Look Up!

Clouds are no less wonderful today than they were a thousand, ten thousand, or a million years ago.Photo by Karen Dalziel.

On Dec. 14, 1973, the majesty of the atmosphere did not disappear. It also did not disappear on May 4, 1995. If you’re wondering, it has not disappeared since then, either.

In fact, the majesty of the atmosphere remains extraordinary, primeval, fantastic. The unfolding drama in the sky that are clouds and air masses and precipitation and wind are, basically, about as wonderful as they have ever been. Take that in for a second. You’re living in a beautiful time, so far as the sky is concerned.

This does not mean that the sky does not sometimes have soot in it, and that we should not do all within our power to limit the unnecessary emission of soot. Are we agreed on that? But the clan of scientists parading as a worldwide, nearly unanimous consensus have stolen something vital from the residents of this beautiful Earth: their sense of wonder and awe beneath the sky.

It probably should have been a red flag when the harbingers of doom pretty much took the Sky-Is-Falling story and started re-selling it under various guises. With the story’s first new packaging effort, citizens of the developed world were told that they were to blame for an incipient Ice Age. Only a few years later, they were told that they were to blame for an Infernal Firestorm of heat. So, admittedly, the fear-mongers threw in a minor twist or two. But this is an old story, sold by the same kind of people who have been selling it since the beginning. Remind yourself of this when you hear it repeated on NPR that a colorless, odorless, trace gas has “damaged” the atmosphere, the sky itself.

For this same sky has known far more carbon dioxide than you or I will ever breathe: during the Cambrian, the Ordovician, the Jurassic ages, and not just these. As a whole, the atmosphere has also known greater warmth than anything we’ve seen during the last half-century. It was warmer during the Eemian interglacial, the Holocene Optimum, the Roman Climactic Optimum, and the Medieval Warm Period. According to the great majority of peer-reviewed papers, that is.

And you know what? During all the periods of elevated carbon dioxide and elevated temperature, the sky didn’t fall a single time. And it’s not going to fall tonight. It’s not going to fall tomorrow, or next week. You can let go of that one.

My own favorite meteorologist, Joe Bastardi, talks sometimes about the majesty of the atmosphere, and it’s one of the reasons that I read his work. He also has a habit of forecasting winter more skillfully than many of his peers. I bet you’re wondering what he’s been writing on Twitter of late? For those of my friends and readers who live in the northeastern United States and who have concluded that this is a year without a winter: You may have a surprise in store for you.

Of course, whatever happens, it will be a surprise for me, too, and even for Joe Bastardi (who would be the first to admit it). Why? Because for all the power wielded by our modern technology, weather and climate both remain within the realm of mystery. Sometimes the mystery is total, and sometimes it is but faint. But mystery it is, nonetheless. And at least for one of those who literally cannot get enough of this mystery on a daily basis, meaning me, it occasionally affords brief glimpses of what seems an awful lot like the face of God, never more so than during and after snow falls. And, like I said, there may be a few of those around the corner. It’ll be fun to see, either way.

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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.
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