Mean High Water
By Don Matheson
Come toEastern Long Islandto be…happy. Leave your worries on theIslandofManhattan. Long Islandis for fun.
It is harder to have fun now that it has become crowded. We want OUR crowd to be here. So we can have fun with them. But we don’t want THAT crowd to be here. They get in our way. We can’t park at the beach for the crowds.
It wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t always fun either. Think I read somewhere that the first white settlers dug bunkers into the ground for shelter to avoid the winter cold. No fun, that. Well, maybe the Native Americans had fun watching the hapless interlopers try to cope in a strange world.
The cold is abating. This Winter…. Well it wasn’t really like a Winter. More like a long Fall bleeding into a long Spring. You’d have been fine with a blanket or two on the beach. The guys who plow snow had a lean time of it, their plows rusting in the driveway. But comfortable walks on Winter beaches were fun.
This fun can be expected to continue. Paraphrasing and quoting from Don Wuebbles in NationalJournal.com, virtually every respected scientist who has studied the issue concludes that climate change from global warming is real; the scientific evidence is undeniable. No one event or season proves this point. But we used to have a balance of extreme cold and extreme heat. “In the last decade, highs outpaced lows by 2 to 1. This year, it is 10 to1.” In theUS, the first 6 months of 2012 were 4.5 degrees above normal, the hottest 6 months in history. 50% of theUSis in draught conditions. This is not a surprise. It is as predicted.
Unfortunately, it is predicted to continue getting hotter. Much hotter. It has not been predicted by some modern-day mystic Nostradamus. It has been predicted to get much hotter by the same scientists who predicted what we are getting now. Apparently, they know whereof they speak. It will be fun for a while. Who would not want to escapeManhattanin this weather? Local businesses will thrive. Real estate will come back. Limousines will swarm into Montauk. Oh, sorry, that’s already happening. Hard to keep up with the fun.
There is a downside to milder winters onLong Island. Way up north where the world is covered with ice, less of the world is covered with ice. The heat is melting it. As it melts, there is less white surface to reflect heat back into space, so the heating accelerates. The heat carries more water vapor in the air, so storms are more powerful. The water is rising. Oh, shit. WE ARE LIVING ON ANISLANDAND THE WATER IS RISING!
But there is still time for lots more fun. Well, some time, anyway, although nobody knows for sure how much. The wooly-headed scientists who study this stuff disagree. Some say it will be fifty years before it gets too bad for us. That’s okay if you’re a boomer like me. Sorry if you are a child reading this. It does not look good for you.
The temperature of the Earth has risen about .9 degrees Celsius since we started dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. We do know that the last time it was 2 full degrees warmer, (we are talking about the deep oceans and all the surface of the earth here) the oceans were50 feetdeeper. Alligators lived inAlaska. Really. No shit. Look it up.
There is disagreement about how long it will take to get that warm. We are at 392 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere now. Scientists, those wacky guys and gals with the instruments that measure things, say that is ½ a watt per square meter of the Earth’s surface out of balance, so the temperature will continue to rise, unless we get back to 350 parts per million. There are unknowns in the calculations as to time, the speed and severity of change.
For example, methane is a lot worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. There are vast amounts of methane stored in the ocean floor and in the tundras up north. As they heat up and melt, the methane escapes from where it has been sequestered for millennia, gets in the atmosphere, increases global warming, speeds up the process. What they think will take 50 years could speed up and take 20. There are about 15000 locations where methane is now bubbling through the thawing tundra inAlaskaalone. I’m 64. I’ll probably be dead. I’m a smoker. Unfortunately, for me, smoking is fun. Quirky human behavior, not always rational, eyes wide open, doing dangerous things.