Is Nature Doing a Snow Job On Us?
I’m writing this with an ache in my back and shoulders, the result of shoveling some 28 or so inches of snow from my front yard here in north-central New Jersey. The Holiday Blizzard of 2010 has made mincemeat of thousands of peoples’ holiday travel plans, in the form of airport closings, Amtrak cancellations, power outages. Yesterday, we found ourselves in blizzard white-out no-visibility driving conditions on the way to pick up my relatives visiting from California, who had gone to see the Christmas Show at Rockefeller Center.
In Europe, severe storms caused similar havoc, with thousands of holiday travelers stranded in airports and train stations. Yesterday I read about thousands without power around Moscow and elsewhere in Russia.
What gives, Mother Nature?
Believe it or not, some are hypothesizing that the unusually wintry weathers here in the Northern Hemisphere are connected to global warming, in a seeming paradox. Says Judah Cohen in a December 25th New York Times op-ed, Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming:
All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.
How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.
In other words, as Cohen quips, ‘we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.’ (More analysis about Cohen’s hypothesis can be found on Andrew C. Revkin on the New York Times’s DotEarth blog.)
I’ll admit there are attractions to this hypothesis, the caveats of scientists notwithstanding. The previous winter was one of the snowiest in recent memory here in New Jersey; my son Charlie had so many snow days that the regular school year had to be extended far into the summer. Those snow days were extremely tough on Charlie, who’s autistic and prefers the usual routine of things. And then, before you knew it, we found ourselves having one of the hottest summers ever. Charlie thrives on being very active (it helps him to deal with his sometimes very severe behavior issues and stay ‘peaceful-easy-feeling’). My husband Jim, Charlie and I experienced every 98-degree day in all of their sultry, humidity, hot hot hot-ness, outside, with Jim and Charlie riding an average of 16 to 20 miles a day.
Anyways, I’m now going to sign off. Our California guests are due to return any moment from a grocery store expedition and I have a feeling that going out for sandwich fixings after the Holiday Blizzard of 2010 counts as a bit of an adventure, slush-sloppy parking lots and 15 foot snow piles not being so common in the Bay Area. And it’s also the time of year when my son is off from school, something he enjoys significantly less than ye typical teenage boy. I’m writing this post as he is conked out on the couch after a wintry walk, and after spending a few hours driving around on the NJ Turnpike, Garden State Parkway, and a few state roads to find a McDonalds that was open.
Yes, we found one, mission accomplished!
And saw several abandoned cars (and at least one tractor trailer) in the middle of the NJ Turnpike.
Happy Holiday Blizzard of 2010, oh yes.
Photo taken by the author in the early afternoon of 27 December 2010, north central New Jersey.