Digital Diatribes

A presentation of data on climate and other stuff

Archive for January 20th, 2010

Waitaminnit… Cold Weather can Kill Stuff?

Posted by The Diatribe Guy on January 20, 2010

Warming is bad. Warming comes with a catastrophic cost. Warming does this, warming does that. If something bad has happened, it’s because of warming.

Oh, sure… the drivers of the debate have cleverly tried to re-coin the mantra to “climate change,” because that pretty much covers everything. And some have really taken license with this to move from the “Carbon causes warming” thought process to a more universal “Carbon causes everything, as long as it’s something bad” approach.

Most reasonable people have seen through that, though, and at the end of the day the debate still centers around warming. Is it warming? If so, how much is it warming? If it is warming, is it because of man? More specifically, is it because of Carbon Dioxide? Are cycles involved? All reasonable questions, and subject to much debate. But underlying the entire debate is an assumption that often gets lost in the overall debate: If it is warming, is that a bad thing?

It has been presented to us that cataclysmic events will occur if there is continued global warming in our future. These suppositions range from things that are fairly reasonable assumptions to things that are wild leaps of logic. It seems to be a reasonable argument that runaway warming could cause ice to melt and sea levels to rise. The question is to what extent, and whether or not it could be dealt with reasonably well. Other claims of worldwide disasters are borderline goofy. Idiots like Danny Glover start claiming that Carbon emissions lead to earthquakes, for example. I remember similar claims after the 2005 Christmas tsunami. Claims that certain things like hurricane frequency and intensity make a little more sense, though there are very divergent thoughts on whether or not warming will actually increase or whether it would mitigate the effects of hurricanes.

Often lost in the debate is what has actually happened from a broad perspective. It’s easy to look at a devastating hurricane and just assume it was really bad because of warming, and then conclude that we’re all gonna die. But throughout the 1900s, world grain production per capita has generally increased. Disease has generally decreased. Certainly, technology and advances play a huge part in this, but the warmth has not hurt matters. And even if you dismiss the benefits of warmth, we certainly have shown that we can adapt well to the gradual temperature increase we have supposedly “suffered” through.

What is often NOT discussed is the ramifications of a move in the other direction. Clearly, if we induce global cooling through whatever means we do that, then we can reasonably anticipate more periods of cold weather in traditionally warm places. So, what are the ramifications of cold weather hitting a warm climate?

Exhibit One: Fish die.

From Ponce de Leon Bay on the Southwest Coast down across Florida Bay to Lower Matecumbe in the Florida Keys — day after day, dead fish. Floating in the marina at Flamingo in Everglades National Park alone he counted more than 400 snook and 400 tarpon.

“I was so shook up, I couldn’t sleep,” said Frezza, an ecologist for Audubon of Florida and an expert flats fisherman. “Millions and millions of pilchards, threadfin herring, mullet. Ladyfish took it really bad. Whitewater Bay is just a graveyard.”

Fish in every part of the state were hammered by this month’s record-setting cold snap. The toll in South Florida, a haven for warm-water species, was particularly extensive, too large to even venture a guess at numbers. And despite the subsequent warm-up, scientists warn that the big bad chill of 2010 will continue to claim victims for weeks.

Exhibit Two: Orange crop in Florida expected to be down 20%.

Smaller oranges and fewer per tree mean this season’s crop could reap nearly 20 percent less than last season’s, mainly because of spotty rainfall and cold weather early this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s December estimate puts the state’s orange yield at 135 million boxes, a drop of 17 percent from 162.4 million harvested in the 2008-09 citrus season.

The USDA estimate for Valencia oranges fell by 1 million boxes to 66 million compared with the November forecast.

There is one lesson to be learned in all this, though. Football saves lives.

Alabama issued a warning to drivers Thursday night, urging them to stay off icy roads as driving conditions were “becoming dangerous” with numerous accidents reported. Trooper Curtis Summerville with the Alabama State Patrol said the biggest problem on the roads was black ice on overpasses and bridges.

But, he said football was helping keep people at home as University of Alabama fans cheered on their team in the National Championship Game against the University of Texas.

In the big scheme of things, are we just too thick-headed to realize that we may actually be blessed by a warmer climate? If, in fact, that’s even the case?


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