The fourteen footer caused a lot of problems. Our lights went out for
three days, the highway was closed for two days, and volunteer “roof
parties” went around town shoveling snow off roofs. The weight was so
much that the houses were out of true, with the result that people were
trapped inside, unable to open their doors and windows. Someone got a
picture of the town from the church steeple, showing steep roofs poking
up out of the snow, more lumps than anything else, and the photo made
the front page of the Bangkok Times, where I’m sure it puzzled a lot of
people who had never even seen snow in their lives. We had to have our
dogs dig a path to the surface from our front porch.
This little three-and-a-half footer caused even more problems. Barely an
hour into the storm, the lights strobed and went out (taking my Windows
Vista with it despite surge protection, but I wasn’t going to know about
that for a week), and stayed out. Then the phone went down. Then we
learned the highway was closed, and the town was cut off. The gas
station couldn’t get gas, the bank couldn’t do much in the way of
transactions, and the post office couldn’t send or deliver mail. It was
the worst mess we had seen, worse than the Big Snow of 1993.
We got together with neighbors and scratched our heads. It was a nothing
little storm, really. We didn’t get our power back on until they brought
a generator in from outside and set it up at the old mill and got the
town going again.
Bobby was the one who put his finger on it. “If this was the type of
snow we normally get,” he noted, “we would have gotten seven feet or more.”
He was right, of course. The snow that fell with such intensity was
barely more than slush, falling in great big silver-dollar sized
snowflakes at the incredible rates we sometimes get here. Perfect
snowball snow, and as such, it clung to everything, including tree limbs
and wiring of all sorts. Hundreds of lines and thousands of trees came
down even in the earliest hours of the storm.
Usually, when we get big snow, it’s a fluffy kind of powder. Not
something you can build igloos from, but still good for skiing, and not
that hard to shovel. The stuff we got this time weighed between 15 and
20 pounds per shovel full. Digging out was pretty arduous.
We need a specific set of conditions for a really large snowstorm, and
this year, when those conditions were met, the temperature happened to
be just a couple of degrees above normal.
There was a reason for that, of course, and the reason was ENSO – El
Niño Southern Oscillation. When that comes into play, as it does every
three to seven years, we normally get warmer and wetter weather than we
usually do, and this time was no exception.
At least one climate change model suggests that if the northern
hemisphere warms by 4 degrees Fahrenheit, as is almost certain to
happen, we’ll end up with a “hyperniño”–a permanent El Niño condition.
Assuming no further changes, that would mean massive amounts of rain
every winter for us, and very hot dry summers.
Given my choice between seven inches of rain and 3 ½ feet of slush, I’ll
take the rain. Water drains DOWN from here and becomes someone else’s
problem, and best of all, it doesn’t pull down power lines and trees,
and you rarely have to shovel it.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve decided that global warming is a good thing.
Having suffered through a snowstorm that caused problems because it was
too warm, I was more than a little bemused when the twin snowstorms
savaged the eastern seaboard, dumping record amounts of snow. It’s one
of those areas that normally gets snow in February, and the fact that
they got record amounts simply meant the storms carried more moisture.
Now, most people know that there’s a correlation between how warm the
air is, and how much moisture it can carry. It’s the reason we call it
“relative humidity”–a relative humidity of 70% means that the atmosphere
is 70% of saturated, the maximum amount of water it can carry. Relative
humidity at freezing is far drier in terms of actual amount of moisture
in the air than it is at 90 degrees.
So when right wingers on the web and cable channels and radio started
howling that the snowstorms back east proved there was no global
warming, I just shake my head in pity for their listeners. I don’t know
how many of those listeners are as stupid as those right wing pundits
think they are, but they sure can’t be very bright if they listen to them.
The reason the storms dumped record amounts of snow was because they
were carrying more snow than a normal snowstorm would. And the reason
they were doing that was because they were warmer than such storms
So what Rush and the rest of the yammerheads were telling us was that
these snowstorms proved there was no such thing as global warming
because they...um...were warmer than normal.
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Rush makes tens of
millions of dollars a year off of it.
The storms don’t actually say anything definitive about climate change.
What has 99+% of climatologists concerned is a long-term trend, not any
single weather event.
But those climatologists did say that winter storms would be warmer and
more fierce, and that’s something that characterized both our
mid-January nuisance here in the western mountains, and the storms that
plagued the east last week.
It’s a bit like consulting a almanac, and then looking through a
telescope and finding Venus exactly where the almanac said it would be.
Rush and the rest of his herd are in the position of claiming that Venus
disproves orbital mechanics because it isn’t where it was last week.
Like most Canadians, I’m paying close attention to the Olympics,
especially since they are in British Columbia. I have kinfolk who were
born in Whistler, and they would tell me of the winters they used to get
back in the ‘30s. Between late November and mid March, there was a
variety of precipitation on the menu, but rain, and even slushy snow,
weren’t among the choices. You would get anything from igloo-building
snow to blowing and drifting snow dust.
They wouldn’t recognize the Whistler that’s struggling to put on ski
races and sledding. Trucking snow in from upslope? AIRLIFTING snow in?
In Whistler? Ski runs that are too slushy, sled runs that are too “fast”
(caused by days that are too warm)? As you all know, one poor athlete
from Georgia died on the luge run yesterday, and while his inexperience
was probably the main contributing factor, a lot of the other lugers had
complained that the run was too fast to be safe.
Rush and the rest aren’t talking about how warm it is at Whistler, and
for that matter, when they talk about “record cold-weather events” they
carefully refrain from mentioning that the main problem with those
“cold-weather events” is that they are warmer than normal. But then,
they aren’t there to inform. They are there to deceive.
But even the great propagandists–Lord Haw Haw, Tokyo Rose–knew where to
draw the line, and not abuse their listener’s intelligence so thoroughly
that either they or their listeners became a joke. A propagandist who
steps over that line fails. Take Baghad Bob, who tried telling American
soldiers that while they were fighting for the Zionists in Iraq, their
wives and girlfriends back home were sleeping with . . . Homer Simpson.
Rush and the rest have a job to do, and perhaps it’s in our best
interest that they do it so badly. Certainly they don’t have our best
interests at heart.
But if you run into anyone who believes Rush when he claims that the
blizzards prove there is no global warming, explain to him that the
blizzards prove nothing, one way or the other, but the effects of
weather that is warmer than usual most certainly do not prove there is
no global warming.