Monday, June 3, 2013

Roller-coaster Weather

Here in Maine, we went through a couple of weeks with no rain. It was nice, because it was sunny and beautiful (if a bit cold), but without rain, it's hard to grow things. I will admit that I got a little worried we might end up in some drought condition, and the lack of rain coincided exactly with our acquisition of three new rain barrels, which was a bit of a bummer, because they weren't getting filled.

Clearly, my fears were completely unwarranted. The last few weeks have been mostly rain, and until the past weekend, chilly. In fact, I was bundled up in my early spring garb until five days ago, when the temperatures went from an average high of 60° to over 100° in a day. It happened so fast, in fact, that when we were discussing the weather with the young lady at the grocery store, she said that she still hadn't unpacked her summer clothes. Usually, there's some gradual change from cold to cool to warm to sweltering, and back. This year, the daily temperatures have been all up and down the thermometer.

As the anti-climate change proponents will attest, depending on daily weather anomalies as proof of global warming is no proof. There are always going to be exceptions to the rule. There are always going to be days that are much hotter or colder than others, and in fact, there are some days that are record-setting in their extreme.

But those who are promoting the idea of climate change aren't looking at isolated daily weather. This past weekend, in Maine, had to have been a record high. In the seventeen years I've lived here, I don't ever remember the end of May as being so very hot. Although today it's cool and rainy, but that's not proof of anything, because sometimes there are crazy happenings, and the advice from old-timers here in Maine is if you don't like the weather, wait an hour. It will change.

We had a wonderful, sunny weekend, and were given the opportunity to make some new acquaintances. It's always interesting to meet new people, because one just never knows what each encounter will bring. It's taken me a long time, but I've learned that meeting new people is often an opportunity for me to grow as a person. In particular, I'm learning to not allow myself to pre-judge based on too limited information.

This weekend, we talked about climate change with people we assumed would be completely oblivious. We thought they were typical, suburban, mall-crawlers, and we learned that even suburban mall-crawlers are sometimes paying attention. They told us that their climate (somewhat south of us here in Maine) had changed. They said they used to get a lot of snow, but that they hardly saw any these days.

In the news this morning is a story about the extreme flooding in eastern Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. It's so bad, according an article in Spiegel, that they've employed military personnel to evacuate residents. In some areas, the power has been shut-off and historic districts (which would be buildings that were erected centuries ago and have stood through all manner of potentially destructive forces - both manmade and naturally occurring) are now being inundated.

I'm always telling Deus Ex Machina that I like older houses, because they've stood the test of time. Here in Maine, where flooding happens, especially in the more densely populated areas along the coast and near rivers, I like the older houses, because, clearly, they were built above the flood waters. I'd assume that those houses in the historic districts in the currently inundated European cities were the same, but it appears that all bets are now off.

What we thought we knew is no longer the fact of life.

In his most recent post, The Maine Outdoorsman, Steve Vost, points out another issue that we are going to have to deal with in the fact of a warming world. Historically, Maine's weather has been inhospitable to harmful creatures. There are no (were no??) poisonous spiders in Maine, and the only poisonous snake (the timber rattler) that was ever encountered in Maine had been extirpated. That's what Deus Ex Machina told me when he brought me here - no poisonous snakes or spiders, and so the warning I had been given as a child to not play near woodpiles (which is a favorite hiding place of several poisonous snakes and spiders) has never been issued to my children. Steve's recent post is about the growing threat of Lyme-carrying ticks, which, thanks to milder winters, have now found a happy home here in Maine. Lyme disease is a serious threat to both humans and animals. Even our dogs can contract Lyme.

Flooding due to abnormally high precipitation is bad. Ticks are bad. What could be even more potentially damaging, however, is that last little blurb in the Spiegel article, which states, This broad swath of muddy soil is causing major problems for the agricultural industry, the DWD reports, making it impossible to drive on 40 percent of fields, use machinery or spray against pests, diseases, molds or weeds. We've already seen crop failures over the last few years from drought conditions in the mid-Western US and from flooding in Australia, Russia and Pakistan.

Crop failures = food shortages = increased food prices = hungry people.

One does not have to believe that the climate change scientists are right to see that something has been changing, and it doesn't matter (at least to me) whether it's because of human use of fossil fuels or not. What matters - to me - is that our global dependence on big-Ag is going to starve a lot of people. It's already destroyed the land, with excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides creating sterile soil and the run-off of these substances into our streams causing dead spots in the oceans.

Wet fields means that big equipment can not be used to farm, and if farmers can not use conventional methods, that is, those practiced and promoted over the past hundred years, they aren't going to be able to grow our food.

The bottom line is that we all need to be doing what we can with what we have where we are. And that will be different for everyone, but everyone needs to be doing something - even if it's just a pot of basil on the windowsill.


  1. We had very bizarre weather in Boise too- very cold, then hot (90's) last month. 90's in unheard of. Back to the 50's/60's with rain. We had a brutally hot, dry summer last year- 90s/100s for months and horrible forest fires in the mtns. November was way too warm and dry. I'd like to move up into the mtns. where it's greener and a little more stable. Hubs says no, so we're stuck here for now...

  2. Here in the southwest (New Mexico), we're under severe drought conditions that are only projected to get worse in the coming years. People have always fought over water in this area of the country, but I think things are going to get nasty. I'm looking for land now, probably in Colorado, though Maine is also high on my list, that will have more reliable access to water. I worry that access to clean water will become a major issue in the coming years, and the cause of violence. Without clean water, nothing lives.