Friday, March 23, 2012

A Question for You

Does anyone else out there, who is experiencing above normal temperatures for longer than usual at this time of year, feel like it's not ok to say anything negative or critical about the weather?

We've had summer temperatures here in Ottawa for the last week and everyone is just loving it, can't get enough of it. People are out in flip flops, sundresses and board shorts. The patios are packed, parks are full, children scream down the streets on bicycles. Everyone is in love with the weather we're having.

And I am enjoying it too. My bike is also out. The sun oven is back in action. I'm doing yoga outside. Last Sunday I got a tan lines sitting outside reading in the sun in my two piece.

But. But I can't help worrying a little too. I worry about the maple syrup producers this year, the fruit growers, the migrating animals. I worry about drought and fire. I worry about heatwaves and smog alerts.

No, I'm not huddled in a corner, filled with debilitating anxiety or anything. I'm just a little uneasy about the unseasonably warm weather and the consequences of it.

However, around most people, I'm afraid to express those concerns lest I burst their early spring happiness bubbles. The few times I have, I get interesting responses. One person became quite defensive. Another pointed out that "weather is not climate" and another responded that this is just a fluke, followed by 'it happens'. Meaning I guess, that we'll return to normal soon and also that it's normal for the abnormal to happen. I held my tongue and didn't bother mentioning that we're smashing decades long records by degrees in the double digits and that those previous records only lasted for a day or two. What is happening right now is unprecedented and prolonged.

Apparently it's an issue for CBC radio too. The announcers on the Ottawa morning show were getting hate mail from listeners for being concerned about the weather instead of celebrating it, and were asked to be more positive when talking about the temperatures.

So now when the weather comes up, and of course everyone is talking about how wonderfully, glorious it is, I smile and nod and say "yes isn't it something?"

Then, I was at an event last Sunday and having a casual, small-talky conversation with a fellow and asked him if he had enjoyed his weekend and the weather. He replied that, while it was nice to be outside, he was actually concerned about the weird weather. Oh, bless him. I could have given him a big ole bear hug.

So what I'm wondering is if any of you have had a similar experience, that it's practically taboo to share your concerns and feelings about the weather. Do you sense that there is an expectation to celebrate the summer-like temperatures? And, if you do have concerns that you have shared, what kind of responses are you getting? For the worried in a world of those who seem unconcerned, how are you doing? Are you ok? Do you need a sympathetic ear? I've got two!

Sharon Astyk has a nice post up today about how she feels, that really resonated with me. She says, " is nice, but not NORMAL at my house, it is hard to love with a whole heart this world, whether this warming is momentary or meaningful. The long term predictions for my place echo in my head - like Georgia, only drier, by the end of the century. If we aren't having a Georgia spring, we are certainly having a Virginia one, and isn't without consequence."

Updated to add this informative article. Also this. I would love to know if Oprah and Obama were criticised for not being completely positive about the weather.

“We’ve had a good day,” Obama said. “It’s warm every place. It gets you a little nervous about what’s happening to global temperatures. But when it’s 75 degrees in Chicago in the beginning of March it gets you thinking … ”

“Something’s wrong,” Oprah interjected.

“Yeah,” Obama said. “On other hand we really have enjoyed the nice weather.”

Image source


Chile said...

The weather has caused issues here, for us and for the farmers. Our apples bloomed way early and none set. The few early peaches that set were quickly demolished by a frost and high winds associated with a typical winter storm. Orchards south of us are concerned they will have another bad harvest year. (Last year, a late frost in MAY - in so. AZ! - stunted the peaches badly.)

OTOH, the warm weather allowed gardeners to harvest some plants, such as broccoli, for months longer than normal. We all know not to get used to this, though, as next year could be unseasonably cold again ... just like last year was for us. And then the deniers will once again be saying, "See, no such thing as global warming."

Jenn said...

I'm in southwestern Ontario, and it's the same kind of thing here - it's been exceptionally warm for awhile now, and there are certainly concerns for everything from this year's maple syrup production through to what kind of summer we might have this year.

Interestingly, I'd been somewhat cautious about expressing my concerns, and usually tempering them by saying, "Well, it's really nice weather, but...", but it seems like most of the people that I see regularly are of the same mindset, and aren't without their concerns. I'm not sure I'd try that with anyone other than friends, though.

Amber said...

Chile, here in Canada the maple syrup producers had their season cut extremely short. It will be a hard year for them. We're still nearly two months away from our last frost date which has the potential to affect anything that is blooming early.

But as you say, there is some good as well. I had my first harvest of wild greens yesterday, much earlier than I normally do. And it looks like we'll have an early start to gardening.

But I guess what I find puzzling is the feeling that it's not ok to do anything other than celebrate having summer temperatures in late winter/early spring.

Jenn, it sounds like you might be sensing that too, although it seems like many of the people you speak to share your concerns.

For a while I thought it might just be me being overly sensitive, but when I heard that the CBC radio hosts were getting hate mail, I wondered if there was a larger, general sentiment that actively discourages discussion about the consequences of the record breaking temperatures we're having. I feel like there is an expectation to LOVE this weather, and if you have any feelings about it otherwise, it's not ok to talk about them.

Anonymous said...

I predict a longer and snowier winter next year. Why? because i just bought a new snow blower.

I wouldn't be too concerned about the record breaking temperatures just yet,after all, "one Swallow does not a summer make". If this trend continues year over year I would definitely consider heading for the hills. The unusual weather we are experiencing at the moment may turn out to be just another outlier in an otherwise boring sea of statistics.
I think La Nina and El Nino are both poorly understood and there is insufficient data to produce any reliable predictions about weather in the near term. Our great grand children may may have a better shot at it as more data accumulates.

As for the present situation we will just have to cope as best we can and be prepared to pay more for the produce that may or may not be affected by the unusual spring we are having.

Amber said...

Yes Anon, I understand that there are many contributing factors that led to the current heat wave and it won't be fully understood for some time, if ever, ( but that isn't the point of my post.

I asked, if people do have concerns about the current extreme heat event, do they feel comfortable talking about it, or do they feel like it is a taboo subject?

The few times I have mentioned some of the possible consequences of the unseasonable weather, as a result of climate change or not, I get mixed reactions from people, but mostly along the lines that they are not interested in hearing or are markedly upset at anything but a positive response to how awesome it is. I find this curious and am wondering if there are larger, social and cultural norms at play here and so I asked if anyone else is experiencing something similar.

It sounds like you are not concerned, so perhaps are not having conversations with others beyond the usual weather 'small talk'.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you... we know it's not just one-off, unusual weather; the statistics show the trend, and at any rate, any credible scientist with knowledge on the subject will say the same. Of course, the evidence for climate change doesn't depend on warm weather, but it's part of the pattern, even if we also get other kinds of unusual weather at other times. And I feel morally obliged to bring up the issue of climate change when talking about the unusual weather, but it does make me feel like an unwelcome voice of doom. And like you, it's such a relief to hear someone else say the same things. - Melissa

wendyytb said...

I don't feel comfortable about bringing up my weather concerns unless it is with a like-minded friend or a blogging buddy. Like religion or politics, it seems that topics like weather and global warming fall into the same category of less said the better.

People will eventually get it...

Amber said...

Melissa, I'm glad you mentioned the moral element. I feel a similar obligation but also feel like it's a breach of etiquette to bring it up, so more often than not I don't. And I feel very conflicted about that.

Wendy, it's interesting that the topic of weather, which was probably one of the safest conversations one could have with a stranger, is now fraught with the same potential for contention as religion and politics!

Thanks everyone for all the comments. They've been helpful and given me some insight into the matter. Much appreciated!

The heat wave has passed and people are complaining about how cold it is, even though the predicted highs and lows are still above average. :)