Weird Weather

Yesterday morning was like most other ones around my house. Up early, shower, shave, and hopefully being more or less cogent by the time the kids wake up. I let the dog out at 7:00 AM for his morning constitutional, and while I was standing in the brisk morning chill, I noticed something unusual. Canada geese… lots of them… flying south. I must have counted at least two hundred of them flying generally southward in their ragged ‘V’ formations.

This isn’t unusual in and of itself, but normally the sky carp have headed to warmer pastures weeks earlier. But here I was standing on my porch at the end of November with the outside air temperature in the middle 30’s watching all of these geese flying south and wondering what was spurring them to migrate right now? By the end of the day, I knew. When I walked out of work that evening, the temperatures had gone from being above-average to below-average. My car’s thermometer read 18F at 5:15PM, and the wind was up. Yuck.

All-in-all, I should be thankful for the pleasantly warm November we experienced up here. Temperatures were between 10F and 20F higher than normal for large chunks of the month, though it was very dry. I’d started to think “thank you global warming” until I remembered that this October had been cooler than normal, which made taking the kids out on Halloween miserable. In fact, Thanksgiving was around 20F warmer than Halloween, which was almost a month earlier. Just another wierd weather cycle here in the middle of the continent.

This ties into a novel I’ve just finished that relates to climate change. “Fifty Degrees Below,” by Kim Stanley Robinson, is the middle book of a trilogy based around abrupt climate change affecting the United States sometime in the “near future.” Robinson, a noted science fiction author, has written an interesting novel that deals with scientists at the National Science Foundation, and their attempts to try and stave off the worst effects of abrupt climate change after Earth has already passed at least one major tipping point. The first book in the trilogy, “Forty Signs of Rain” culminated in a huge flood that wiped out large portions of Washington D.C., and “Fifty Degrees” starts up in the aftermath of that event. As the book unfolds, the new problem popping up is that the Atlantic Conveyor has more or less shut down, and the affects are dramatic, as that winter, the US and Europe are subjected to extreme cold (-50F in Washington D.C., hence the title of the book), and everyone scrambles to deal with the problem after the fact.

Abrupt climate change is a relatively new field of study, and I have no idea how plausible the scenario in Robinson’s books are. It makes sense to me, but that’s about as far as I can critique his science. His description of the political intrigue surrounding the problem is excellent, though, with the scientists and some corporations fighting with the White House (and it’s un-named, conservative Christian, global warming-denying occupant) and other businesses with vested interests in maintaining some form of the status quo no matter what. There’s a certain amount of fiddling while Rome burns, so to speak, and Robinson’s biases concerning the political/scientific crossroads come through loud and clear to me. It’s a good book, though I wish I had started with the first book in the series, for I’m definitely missing some of the backstory that must have developed there.

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