Of Pure Weather Ignorance, Yaks on Faces, and Your Holiday Gift Shopping

A curious, and possibly deeply sad, facet of modernity: journalists successfully convincing people that they're witnessing the demise of the climate system.

A curious, and possibly deeply sad, facet of modernity: journalists successfully convincing people that they’re witnessing the demise of the climate system.

People have no idea regarding weather. They don’t know that they’ve been manipulated with HD video into believing that their own time is strange, unprecedented, extreme. They don’t know why they would be manipulated (via a combination of noble cause corruption and reflexive leftism in the Ivory Tower). They don’t know the parameters of the system (don’t generally want to know how many floods and droughts there have been in the past). They don’t know what’s happening anywhere but their own backyard (where global warming is ruining their whole week). They don’t know what “normal” was, meteorologically, around the globe five decades ago, five centuries ago, or five minutes ago.

That’s OK. I don’t blame them. Being someone obsessed with weather and climate has seldom been a ticket to the inner sanctum of polite society. And that’s just as true today as it was when Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were among the earliest weather freaks the United States had produced. Believe me, those two rose to prominence in spite of their weather mania, not because of it.

This is all a somewhat longwinded way of introducing a somewhat amazing weather tidbit. At this particular juncture, which happens to be noon on Friday, December 14, the temperature in an obscure Siberian town is -65 degrees Fahrenheit. As is generally the case when the temperature is so low, the weather conditions are listed with a single word: “Smoke.” You more or less need an inversion layer to yield temperatures that low, and with the inversion layer comes capture of the abundant woodsmoke generated by the locals desperately trying to stay warm. Frigid cold and smoke, in Siberia and elsewhere around the globe, often go hand in glove. The name of the town, by the way, is Ojmjakon. This is pronounced “Oh, my God, a yak is frozen on my face.” Just mumble it a bit and say “on” at the end, slur the “my face” part completely, and you’re good. You’d be surprised how many yaks freeze to your face when it’s -65 degrees Fahrenheit, by the way.

Why, you wonder, is it -65 degrees in Ojmjakon and too warm to snow in New York City? One answer: which way the wind blows. Last year’s warm winter in the U.S. was largely a function of what meteorologists refer to as zonal flow, west to east movement of mild Pacific air, a powerful and fast-moving river of warmth far too strong to allow anything like normal winter weather to unfold. And a similar process has been at play so far this winter. While we’re basking in “terrifying” warmth, Canada is freezing its remote provinces off.

Meanwhile, last year, as the the headline writers were working themselves into a sweat over the death of winter here, people were dying of cold in droves in Europe and Asia, and Alaska was seeing records for both snowfall and cold. You read the headlines about all that, right? No? I am shocked!

Returning to the serious business of weather and climate, on this day, December 13, 2012, a draft of the United Nations’ next assessment of Earth’s climate has been published at wattsupwiththat.com. The single most salient detail in the report, for those paying close attention at home: Svensmark’s mechanism for cloud formation and global cooling via galactic cosmic rays is specifically mentioned. I learned doing interviews for my book this year that going into this subject is a sure-fire way to produce blank stares, if not out and out rage.

That’s OK. Svensmark is relatively young, and, with any luck, the day will come when he can compare his Nobel prize for climate-related research to the one Al Gore was given in 2007. The world’s a strange, and sometimes funny, place.

If you’d like any of your friends to be able to understand the United Nations’ change of heart, buy them a copy of my book for the holidays on Amazon. All you need to get them a Kindle copy is their e-mail address and the knowledge that they read on Kindle. You can also buy them a hard copy. This will plant seeds of climate awareness that rise as beautiful flowers a few years from now. Nothing more and nothing less than that.

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About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
This entry was posted in Climate change, crying wolf, don't sell your coat, global warming, harold ambler, winter and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Of Pure Weather Ignorance, Yaks on Faces, and Your Holiday Gift Shopping

  1. Otter says:

    I am pleased to add your blog to my read list, and to my climate change resource page (for skeptics (and those who wish to learn)) of course!

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