average world temperature has actually fallen, not become warmer, though it had warmed for the 20 years or so before that. The recent fall in average temperature has actually cancelled out the 20-year rise, it was claimed.
So, what does the future actually hold as regards the weather and its effects? Will average temperatures rise or fall? Will coastal floods actually drown cities? Will our gardens become a monoculture of cacti and yuccas, or perhaps a bit more fortuitously mini rain forests of elephant grass and palm trees?
Call me in 300 years.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 5.26.09
Jimmy Williams, The Garden Path