What’s Going On With Our Weather?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Since the first of this year, I have been hearing a lot more about climate change, a.k.a. global warming. The History Channel ran an entire day of programming relating to things that could bring about the end of the world as we know it, or at least a huge major disaster, and the subject of global warming came up in nearly every program. Folks in most cities across America are getting on the “green” bandwagon, trying to find ways to slow down the juggernaut in an effort to ensure that tomorrow’s Earth will be fit to support life.

I was shocked to read the weather headlines on msnbc.com on Wednesday, January 30, 2008. I kid you not; the list looked like this:

The first article dealt with the rapid freeze that came on the heels of 40-plus-degree temperatures in our own area. The second gave an account of a rare eight-inch snowfall in Jerusalem. The others are self-explanatory from the headlines. The point is this: it isn’t just our own area that is being subjected to bizarre weather this season. It’s happening all over the world!

Today (February 6) I logged onto msnbc.com again and found these headlines (not the complete list this time):

The snowstorm mentioned is still raging here as I write this post. We will probably receive about 15 inches of snow, the most I’ve seen in a single storm in who knows how many years. In the southern U.S. tornadoes have killed at least 52 people, the article said (there were some rare tornadoes here in Wisconsin earlier this month). And the rising rivers article strikes a familiar note in Wisconsin also, as the Rock River reached flood stage in nearby Afton in January. Normally flooding doesn’t occur here in winter. And what’s with the record rains in Hawaii? By now, surely you get the idea.

I hear two schools of opinion on the harsh winter weather this year in Wisconsin. On the one hand are those who say it’s terrible, incredible, etc. These folks are quite scared, and for the most part, they blame the severe weather on climate change. On the other hand are people who say, “Ha! It’s winter in Wisconsin, and we’ve had it easy for the past five winters or so. What else would you expect?”

First off, let me say that I don’t think the end of the world is here, at least not quite yet. Scientists vary greatly on several points, including how much of global warming is man’s fault (although most believe we are at least part of the problem), how quickly the temperatures will rise, and exactly what impact this will have on our weather and our lives. More on that later.

Back to the naysayers in Wisconsin: Certainly the law of averages would have us expect at least one harsh winter after several milder ones, but what about this winter; has it been all harsh? The answer is a resounding NO! We’ve seen roughly the same amount of unseasonable warmth as we have bitter cold, and not nearly as much in-between as one might expect. And the transitions have been dramatic: 43° one day and -6° the next morning, for example. We don’t see that every day. With the way-above-average snowfall this winter, the only reason we don’t have three feet of snow on the ground is because of a couple of energetic thaws which occurred between the snows. Such extreme weather changes are unusual, even for our area.

Experts on climate change tell us that extreme weather of all sorts (not just heat) will be the norm as the global temperature rises. The weird weather across the globe this year is likely related, at least in part, to global warming. The increased frequency of tropical storms, and the number of stronger Category 4 and 5 hurricanes is often cited as an example of climate change.

Now comes the scary part: even if all of the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions were to cease today, the earth would continue to warm for quite a while before leveling off. Those who primarily blame mankind for causing the climate change, say it would take several decades before the global temperature would level off. But what about those who believe it’s part of a natural cycle of change; how long do they say the warming will last? How about a thousand years!

OK, so here’s my point, and my personal take on the subject at this time. There is no doubt that global warming is happening; the data going back for more than a century bears that out for all to see. And it won’t stop anytime soon, regardless of what we do. Therefore we, as individuals and as a human race, must adapt to the changes or possibly face severe hardship or even extinction.

By no means am I saying that we should go ahead and pollute all we want. If the actions of mankind have any bearing at all on the matter, we should by all means change our wasteful ways, for this will help the situation in the long run. But meanwhile we must find ways to survive in the new world that we—and/or nature—are creating.

From a Biblical standpoint, God wants us to be good stewards of His creation, and I don’t believe we have succeeded very well in doing this. Not to say man hasn’t done some marvelous things with his resources, but carelessness and wastefulness have been the rule, at least since the Industrial Revolution. It’s high time we rethink our methods and goals, and band together to ensure a livable planet for our children.