July 17, 2009

Cool Ain't Cool

Hatched by Dafydd

Just seven years ago at this time, Sachi and I were preparing ourselves for an extensive trip hiking in the Grand Canyon. We knew it would probably be hot, so we were training ourselves by deliberately going out and hiking (here in SoCal) in July and August.

By this time, mid-July 2002, we were routinely getting temps here over 100° F, some days as high as 105° F in the shade (not that there's much shade on the ridge hike we take). We were day-hiking while wearing full-sized backpacks filled with rocks and bottled water, to simulate a full pack.

Even so, we really weren't prepared at all when we got to Grand Canyon. During one hike along Clear Creek Trail, the temperature in the sun (there is no shade on that part of the Kaibab Plateau) was more than 125° F: That's as high as our thermometer registers, and it was pegged. Sachi swore she was evaporating.

Even during the night, the temperature never dropped below 100° F until an hour or so before dawn, the coldest time of day. We should know; we got dehydrated and suffered through the night before turning back the next morning.

And this was on September 24th-25th, 2002. (This isn't my seven-years faded memory; I just now went to the file and looked it up.) I can't imagine how hellish it would have been two months earlier.

What's the point? Well, so far this year, the temperature here in Southern California has only topped 90° F once, I think. And according to the 7-day forcast by the National Weather Service for Phantom Ranch (right at the bottom of Bright Angel Trail, on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon), the highs range from 109° F to 113° F, and the overnight lows are mid to high 70s! In mid-July!

The hottest temperature ever recorded at Phantom Ranch, according to the National Park Service, was 120° F in the shade, "on several dates." Clearly, the current temperature is much lower than the maximum, and indeed, significantly lower than just seven years ago -- both in SoCal and in the Grand Canyon.

I worry a lot more about global cooling than I do about global warming; at least the latter would be accompanied by a staggering increase in crop growth. Global glaciation could well be accompanied by worldwide crop failures.

Vikings -- the sea warriors, not the football team -- called their island Greenland precisely because it was lush and burgeoning; they even grew grapes for wine there. Today it's pretty much ice-locked; but I doubt even Al Gore could find a way to blame the Mediaeval Warm Period on industrial release of carbon dioxide.

During the last actual full-blown glaciation -- which peaked about 18,000 years ago -- the ice sheets completely blanketed Canada and Alaska and came all the way down to Minneapolis. They carved out the Great Lakes, and the ice-melt filled them. Glaciers created Niagara Falls (by rerouting the river) and the Ohio River system.

Oh, and another minor side effect: Glaciation produced a land bridge connecting Siberia and Alaska... which is why the Americas were already inhabited by humans (and old-world mammals) before Columbus got here... or even Vikings.

"Too hot" just means too hot. Maybe a little rise in the sea level, but nothing a good seawall can't handle; the Dutch have been reclaiming land from below sea level since the 1500s. It doesn't mean molten lava lakes in Kansas.

But "too cold" can mean "no longer human habitable," at least not without massive technological intervention, which most of the rest of the world could not possibly afford: hydroponics, animal-protein synthesis, underground raising of livestock, nuclear powered heating, environmental suits for venturing outside, transportation challenges, and so forth.

For our own sakes, let's hope that if we're destined to live to see the nightmarish predictions of a group of global alarmists come true -- it's the ones of today, not the global-cooling nuts of the 1970s!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 17, 2009, at the time of 11:43 PM

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The following hissed in response by: snochasr

I don't fear either global warming OR global cooling, though you are correct that we should worry more about cooling. Glaciers move very slowly but global cooling, when it occurs, can occur quite quickly, in a couple of generations, while warming takes considerably longer-- 5 generations even according to the alarmists. (Did you see some loon has said we only have 100 months to save the planet?)

What frightens me the most is what some tiny group of lunatics might do to us to PREVENT global warming, and make us technologically incapable of adapting to the global cooling (or warming) if it comes.

The above hissed in response by: snochasr [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2009 7:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Ken Hahn

The climate will change. It will do so whether humans participate or not. The sun, volcanism, geomagnetic variations and other factors have produced everything from "snowball earth" to blazingly hot before and they will again. It's the bad part of living on a dynamic planet. (The good part is that life is possible).

Humans are highly adaptable. If it gets too warm, we migrate toward the poles and if it gets too cold we migrate toward the equator. It will happen within a million years or so, maybe sooner. It will happen over hundreds, if not thousands of years. And maybe by the time it becomes a serious problem we'll have learned enough about the highly complex mechanisms of climate change to do something meaningful.

The panic mongers have no idea what to do but they want the power to do whatever half baked scheme they can come up with next. When that fails, as it must, they will claim it was because they did not have enough power and will demand more. We can adjust to any possible climate change, but liberty, once lost, cannot only be recovered by blood.

I'll take any discomfort the climate may throw at me as a cost of living free.

The above hissed in response by: Ken Hahn [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2009 1:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: GM

If you want to know why it is cool, check out this web site – http://www.solarcycle24.com. There have been very few sunspots for more than a year and the solar flux has been very low. In fact all solar activity has been low which means less energy getting to good old earth.

I have lived all over the U.S. including Southern California and Alaska. Right now through a slight miscalculation on some business opportunities (my fault) and the current economy (not my fault) I find myself in the Peoples’ Republic of Minnesota. This July is more like September or early October. I lived here in the 70’s and part of the 80’s until I off-loaded my spouse. I can remember many a night in the -25 F to -30 F range and one January when it never got above zero for the entire month. I don’t however remember a July this cool. Unless there is a big ramp up in solar activity we are likely to see one brutal winter. As they say here it will be colder than a well digger’s ass.

Once long, long ago there was about a mile of ice straight up from where I am sitting right now.

The above hissed in response by: GM [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 18, 2009 3:34 PM

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