So, I was thinking. We’ve built thousands of miles of fences between us and Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants who are not the problem they used to be because there are no more jobs in America. What we really need is a super-high fence between us and Canada to keep out the Arctic air masses.
You think I jest?
From the Modesto Bee newspaper just a few months ago:
The bad economy and stepped-up federal immigration audits have dramatically slowed the influx of illegal immigrants, experts say.
Demographers, government officials and business leaders say illegal immigrants not only are returning to their homelands in response to more intense government scrutiny, they’re also staying there.
And as word spreads that jobs are harder to come by in the United States because of the recession, others are deciding not to come in the first place, slowing an unprecedented flood of immigrants that’s lasted more than a decade.
Meanwhile…from Maine to Georgia, from Minnesota to Texas…we are all chilled to the bone, dressed in multiple layers as inhuman, frigid, arctic winds make a mockery of our sad attempts to keep warm. Water pipes are bursting, people are bitching, the bitter cold is killing strawberries in Florida and taking down gigantic stadiums in Minneapolis.
We are 20 degrees below normal and this comes on the heels of one of the worst winters in history last year. The real peril, my friends, is from the north.
So how big does this American/Canadian fence need to be? Here are some simple, undisputed facts about earth’s atmosphere, from a brief article entitled How High is the Atmosphere, by meteorologist, Jeff Haby:
5.5 kilometers- about half the atmosphere is below this height
9.0 kilometers- about 70% of the atmosphere is below this height
16.0 kilometers- about 90% of the atmosphere is below this height
36.0 kilometers- about 99% of the atmosphere is below this height
100.0 kilometers- atmosphere is so thin that it is virtually the vacuum of space
above 600 kilometers- atmosphere is so thin that it is considered outer space
It’s got to be higher than the jet stream, right? Jets actually use those tailwinds and they’re usually at 35,000 to 37,000 feet. For sure the American/Canadian fence needs to be higher than that which would be about 7 miles up.
Using my trusty kilometers-to-miles conversion chart, 16 kilometers translates to just short of ten miles…and as you can plainly see—90% of the atmosphere is below that height.
I don’t think we need to build the fence the entire length of the border with Canada. The frigid air is not coming from the extreme west. That’s where Vancouver is and that’s a fairly temperate zone with temperatures in the 50s most of the time. Not a lot of cold air comes down to us from the east either. That’s St. John’s and Halifax. If it stays this cold from now on we could get their icebergs, but not frigid air.
The culprit resides in the North Pole and generally comes down from the Canadian province of Alberta- hence the term Alberta Clipper. The way I see it, we should be ok if we start the fence at Idaho/Montana and continue east to Lake Superior. We don’t have to worry about the other Great Lakes because people in Michigan, Indiana, Upstate New York, etc., are already used to that Lake-effect snow stuff.
Needless to say, construction of a 10-mile high, 1000-mile long fence would create a shitload of jobs.
And it has to be retractable. If we don’t allow some cold Canadian air in, our summers will be more miserable than they already are.
The American/Canadian fence also has to be lowered for about a five-hour period around midnight, December 24th into the 25th. We wouldn’t want to have to scrape Rudolph off the giant structure. That would be both sad and difficult to explain to the children.
If the office water cooler conversation at your workplace was anything like the one at mine, here were the immediate reactions to Al and Tipper Gore’s break-up- in this order: Shock. Does Al have a new squeeze? Wait-maybe it was Tipper that kicked him to the curb?
For sure, there is unanimous consensus that “The Kiss” they performed at the 2000 Democratic National Convention was one of the weirdest, most awkward, and fake kisses of all time. I remember seeing them do that kiss thing at the time and thinking, “Wow, it looks like they haven’t kissed each other in years.”
Of course, the reason for the long, sloppy wet kiss was to point out to the world that he was the un-Clinton and that while Bubba may spend his days dodging flying plates from Hillary, Al and Tipper are the picture of bliss; at long last- a stable, loving relationship.
Which leads, of course to the immediate observation that- wow- Bill and Hillary are still together. They have actually outlasted Al and Tipper.
There will be much conjecture, of course, on why the climate change between Al and Tipper. I am sure the National Enquirer is out in force in Tennessee and California handing crisp $100 bills for any all information leading to any smarmy details that may explain the break-up.
Or- maybe after 40 years- it’s just time for a change and nothing nefarious is involved.
Or, better yet- and if you think about it- it’s totally feasible. I have to credit a work colleague for this theory: She recently confronted him. “No. I will not buy a Hybrid. I want a Ford Expedition, dammit.” Might this have been a matter of incompatible carbon footprints?
As I have said before and often, I am not convinced it’s man or industry that’s at fault. I have no clue what’s causing it and I am not certain an air-tight case can be made that global climate change is our doing. But more evidence is gathering that our climate is changing, and more specifically- that it is warming.
The well documented shrinking of the Arctic ice shelf is now being matched by developments in the Antarctic. Check out this press release just issued by the United States Geological Survey today.
In a nutshell, it says that climate change is causing ice shelves in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula to retreat. The possible effects are glacier retreat and a serious rise in sea levels, “threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide.”
This is directly from the USGS report:
Research by the U.S. Geological Survey is the first to document that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating overall from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990. The USGS previously documented that the majority of ice fronts on the entire Peninsula have also retreated during the late 20th century and into the early 21st century.
The ice shelves are attached to the continent and already floating, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 percent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it is easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. The transition of that ice from land to the ocean is what raises sea level.
The U.S. Geological Survey is not a political organization. Driven by the need to document the topographical characteristics of the largest addition of land mass in the nation’s history- the Louisiana Purchase of 1809- an act of Congress created the USGS on March 3rd, 1879. Their scientific disciplines include biology, geography, geology, and hydrology. The USGS is about science in its purest form.
They will continue watching this situation because it a very big deal. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 91% of earth’s glacier ice. If it melts, purchasing beachfront property would not be advisable. Or just buy 100 miles inland- it will become beachfront property.
Oh, that’s right. It snowed a lot this winter. Never mind.
OK, I was wrong. We are not the new Chicago. It’s been TWO weeks since the first snow flakes ushered in our storm of the century and there are still huge mounds of snow at intersections, entire lanes of highways and major thoroughfares that remain blocked off and significant portions of hardened ice on sidewalks.
The people of the DC area may be a little heartier and grizzled than they were before, but our state and local governments have shown all the winter acumen of Dade County, Florida. I don’t want to hear Mayor Fenty bragging about how well the city handled the twin storms. You didn’t. You tried but you failed. Your only ally has been the sunshine and the few degrees above freezing God has chosen to give you for a few hours each day.
Commuting nightmares continue. Metro is still swarming with massive crowds; all the people who don’t want to waste hours of their lives sitting in their cars not moving. We don’t even want to go into trash pick-up and the latest bane of people’s existence- potholes big enough to stop speeding Toyotas in their tracks.
I don’t own a car anymore. Gave up the automotive habit when I moved to Manhattan, a city uniquely equipped to handle a walking-subway-cabbing lifestyle. DC is very different which is why I moved two blocks from work and one block from a Metro station and, coincidently, to an apartment complex where a Zip-car happens to be parked in the back everyday. My exposure to the area’s continuing snow headaches is primarily sidewalk-related. But I have co-workers still arriving late to work everyday and friends posting their commuting frustrations on Facebook on a regular basis.
Eventually, because we have seasons, someday this crap will all go away. But it is absolutely nuts that on February 19th, the good people of this region are still dealing with a snowfall that began at 10:45am on Friday, February the 5th. Mother Nature can dump tons of snow and then eventually melt it or wash it away- but she needs a little help.
As a public service, I have stopped searching for iconic winter images and am posting a photograph of someone surfing. This is the first of the actions I am taking to ween myself off of my snow addiction.
♦ It’s ok to stop watching the Weather Channel now. I caught myself turning to TWC Thursday even though there was no real reason to and discovered it was snowing in Dallas. Interesting, but that has nothing to do with my life. It will snow four inches today in Atlanta. My son lives there, but it’s only four inches. Goodbye Weather Channel. Until next time.
♦ It’s ok to stop visiting Accuweather.com. But I did discover they have a much better site than Weather Channel. You don’t have to work as hard to find the stuff you really need to know. They also have a wonderful collection of very knowledgeable weather nerds who have all the esoteric details that interest me when all weather-hell is breaking loose.
♦ It’s ok to stop talking to all your friends about the Great Blizzard of 2010. It was really something. The sun is out now and the stuff is finally beginning to melt.
♦ Based on what I heard this morning about the nightmarish commute people have had, it remains ok to bitch about the District of Columbia and its lack of snowplowing prowess.
♥ It is not only appropriate, but perhaps, an absolute necessity to begin thinking about Valentine’s Day and what, precisely, you are going to do for your loved one Sunday. Flower stores are delivering. They have no choice. This is how they make money.
♦ It may snow a little bit on Monday but it’s not expected to be a major winter event. Remember, we may once have been snow-wimps, but we are now grizzled veterans of arctic climate conditions and we now laugh at a mere two inches and move on as if nothing had happened. We are the new Chicago.
I finally ventured out of the apartment today. I saw people. I interacted with some of them- interesting species. Hit the Safeway supermarket at 5th and K. Not very many humans there, however. But the cashier was really, really nice. Positive attitude, all smiles and light banter. She packed my five-cent plastic bags strategically after asking me if I was walking or driving (DC now charges for plastic if you don’t come in with your own hip canvass bags).
Clearly, no one likes potato bread. That’s about all that’s left. This is a brand new supermarket in my neighborhood so they do that thing at the produce department where you hear fake thunder and automated sprinklers spritz the vegetables every 20 seconds. Wasn’t working. Not worth the effort for the few of us scavengers who were there this afternoon. Or not worth the water to spray week-old wilted lettuce.
By the way, does anyone know the name of my Safeway? Does it even have a name yet? Here in D.C., all the Safeway supermarkets have nicknames that suit their surrounding neighborhoods. The one in Georgetown is called “Social Safeway.” The one in my old Northeast neighborhood near RFK stadium where I last lived here in DC, is “Scary Safeway.” Today, I would have to call my new grocery store, “Sad Safeway.”
The 8-block round-trip walk to Sad Safeway was challenging but much easier than, say, climbing Mt. McKinley. The sidewalks are basically packed snow. There’s a lot of standing water at intersections now because of all the snow-dams that are being created by the plow-piles. Wow. Plow-piles. Not only is that not a word, but it’s non-word I never even imagined I’d be using two weeks ago.
There have been a few cars parked in front of my building since last week. Today, I saw the two competing approaches to dealing with snowed-in, blizzard-covered motorized vehicles. One guy obviously took ownership of the situation and was out there shoveling his little heart out, clearing his path of exit. Directly across the street is a car that has not been touched. It is submerged. Its owner, I imagine, is in denial. Or hoping that now that it’s nearly 40 degrees, Mother Nature will take care of it all.
Nanook is back in his cave now. Tomorrow- a real adventure: Bed, Bath and Beyond.
What I am seeing outside my window in Washington, D.C. right now is not normal. Something is just not right about two blizzards in one week. I don’t think it’s chance or random. I think we’re seeing the effects of global climate change.
Yes, I know, a lot of people see record snow amounts and scoff at global “warming” theories. But it’s not as simple as “oh it’s cold and snowy, therefore global warming does not exist.”
See the map up top? That’s a recent temperature change analysis of the planet that came out two days ago. Accu-weather writes about it here. We are in the swath of the blue that is cooler. The rest of the globe is warming. Check out Canada. Did you know they’re having to truck in snow to Vancouver for the Winter Games that start this week?
It is indisputable fact that the ice cover at the North Pole has been significantly reduced. There are satellite photos of it. See here. When the ice melts, where does that moisture go? Into the atmosphere. What feeds storms? Moisture. Global warming does not suddenly repeal the seasons. Winters are still winters. But with more moisture in the air, storms get fed, and I theorize, create things like the unprecedented ferocity and number of blizzards we’re seeing right now.
Forget the politics of all this. I don’t know if humans have caused this to happen. This could very well be cyclical. We’ve had dozens of ice ages and warming trends over millions and millions of years. This could be another one of them. I don’t even know if there’s anything we can do about it or, given the current state of the global economy, can even afford to.
But as the winds blow at 40 mph and snow drifts of three, four and five feet start building across the mid-Atlantic states; as I see white-out conditions below the Mason-Dixon line and meteorologists beside themselves watching something that’s never been seen in recorded history, it sure makes me wonder what’s really going on.