85 degrees F

English: Ventura, viewed from the northwest; t...

English: Ventura, viewed from the northwest; the Ventura/San Miguelito Oil Field is in the foreground (July 31, 2009). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Driving through LA yesterday, my car’s thermometer registered 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When I reached my destination in Ventura on the coast the temperature was 78 degrees F. In summer in California, the coast is usually cooler and inland is warmer. In winter, it is usually reversed with the coast warmer than the interior. 85 degrees is unusually warm for January. One week ago below freezing temperatures were threatening citrus crops as far south as San Diego. An erratic jet stream is blamed for the wild swings in temperature.

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Deutsch: Raumthermometer mit Fahrenheit- und C...

Image via Wikipedia

What did the Fahrenheit thermometer say to the Centigrade thermometer?

It’s all a matter of degree.

Global warming

Location of Queensland on Australia.

Image via Wikipedia

Climate change is global warming; they are synonymous. One measure of climate change is the rise in average temperature by one or two degrees over time. That is an AVERAGE; it does not mean that temperatures everywhere at all times will be one or two degrees higher. It does not translate to Arctic winter being -39 degrees Fahrenheit instead of -40 or -41 degrees. It does not mean that a summer high in Washington, DC will be 100 degrees instead of 98 or 99 degrees. An average is just that, an average of a bunch of numbers. Highs can be higher and lows lower and still average to a figure that is largely unchanged.

Climate change is likely to entail higher highs, lower lows, stronger storms, flood and droughts in places that are unused to them. The Canadian cold weather now affecting the eastern two thirds of the US is not colder than usual; it is farther south than usual because of a changed jet stream path. The state of Queensland, Australia recently has experienced record flooding. Yesterday a category five typhoon came ashore there adding to the flooding. A typhoon is a hurricane in the Pacific and category five equals Katrina.

NBC News devoted two minutes coverage to the typhoon, breaking into their almost nonstop coverage of the events in Cairo. No mention was made of the significance of the Queensland floods. Queensland is a major producer of wheat and mines much of the world’s coking coal used in steel production. Flooding there will drive up the prices of both food and steel. NBC neglected to mention how the floods will affect everyone in the world who eats or drives a car.

We live on a planet of two oceans, an ocean of air and an ocean of water. Where the two oceans meet, weather is produced by their interaction. The energy that drives weather comes from the sun. One measure of energy content is temperature. If the temperatures of the atmosphere and the oceans are rising, it is a good indication that the stored energy is increasing. Greater energy can create stronger, more violent storms and it can move atmospheric and ocean currents into new patterns. That will cause flooding and droughts where they have not occurred before. Today, August 17, 2011, in their winter, New Zealand is experiencing unusual Antarctic cold with snow in Auckland for the first time in 75 years.

Weather and climate change are not simple subjects, and it is easy to be misled by those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Before you accept the words of an industry sponsored spokesperson, investigate the subject for yourself. The future of the planet is in your hands.