Conversations About Weird Weather

BY ON July 25, 2012

Man, dressed for summer, and woman, dressed for winter, sitting on a bench

There is a funny old Victorian etiquette rule that admonishes: “Do not always commence a conversation with an allusion to the weather.” I imagine that back then this could have become a bothersome (tiresome) habit. In the buttoned up Victorian era, the weather was likely discussed in depth because it was nearly the only safe topic within the strict confines of decency.

Extreme Weather

Lately, I am finding this rule difficult to adhere to. Everyone around here is talking about is the weather. But then, for me, its summer in Houston, Texas, and the weather is usually worthy of at least some mention. Right now, in the midst of an extended rain storm, our weather seems to be returning to what we normally expect for summer, only overshooting the mark a bit. For the last two summers, we have suffered drought. And this is no small matter here, as our summers are usually quite wet. We cherish the rain in the summer because showers help keep the temperature down…which helps us turn our ACs down, which in turn, takes the pressure off of our overtaxed electrical grid. We talk a little less about the need for new power plants and heavier reliance on old coal-fired plants when we are not in the grips of heat and drought. When the drought was upon us, the heat was relentless and we struggled to function under its oppression.

Today’s flash flood warnings illustrate the enormous difference a year can make. As the Houston Chronicle newspaper headline read this morning, we’ve got “too much of a good thing.”

Conversations About Weird Weather

When the mail carrier came late today, we greeted each other by talking about the rain and floods and how water delayed his route. I was walking the dog who, upon wading through the water at our sidewalk gate looked up at me in dismay. She wanted to talk about the weather, too.

My mother called late morning today. She was cancelling our lunch date because where she lives (outside of city center), the roads were flooded and the Bayou had overflowed. We had planned a pleasant lunch at a new restaurant, where we could have sat outside and enjoyed the temporary break from heat and mosquitoes that a normal summer storm would bring. We talked about how impossible it is to schedule a game with tennis buddies because of the rain. Last year, we would have had the same discussion about tennis cancellations, only because by 9:00 a.m. in the morning, temperatures would already have reached well above 90 degrees.

Twisted Climate Changes

The flip-flop of our weather really has me twisted. Last month, I had the pleasure of joining a leadership group in the mountains of Colorado, near Colorado Springs. On our morning hikes, practically all we talked about was how utterly dry everything was—how the dry brush crackled under our feet, and about all of the downed trees and debris from the drought currently torturing the Colorado area. Our trip had to be cut short and we had to be evacuated because of the fires that, at that time, had just begun to ravage the area. Those fires are still burning a month later and are devastating miles of forests and neighborhoods. I keep wishing I could somehow share this deluge of Texas rainwater with Colorado. It’s painful to watch as the fires consume that lovely part of our country.

Colorado is not alone in this. Sixty-one percent of the country is suffering a drought that, according to this report, is devastating crops and livestock so much so that 1,016 counties in 26 states are designated natural disaster areas.

In the confines of my own little world, it seems clear to me that the weather is changing due to global warming. But that’s a part of the weather so many in Congress certainly do not want to talk about. You can rest assured that for folks in Washington, proper etiquette is to not commence a conversation with an allusion to climate change. In the face of evidence far beyond my own weather, conversations must be hard to ignore. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says that we are enduring the hottest weather in American recorded history—that these past 12 months have been the warmest twelve months in the continental U.S. since folks started keeping such records back in 1895. Further, NOAA says the odds are 1 in 1.16 million that this record heat is a random event, rather than part of a global warming trend.

Presidential Candidates Need To Talk About Global Warming

We need to let our legislators know that we believe what the scientists are telling us about global warming and the man-made greenhouse gas pollution that causes it, and that they need to do something about it. We need to tell our presidential candidates that it’s time to pay attention, meaningful attention, to the climate crisis.

Let’s talk about the weather in ways that really count, even if it’s not good manners!


TOPICS: African-American Community, Heat and Extreme Weather, Pollution, Science, Texas