PEACE IN DEATH VALLEY, AND WHY SETTING TEMPERATURE RECORDS IS NORMAL
I haven’t had to water my garden, as we came close to setting an all-time record for rainfall in June, here in New Hampshire. The weeds loved it. Fortunately, as a belated Father’s Day present, the whole family came by to help me weed, yesterday.
My middle daughter, who had meticulously made a row of carrots weed-free eight days earlier, was amazed by how the weeds had come back. The row looked neglected. I soothed her by saying no shortcoming on her part was involved; the weeds were merely assisted by “near record” rainfall feeding their vigor. Then, as I weeded, I started thinking about what it means to “set a record.”
Older stations around here have records going back over a hundred years. Concord, New Hampshire has records going back to 1869, however the original station was located on a bridge in the center of town, and has been moved three times since then to a fourth location. So you have to be careful to note changes in location, when considering records.
Assuming a location was unchanged and unaltered for a hundred years, what would be the odds a high temperature was a record? One in a hundred. One percent. That may seem like small odds, but there are 365 days in a year, and with a 1% likelihood, one should set between 3 and 4 records a year. (3.65, to be exact.) (Don’t ask me to calculate leap years, or to consider “ties” of the high temperature record.)
There is the same likelihood for each year of the hundred. It is simple odds. It does not factor in possible warming from Urban Heat Islands created by growing cities, or “Global Warming,” or upswings of natural sixty-year cycles, or the climate coming out of the Little Ice Age, all of which should increase the odds.
In other words, setting a record should happen at least three times a year. It is quite normal to set a record.
Natural variation can create dull years that set no records, or years such as the 1930′s where Dust Bowl conditions set an above average number of records, however over time it should average out.
So why do we make such a big deal about it? Is it anything to write home about?
I actually think it makes interesting news to put in a letter, (or email.) The fact you have lived through a “record-setting” temperature adds some spice to what otherwise would just be some hot summer weather to endure.
However the frenetic attitude of some TV news reporters does seem to go a bit overboard. They always seem to be slightly deranged, be having bad-hair-days, and to have had one too many coffees. If they are talking about the wind, they stagger slightly, and the cameraman tilts the camera. If they are talking about flash flooding, and stand before water rushing over a parking lot, they get annoyed if a child in the background wades across the lot, revealing the water is only ankle deep. But if they are talking about heat, there isn’t much to see. Perhaps they can wet a curl and paste it to their forehead, so they look sweaty, but it is difficult to make a hot day look like an end-of-the-world disaster. However they have to find a way to do it, for who is going to watch the news, if it isn’t extraordinary?
Therefore, rather than stating that breaking a record three times a year is normal, it seems they must mention “Global Warming” in order to stir up some excitement. Unfortunately for them, they have beaten the subject like a rented mule, and people are becoming jaded. When they exclaim, “The world is coming to an end!” people respond with, “Again?” or merely yawn.
Perhaps, rather than excitement, they should try a different tack. The variety of our daily weather hints at the Infinite Creativity of the Creator. If your eyes look for it, weather is never boring, even in the deserts where it doesn’t vary much. In New England the variety is enormous, and if one changes ones attitude from thrill-seeking to merely being observant, there is always something of interest going on. Then even a thrill-seeker can get a sort of thrill, albeit a thrill that is accompanied by the violins of serenity.
The old timers used to call such appreciation, “communing with nature.” If I pestered my mother for something to do, complaining I was bored, she might tell me to, “go outside and commune with nature.” True, she may not have been thinking spiritual things as she booted me outside, but I did learn to go out into the green summer and see how boredom can evaporate.
The problem with a thrill-seeking media that constantly hunts down disaster is that a byproduct is worry. It is hard to be serene if the world is going to end. (Update at eleven.)
According to theology God does bring things to a conclusion, an “end,” when He manifests as “God the Dissolver, ” however God also manifests as the “Creator” and the “Sustainer.” If you go out into the green summer and commune with nature, the beauty can creep through your defenses and penetrate even the most haggard and harassed psyche. On a really good day you can hear a hymn in the hum of bees, singing of how God is Love. Love emanates from the Creator and resonates from the Sustainer, and then even the Disolver doesn’t look so bad, for Love must be in the ending as well.
And if that isn’t a thrilling thought, well, you can return to your regularly scheduled program. (Update at eleven.)