Monday, January 19, 2009

But Warmer in General

It may be cooler by the lake, but it’s still cold. It warmed up to the mid-twenties today, and the deep-water channel in the harbor is no longer frozen solid. The marinas are still covered with ice and snow but the water in them does not mix with the open water enough to change the temperature that quickly. This is a picture of one of the marinas near our house.

With all this super cold weather, below normal temperature and above normal snowfall, one would have to ask if global warming is real. I am a firm believer that it is and that we must do something about it, but how would I answer a naysayer? What would I say to support the theory of global warming? I have never been to Alaska. I have only seen pictures of the melting glaciers and diminishing surface ice on Greenland. I have only read reports of increasing ocean temperatures, loss of boreal forests and changing migratory patterns of birds. What in my own world tells me global warming is real?

A few years ago, I might have said I see it in the lower snowfalls and warmer winter temperatures. I would have been one to say, “Winters weren’t like this when I was a kid. Why, when I was a kid, we had to walk to school in three feet of snow." I would have also said that we went sledding every weekend and ice skating, too. Outside. In more recent years, there were many winters when the snowfall was so small, if there was enough snow to go sledding it was a holiday. This year it is back to being more like my childhood.

I am enough of a scientist to know that if you want to proof of global warming you have to look at the data, and the data supports the theory. There are many sources of that data. We may be skeptical, especially in recent years, of what information comes from the government on this issue, but you can find extensive information from both the EPA and NOAA websites. If you prefer non-government sources, there are many, many resources from universities, professional organizations, and concerned citizens groups such as Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Although I haven’t seen glaciers, I have been to Lake Mead near Las Vegas and seen the “bathtub ring” caused by dropping water levels in the lake. I know that there is more rain in some areas of the country and droughts in others, that hurricane season is longer and harsher than it used to be. I have seen data showing that there were fewer below average temperature cold days and nights on average in 2000 than in 1950 and conversely more warm days and nights. This is data from the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

I also know that this is an overwhelming topic and well beyond the few words I can give it every once in a while. I already have a very thick file of information, and my bookmarks of websites are becoming extremely long. I would be happy to share what I have learned with anyone who wants it – and my husband would probably be glad to get all the books off the desk.

However, if you don’t want data, just take time to observe the world around you. I think you’ll see the changes, just like if you look carefully at this closer up view of the above picture, you will see that there is open water in the marina. Way in the back near the break wall.

Global warming? Maybe. I will wait to see the bigger picture. Will the snow melt soon and temperatures rise? Will there be floods? Will spring arrive early? When will the birds come back? Or did they ever leave?

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