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RANT FROM JULY 2009
"Anecdotal Evidence of Climate Change"
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At first the scientists observed "global warming" and called it that. The oil companies and their purchased politicians of the Know-Nothing Party denied that it was happening at all. Some Senators called the entire notion a hoax.

Since some of the effects in some localities of global warming include marvelous blizzards, the scientists moved to a more cautious and all-inclusive term for this change, and now most of them call it "climate change."

The important question is, "How much, if any, of this change is the result of human activity?" The Know-Nothings are quick to assert that the humans have nothing to do with it, that it's part of a natural cycle, that only God can affect the climate. But most scientists are now agreeing that human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, is one of the causes, probably the major cause, of the change. If that's so, then we are all to some extent, large or small, responsible for what is happening.

Some of us think about this kind of thing more than others. I don't have precise scientific instruments or measurements, but I have a lot of memory, and here's some anecdotal evidence of climate change.

[1] So help me, it does seem warmer than before. I grew up in Pennsylvania and remember some very cold winters. We felt twenty below every now and then and on several occasions forty below. Snow piled up between the sidewalk and the curb of the street, so deep the kids dug igloos under there. Those temperatures and all that volume of snow isn't happening there now the way it was.

In 1958 in northern New Jersey, where I was living at the time, it snowed three feet deep on the Sunday after Easter. I spent Sunday and Monday shovelling snow, to get the car out for the commute to graduate school on Tuesday.

That same year I moved to New Mexico. On the last Sunday of the year it snowed more than a foot in Bernalillo and Placitas, paralyzing everything and everybody for a week. I thought nothing of it then, but such storms seldom happen here nowadays. Paralyzing snow in Albuquerque has become very rare.

In the early 60s I lost tomato plants in blossom to frost on May 20 in the North Valley in Bernalillo County. In recent years we have last frost much earlier in the year. It seems warmer.

[2] The local weather is changing. Can we dare call it "climate change"? Formerly there used to be several very hot spells in June in Albuquerque, over 100 degrees. Not this year. One year is not "climate change," but the change is notable.

Light-skinned people used to need a hat to protect themselves from the direct sun. The newspapers kept track of how many days in a row we had direct sun. Now we have much more cloud cover than previously. We hear people complain about how dark it is, and how many dark days in a row we have had.

We used to have wind in the spring. For some of us the wind made spring the least pleasant season of the year in New Mexico. For the past year we have had wind more or less all the time, or so it seems. It feels like something is changing.

[3] One can imagine that global warming could cause some animal species to migrate. We are aware of one instance. In 1975 we visited Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico. The ruins were marvelous, but what struck us as most remarkable was the infestation of screaming birds in the trees in the downtown plaza after dark. There were so many birds, and so much shiny white excrement, that the people weren't using the plaza under the trees. One boy threw a rock at the nearest tree, knocking down a bird. He did it a second time, and I asked him what he was doing. "To feed my dog." I asked him the name of the bird. The noise was deafening, but I thought he said, "Chanita."

Twenty years later, we heard much the same bird-noise, not so loud, in the trees at a shopping center in the South Valley. I looked up "chanita" in the Spanish-English lexicon. I couldn't find it but spotted "chanate -- Mexican blackbird." Could chanita have moved three hundred miles north in twenty years? I don't think they used to be around here. Now I hear them, hollering in our mulberry trees.

The weather [or is it the climate?] does seem to be changing. What to do about it is going to take more thinking and soul-searching. If we lived in one of those Pacific Island nations that is being engulfed by rising sea level, it would feel more urgent, probably.

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Copyright © 2009 Harry Willson

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