Monday, 29 December 2008

Climate change

You know, there are too many scientifically-illiterate and uninformed people chiming in about climate change ("global warming" for the tree-huggers out there). The good news is that these people appear on both sides of the argument and sort of even themselves out a little and one day I might say something about the effect myself. For now I'll limit things to saying there's climate change, there always has been and always will be.

What's much more important is that I think I'm turning into a local, at least in my subjective but very important (to me) opinion. I don't know if this is something I should worry about, but it's climate-related.

I moved here a little over twelve years ago and shared a house with a colleague and good friend. He told me that during the winter, when you get used to the climate, you may have to close a window or two at night. I didn't believe him. It was hot all of the time and it didn't matter if it was night or day. I didn't believe him for two or three years afterwards either.

Well, tonight it's 65 degrees Fahrenheit and I'm freezing my butt off. This just isn't right and perhaps I'm ill or something. I've noticed, however, that I've become increasingly intolerant to temperatures less than 70-degrees, so I'll wait before calling my doctor.

Back in my younger days I always watched the BBC weather forecasts on TV (my father was a meteorologist and actually knew one or two of the TV weather presenters!) and I still remember all of them saying during summer forecasts that the temperature will be about 17 to 18 degrees centigrade overnight, it'll be balmy and you'll have trouble sleeping. They were also correct, it was balmy and sleeping was difficult.

That sleep-inhibiting temperature is about what we have tonight, in fact 17 degrees is downright cold. I still find it hard to believe that I'm now actually agreeing with the locals that it's a cold night tonight. How bizarre. Then again, while I'm in my metamorphosis into a grumpy old man, don't be surprised if I moan about how hot and humid it is next August and September. I'm hard to please these days...

Even so, Hawaiian cats have to find some place warm to sleep on evenings like this.


Zuzana said...

The cat is sooooo cute!;)

Tom, I take it, considering your standpoint on the environment, you must have heard of the Danish author/scientist called Bjørn Lomborg? He wrote a book entitled "The Skeptical Environmentalist". He is very famous in Denmark and somewhat controversial across the world.;)) I have to say that he has got something though.
See this, if you find this interesting:

By the way, I remember freezing constantly when returning to Scandinavia after 10 years in North Carolina.;)

Diane said...

Wimp ;)

When I moved from upstate NY to Charlotte, NC, I never had to put a coat on, even in winter. It felt like Hawaii to me. When I moved from Charlotte back to Virginia, I was freezing from November to March. I still feel the cold. So I'm a wimp, too. I am not, however, metamorphosing into a grumpy old woman. Well... grumpy maybe... but NOT old. Damn it.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Acclimatization, is the word. Since I always feel chilled in a draft, I usually end up wearing a jacket, no matter the temperature.

John Powell said...

Tom, I grew up in Minnesota & remember playing basketball outside when it was -30F (Not for very long, it's true, but still). Now, if it's below 70, I reach for my jacket.

As a non-scientist, I find the anthropogenic Global warming debate extremely frustrating. I know just enough to understand that the computer models showing disastrous global warming are only as good as our present understanding of how the entire planetary ecosystem works, and to be skeptical that we're at, or anywhere near, 100% in that regard.

Lately I find disagreements about even basic facts - has the average global temperature risen or fallen in the last 8 years - that I don't have a clue, as a layman, how to resolve.

Anonymous said...


When we arrived two years ago next week, coming from the UK winter we found that it was very warm (and very comfortable!). I distinctly remember last year feeling colder than I did that first year and being much more sensitive to the drop below 70degF. I have no recollection of whether last year was actually much colder than the year before, but I do think that this year certainly is (I shouldn't say 'think' and 'certainly' in the same sentence, should I...?!).

So you're right, you do get more sensitive to the cold, but it's relative. You'd be old and grumpy in the same way if it dropped below 32degF and you were in the UK, but you'd be wearing 3 or 4 more layers of clothing and wrapped up in your duvet... (images of 'Steptoe and Son'...!!)

Tom said...

Protege - I know of Lomborg and have read his articles in the past. I'm glad there is sceptical stuff out there. Don't get me wrong though, I do think we affect the environment and climate (although how you disentangle that from other natural effects is a good question), it's the phrase "global warming" that I dislike and leads to some very ridiculous arguments from certain people (I'm thinking politicians and celebraties more than anything).

From memory, I don't think Lomborg disputes climate change, just that many of the claims are exaggerated, and personally I suspect he's correct. But that is just an opinion.

Diane - what else do you expect from a soft shandy-drinking southerner?!

Keera - I *love* drafts, especially in the summer when it gets hot! I have quite a few fans here to create artificial ones when needed!

John - I really understand your frustration - it's hard enough to follow for a physical scientist (although not one who works in the climate field). I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that our predictions are only as good as our knowledge, and that's clearly not good enough yet to make sound predictions. Even forecasting the weather for the next day is still very hard!

Ant - I'm sure there are records available somewhere. I think February is the coldest month here (I've known the temperature drop below 60 F during that month). Brrr. It's weird though, because when I'm at the summit I generally don't have a problem with the cold - although I tend not to sit outside on the lanai at 14K feet...

(There's me moaning about the cold while I'm sitting out on the deck in a T-shirt...)