This January of 2011, there were a number of times when 49 of the 50 United States had snow on the ground. This is confusing if you listen to those who shout "the earth is getting warmer!" The folks who say "the earth is a self-regulating organism that can take care of itself" are equally mixed-up this year. Maybe the earth is just going through a mid-life crisis.
Strange as it seems (to me, for instance), Florida was the one state that escaped snow on the ground in that January storm! Hawaii usually has snow on the peaks of its volcanic mountains year-round, so it gets included. Airport travelers were stranded for days and schools were cancelled all over the country. Here in Boston, we've had so many snow days that "professional days" are being replaced with school days; our schools aren't air conditioned so school in July is unappetizing. States like Alabama, Louisiana and Texas were treated to a sprinkling of the white stuff for the first time in years. The picture to the right is a snapshot of a weather map showing snow accumulation on Jan. 11, 2011!
But, you may say (as did I), I thought the earth was getting warmer! Whether you believe humankind has a role or you believe it's a natural temperature cycle, statistics for the last century indicate a slow, incremental warming. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has even rezoned some areas because the temperatures there were consistently higher than the original USDA zone map.
But if it's getting warmer, then why are the winters so cold and so snowy? I'm not a scientist, and I'm not at all interested in the politics of this question. I just want to know, why does it seem so much colder? Even gardeners are complaining that their newly planted acquisitions aren't making it!
it's not just the u.s.a.
The climate changes we're hearing about are not just over Georgia or South Dakota, they're worldwide. So I would have to take worldwide precipitation and winter storm activity into account before I really start complaining. Observations of warmer tropical ocean temperatures of the Pacific and Indian Oceans show not snow, of course, but more rainfall and hurricaines there, too. Public health officials worldwide are concerned about the possible increased spread in mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and others, due to increased moisture. Hmmm.
it's like a cloudy day in the summer
If things are getting a little warmer, for whatever reason, evaporation will cause more moisture to be carried in the atmosphere. As observent gardeners, we know in the summer, cloudy days are sometimes warmer and more humid. A moisture-heavy cloud cover often holds in the heat of the earth like a big blanket. Then, of course, comes the thunderstorm. At least that's the way it works in the summer.
We're used to dry, arid winters, needing lip balm and extra moisturizer. DG writer LariAnn Garner has compared the polar ice caps to cold deserts. Snowstorms and thunderstorms are not the same, and I'm certainly no meteorologist. But doesn't it make sense, that if more stuff is melting, if ice is turning into water, that the water has to go somewhere? Maybe the water is being absorbed by the air into clouds and then returning to earth as snow, sleet, rain and hail.
I have no ideas about why this might be happening. Maybe the earth is a huge self-sufficient and self-correcting system. Maybe it means the end of life as we know it. Maybe it's because we don't grow enough of our own food and we use too many chemical fertilizers. Maybe scientists should be looking at Eons and Ages and not just one century.
what I do know
For somewhere that's supposed to be getting warmer, New England—and the rest of the U.S.—have been getting some pretty nasty weather: relentless cold temperatures and enormous amounts of snow accumulation that doesn't have time to melt between storms. I only wish I understood why!
Photograph of Moana Loa Volcano by D.A. Swanson on February 15, 1971, courtesy of the United States Geological Survey. Snapshot of precipitation on January 11, 2011, courtesy of the National Weather Service. I don't know who took the picture from South Dakota;ge1836 left the patio furniture out and my husband got the icicles reaching the snowbank!
About Carrie Lamont
Carrie clicks on EVERY link. She has two beautiful daughters, and has been married for twelve delightful years. Her husband works for an airline, facilitating Carrie's frequent need to travel. She has a masters degree in Music, and hums to herself as she gazes out wistfully at her full-sun containers from her air-conditioned interior. Carrie just moved from Massachusetts to Texas and is still recovering.