After an unmourned absence of a few years in much of the United States, winter arrived this year with a vengeance.
First the coldest, snowiest December in a decade or so. Then a foot or so of snow followed by the coldest temperatures since the turn of the century – or since weather forecasters found a way to measure wind chill, take your pick.
And down off the coast of the world’s coldest continent, Antarctica, a Russian ship carrying a scientific expedition got trapped in the ice, forcing the helicopter evacuation of most of those on board, in the middle of what passes for summer in that part of the planet. The irony is that the expedition was there to study global warming.
Meteorologists are finding better ways to predict weather, at least in the short run. But on a planet where weather patterns tend to readjust willy-nilly, long-range prognostication still isn’t much better than a coin flip.
What we do know is there have been colder winters. And warmer ones. And the Earth keeps revolving around the sun every 12 months, causing changing seasons in temperate climates.
There have been colder winters, even within recent memory. I recall my early days at The Herald when we photographed a couple of employees in front of a time-and-temperature sign that showed a chilly minus 19 degrees. And the blizzard of 1978, when some two feet of snow combined with frigid temperatures and high winds to paralyze central Indiana for several days.
Of course there has been the other extreme. It hasn’t been more than a couple of years ago that Indiana had February temperatures so high that everyone was breaking out short-sleeved shirts.
Lots of theories have been advanced for the varying weather patterns. El Nino. La Nina. The Alberta Clipper. You name it.
Enter the global warming theory. Erstwhile political figure Al Gore, whose claim to fame probably leans more toward his book “An Inconvenient Truth” about global warming than to his one-time claim to have invented the Internet, predicted that the entire Arctic polar ice cap would have disappeared by now. That hasn’t happened; in fact satellite reports indicated it grew by 50 percent this past year.
Still, advocates manage to blame global warming for our latest deluge of snow and double-digit below-zero temps. Weather forecasters cite the polar vortex. And the global warming people, such as The Daily Beast or the Huffington Post (which was conservative before it was liberal), tell us it has something to do with warmer polar temperatures pushing the colder weather further south. OK then.
I could argue with them. But not convincingly, I suppose; I’m no scientist. But then neither are most of them.
But since I’m an English major, I’ll stick with the rhyme I picked up many years ago: Whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot, we shall have weather, weather or not.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.