Too hot? Remember January
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.