News reports about the hot weather and all of the records for high and highest-low temperatures that have been set this month in our region have become so commonplace that it is all-too-easy to read the headlines and move on to other news.
But the reality is this: Global warming and the attendant climate change are happening much faster than even the most dire of predictions of a few years ago, with significant implications for our planet and ourselves in the not-too-distant future.
Not only is the air temperature setting records, but even more ominously, the water temperature has been as high as we ever have known it in this area.
We were watching the weather last week and the weatherman’s chart showed a temperature of 72. We assumed that was the air temp — but in fact, it was the water temperature for Boston Harbor. A quick Google revealed that the average water temperature in August in Boston Harbor is about 68 — but we have been in the 70s all month. A swim we took last Saturday from Peddock’s Island confirmed that the water in this area is as warm as we ever have known it in our lifetime — it is no wonder that whales are frolicking off Deer Island and great white sharks are everywhere around us, from the Cape to Manchester-by-the-Sea.
That climate change is accelerating at a faster-and-faster rate than had been predicted is evident by the loss of sea-ice in the Arctic and the record-setting temperatures around the globe.
An article in Rolling Stone magazine this week put it this way:
“The Arctic has been heating up faster than any other place on the planet. (Last winter, temperatures in the Arctic were 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal). Last week, German climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf wrote an excellent piece in Politico explaining why the warming Arctic is not only causing ice to melt, but changing the weather dynamics for the entire planet. ‘That global warming leads to more heat extremes is not rocket science and has been confirmed by global data analysis,’ Rahmstorf wrote. He pointed out that we are seeing five times more monthly heat records — such as ‘hottest July on record in California’ — than we would in a stable climate. More heat means drier soils, causing more drought and wildfires. It also means more extreme rain, given that a warmer atmosphere can suck up and then release more moisture (a global increase in rainfall records is well-documented in weather station data).
But then Rahmstorf made a crucial point: ‘It’s not just that the weather is doing what it always does, except at a higher temperature level. Rather, there is growing evidence that the dynamics of weather itself are changing’.”
So there you have it — the news on the environment is all bad — and that is very depressing.