Too hot? Re­mem­ber Jan­uary

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

It is sum­mer and the liv­ing is easy, if you can for­get about the hu­midex. Some­times ig­no­rance is in­deed bliss. We can­not es­cape the harsh re­al­i­ties of the world, how­ever, the heat and hu­mid­ity can be more eas­ily tol­er­ated if we are not con­stantly re­minded about just how hor­ri­bly hot and hu­mid the weather is.

For ex­am­ple, one day last week at high noon, the tem­per­a­ture did not seem to bother any­one at Is­land Park in Alexan­dria, where Mill Pond was mir­ror-like calm. The beach was alive with the sounds of bathers of all ages, shapes and sizes. Other vis­i­tors were hav­ing picnics at tables or strolling on the grass. The park has be­come more at­trac­tive in re­cent years now that North Glen­garry has re­duced the res­i­dent Canada goose pop­u­la­tion. A few re­minders of the large birds’ pres­ence can still reg­u­larly be found on walk­ways but noth­ing is per­fect.

A siesta in the park is a great way to cool down and recharge. Yet, the harsh con­di­tions are driven home when you get into the car and the ther­mome­ter reads 37. With the hu­mid­ity last week, it “felt like” 40. Do we re­ally need to know what it feels like? Extreme weather has be­come the norm in re­cent years as we have had to live with 60-de­gree shifts. We freeze in be­low-30 Jan­uary and swel­ter in plus-30 July. We ought to be ac­cus­tomed to the heat by now. Re­mem­ber that last year, on the July 1 week­end, the ther­mome­ter reached the mid-30s June 29, spark­ing a run on air con­di­tion­ers. July 1, the hu­midex hit 48. “That’s jun­gle hu­mid­ity; it’s re­ally op­pres­sive,” En­vi­ron­ment Canada’s se­nior cli­ma­tol­o­gist David Phillips said then. “We’ve never had a tem­per­a­ture that high in Canada. You’d have to go to Viet­nam or the Ama­zon rain for­est to get tem­per­a­tures like that.” Plus-30 weather would linger for a full week. As these lines are be­ing writ­ten an­other heat warn­ing has been is­sued. Soc­cer games are be­ing can­celled. On the ra­dio, novel ideas on how to stay cool are be­ing ex­changed. Freeze your un­der­wear; put your clothes in a fridge; put pop­si­cles in back­packs.

We are all very spoiled. We pity the poor peo­ple who do not have round-the-clock access to air conditioni­ng.

In Europe, few house­holds are equipped with air con­di­tion­ers, while in North Amer­ica al­most all homes have AC.

These trends will no doubt change as Eu­ro­peans have been sub­jected to lethal high tem­per­a­tures this sum­mer. Is AC a right? That point will be­come the topic of de­bate as Earth con­tin­ues to ex­pe­ri­ence un­prece­dented heat waves.

Yes, as NASA points out, climate change has been a fact of life for­ever. The Earth's climate has changed through­out his­tory. Over the last 650,000 years there have been seven cy­cles of glacial

ad­vance and re­treat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago mark­ing the be­gin­ning of the mod­ern climate era and of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion. Most of these climate changes are at­trib­uted to very small vari­a­tions in Earth’s or­bit that change the amount of so­lar en­ergy we Earth­lings re­ceive.

Yet, the space agency notes, the cur­rent warm­ing trend is of par­tic­u­lar sig­nif­i­cance be­cause most of it is ex­tremely likely (greater than 95 per cent prob­a­bil­ity) to be the re­sult of hu­man ac­tiv­ity since the mid-20th cen­tury and pro­ceed­ing at a rate that is un­prece­dented.

We know that the planet's av­er­age sur­face tem­per­a­ture has risen about 1.1 de­grees Cel­sius since the late 19th Cen­tury. The rise is caused by in­creased car­bon diox­ide and other hu­man-made emis­sions into the at­mos­phere.

Most of the warm­ing has oc­curred in the past 35 years, with the five warm­est years on record tak­ing place since 2010.

Not only was 2016 the warm­est year on record, but eight of the 12 months that make up the year — from Jan­uary through Sep­tem­ber, with the ex­cep­tion of June — were the warm­est on record for those re­spec­tive months.

En­vi­ron­ment Canada has fore­cast the av­er­age sum­mer tem­per­a­ture across On­tario be­tween 2041 and 2070 will be 3.5 C higher than it was be­tween 1981 and 2010. The facts can be chill­ing. So, to dis­tract your­self from the dis­turb­ing sta­tis­tics, why not stock up on ice cream and pop­si­cles?

Plus, shop­ping gives you an ex­cuse to linger in a gro­cery store, with its huge re­frig­er­a­tion sys­tem. Buildings with in­dus­trial-level, meat-freez­ing, cooling ma­chines of­ten be­come mec­cas dur­ing scorch­ing days. It could al­ways be worse. Many peo­ple can­not sim­ply duck into a store for re­lief. And some are obliged to carry on with their jobs, re­gard­less of the con­di­tions.

For ex­am­ple, as the heat wave dragged on last week, crews were repaving roads, roofers were tough­ing it, farm­ers were bal­ing hay.

And yet, when the heat warn­ing was still in effect, a woman was seen hap­pily jog­ging along a road, sweat stream­ing down her face.

There is ev­i­dence that pro­longed exposure to high tem­per­a­tures can af­fect the brain.

There is am­ple proof that long hot days and nights will even­tu­ally take a toll on one’s dis­po­si­tion.

It is dif­fi­cult to be both cheery and pro­duc­tive when you haven’t had a good sleep in a week. Alas, sooner or later, the heat will break. And, af­ter emerg­ing from a long rough win­ter not so long ago, no­body should be com­plain­ing about the hot weather. Be­cause, af­ter all, it is sum­mer­time and the liv­ing is easy.

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