Most people I know don’t really doubt the reality of global climate change. The daily news of nasty weather – including deadly droughts, flooding and wildfires in remote places – makes this hard to do without seeming callous. California is burning, and running out of water; Phoenix is flooding in freak monsoons; more than 150,000 Kashmiris are trapped in record floods, and water-borne diseases now threaten many more; the multi-year drought in Syria and Iraq has given rise to a wave of climate migration and the resulting ethnic tensions.
But around here, the weather seems remarkably cool and pleasant. Everyone says that this was the coolest August they can remember in New Jersey.
So we might be surprised to learn that for the entire Earth, August broke all records for global heat. No fooling. NASA has reported that last month was the hottest August since record-keeping began in 1880.
It was hotter than average almost everywhere:
- Eastern Europe and western/central Asia were 3.6-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 1951-1980 average, as were Siberia, central South America and East Africa.
- The American West Coast and Alaska were 1.8-3.6 degrees F hotter, just like Brazil, India, Greenland and Scandinavia.
- And West Antarctica was so hot (up to 14.4 degrees F above average!) that NASA had to re-code its temperature map colors (the old maps had no category for that much heat).
Really? But it felt so nice here!
Well that’s true. For much of the central and eastern U.S., and especially the Northeast, it was nicer than most Augusts in recent memory. But memory can be tricky. Actually, for most of the country, this August was just about exactly the way August used to be back when JFK was in the White House. When your parents were kids (or when us Boomers were), August was normally pretty nice. We played outside. We slept without A/C. And even in the breezy Northeast, this August was less than one degree cooler than the thirty-year average temperature before 1980.
And of course, that’s the big problem with runaway climate change. Even when our pollution is changing the global systems at breakneck speed, it’s pretty hard to notice within the timescales of human generations and memory.
So if August seemed cool to you, then I suspect you lived in pretty near me. And like the rest of us, perhaps you’re having a hard time remembering what a normal summer is supposed to feel like.
“Nothing from the past is remembered. Even in the future, nothing will be remembered by those who come after us.” Ecclesiastes 1:11 (GOD”S WORD translation)