Certain comedians train their audiences to respond to a statement such as, “Lord, was it ever hot!” with a chorus of voices that all chime in with, “How hot was it?” Then they say something very funny.
But this is serious, man, serious! I have never seen humidity like this, up here in New Hampshire. And, Oh yes, folk down south will call me a wimp. I did live in South Carolina for a summer. But up here we are not accustomed to dew points over 70°. We hardly bother with air conditioners. Usually a dew point of 70º at sunset results in a heavy fog or even drenching drizzle by dawn, as our nighttime temperatures attempt to sink past the dew point to our typical, comfortable 60º. But this year?
I never saw this coming, because the summer began bone dry. Every drop of rain was wrung from clouds by mountains to our west. I was a bit snidely pleased, for even though stuff in the garden was stunted, so were the weeds. (I have no time for weeding.)
But then the pattern shifted, and rather than moisture being wrung out by higher hills to our west, we ourselves are the higher hills, wringing moisture from the flatlands to our south. The forecast would be for scattered clouds, but we’d see this:
And then see this:
The lightning flickering about in the clouds makes these raindrops rich in nitrogen, which is a royal pain. For every inch it makes my vegetables grow it makes the weeds grow a foot. And I have no time for weeding, for all the rain means I have to mow the grass. I also have to attend to the pool, which the nitrogen-rich rain turns a vivid green.
How humid is it? It’s so humid it’s stupid, for it seems stupid to me that it is more important to add algeacide to a pool than to weed my own garden. But our Childcare needs the pool to cool the kids, in hot, muggy weather. And it is the Childcare, not the farm, that brings home the bacon.
The irony burns a bit. The USA was initially a nation of farmers, but now nobody can afford to farm. (Not that many want to.) Something other than the garden provides the food.
As a man who is basically a survivalist, and has very little confidence in the government’s ability to handle finances, who foresees a day when there will be no way for taxpayers to pay all the welfare dependents and pensioners the government has promised to pay, (whereupon there will either be no checks issued or rampant inflation), I suspect a day will come when food might be in short supply.
My view of history suggests there tends to be a breakdown of the infrastructure that mass-produces food on mega-farms and delivers it to cities, when a crisis occurs. Even if bread is available no one can afford it when hyper inflation makes it cost $100,000,000.00 a loaf. Then the government tends to step in, thinking it can organize, and history demonstrates what occurs is a loss of initiative: The Soviet Union’s “collective” farms saw potatoes rotting in piles as shortages existed in cities, but also saw a tiny segment of the population that was allowed to have small, “private” gardens produce a disproportionate amount of the food; as I recall the figures were something like 5% of the farmland, in small lots, was producing 25% of the food. I also heard an old Hungarian tell me that during the bad times of Hitler and Stalin “the cows wore golden chains”. Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of Africa until the government stepped in to make farms “fair”, whereupon there was famine. Venezuela was well-fed before the government sought equity for all. And in these cases tiny farms step forward to do what the giants bungle.
Maybe I just have a puffed-up sense of my own importance, but I have decided I have to keep my tiny farm going even though I’m physically incapable of the labor. My plan is to commercialize my writing so I can hire two hands next summer. This year will be written off as “the year the weeds won.”
In any case, I’m trying to focus on writing more (and also a possible redesign of this website), and the last thing I want is rain making the grass grow fast, so I have to cut it more. Then I also faced quite a job trying to find bits of sunshine, so I could dry all the tarps and tents and canvas folding-chairs and sleeping bags from our deluge-camping. (I was paying for the vacation after it was over.)
All I really want is to sit back and nibble an eraser contemplatively, but after camping my wife hits the ground running. She feels a vacation has involved far too much sitting-around, and has a whirlwind of social activity planned, and then I hear a shriek from the dining room. I stopped nibbling my eraser. Why? Well, this you have just got to see:
How humid is it? It’s so humid the chairs get moldy. And rather than writing a great article, I find myself wiping down all the wooden furniture with a cloth dampened with vinegar, before the company arrives. I tell you, it’s rough, being a writer.
How humid is it? Well, we typically get a thundering downpour or two in the summer, with perhaps an inch or two of rain falling in a hurry, and the gutters are all full for an hour or so afterwards. But usually that is that. However downpour has followed downpour, and a few places in the hills are approaching 24 inches of rain in just a couple of weeks.
Of course, this gets certain cats yowling about Global Warming, because everything, no matter what, is caused by that, in their world view. California mudslides? Global Warming. California wildfires? Global warming.
What I do is just try to look at the maps and see what actually occurring, avoiding the bias you get sucked into taking if you take a “side”. There are always places warmer than normal, and places colder than normal, and if you “take a side” you’ll focus on one and not the other. But let’s try to avoid that, and look at both. As most of the planet’s heat is locked up in the oceans, let’s start with the SST (Sea Surface Temperatures), and see whether they are above, or below, normal.
You may notice a red area off San Diego. The media has made a great deal about “record warm Pacific waters” there. But just south of it is a blue blob off Baja California. Any headlines about “record cold Pacific waters?” Or just crickets? Do you see how foolish this bias can appear?
Also notice the tropical Atlantic between Cuba and West Africa is all light yellow. Just a few weeks ago it was all light blue. Does this represent dramatic warming? No. In some cases it can represent a tiny change from .01 below normal to .01 above normal. But what caused the warming? Was it trace amounts of CO2? No, it was enormous amounts of Saharan dust, swept by the Azores High off Africa, and all the way to Texas, and even from there north and then east to Ohio and then to here in New Hampshire (in trace amounts.) This dust, combined with slightly cooler SST, suppressed the formation of hurricanes and tropical storms. And what does that mean? More sunshine, warming the water and raising the SST as little as .01 degree, and changing the map’s hue from chilly blue to warm yellow. (I can understand that, but don’t understand what engineered the cooling of those waters, earlier.)
What is most important to our humid summer is the warm water off Cape Cod and Nova Scotia. I’m surprised the media hasn’t gone nuts about it yet, but perhaps they are distracted by the fact mild waters (and tasty seals) have lured Great White Sharks north to Cape Cod Beaches. (The media lately has seemed easily distracted by anything involving the word “white”.) I doubt they will be focused enough to see warm water off New England is actually a sign of “cold”, when it is surrounded by a horseshoe of colder water, called the “cold AMO” (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.) The AMO cycle is not due to turn “cold” for another five years, but is hovering close to that change already.
Though they didn’t have the word “AMO” (which appeared around 1990) New England fishermen have long known dramatic swings in Atlantic conditions could cause populations of fish (and gulls) to shift dramatically north or south, once or twice in an average lifetime. In order to be aware of it you needed to respect and heed grandfathers who respected and heeded their grandfathers. The modern media, which has an attention span of around four minutes, is likely unaware of the AMO and will be taken totally by surprise by the switch, and will likely become apoplectic.
Not that we don’t all become careless, when things only happen every thirty years, or every sixty years. Humans have the tendency to farm the rich soil on the side of a volcano, and then be astonished when they blow.
Here in New England the best route up a steep hill is the route taken by a little brook, which has an uncanny way of finding the shallowest incline. Road-building is assisted by the fact these little brooks have far more cobblestones than they could possibly need. The brook is moved to the side, and the cobblestones are used as the foundation for the road up the hill. And for thirty years everything is fine. Perhaps even for sixty years everything is hunky-dory. Even the torrential rains of a summer thunderstorm stay in the brook at the side. But then….(ominous drum-roll, please)….there comes the summer that is so humid. How humid is it? Thunderstorm follows thunderstorm, and the road winds up looking like this:
You see, the little brook didn’t have far more cobblestones than it could possibly need. It needed those cobblestones, once every sixty years.
I’m telling you this because I have a suspicion young whippersnappers in the media will look at the above picture and blame Global Warming. They will subscribe to the idea the solution to the above problem is to ban things and raise taxes to fund other things that do everything you can imagine, except fix the road.
Around these parts old-timers puff out their cheeks and shake their heads, for they know their taxes will have to go up, but it’s to fix the road, for another sixty years.