Coded gray.

Saturday 28 April 2001

Red skies, forest

Pic of the day: Not a leaf in sight. But at least it's not snowing.

Talk about the climate

A couple more days, and April is over. I went to the city today and worked for a couple hours, doing things I really should have done yesterday when I was feeling too sick. The head cold is moving on to the next stage, with the gross slimy stuff. Looking back, I see that I seem to "always" have this at the end of April. This may be simply because I "always" visit my best friend in April. Or it may be just coincidence. It certainly is not because of the weather. For the weather is quite different from year to year.

This year, for instance, there hasn't been one real warm day so far. It is not quite winter any more, but at best I can go without my caps on and not freeze my ears. I keep wearing the jacket I used all winter.


Back when I was a kid on the west coast of Norway, the snow did not leave until sometime in early May. The spring was rather hectic, a short transition from winter to summer. Since then, I have moved to the south coast where the climate is a bit milder. And even on a year such as this, the snow and the frost is gone in April. OK, it may come back, but probably not. And for a while, it also seemed that spring came earlier and earlier for each year.

There was all this talk about the greenhouse effect and how the ice caps would melt and what not. But evidently there is a lot of local variation here. I looked at the forest as I walked through it today. None of the trees had deigned to put on the green. Even the early ones only had buds. I wonder if they will eventually cave in and open, or if they will wait and wait until there actually is a warm day. I bet if there is one single summer day, spring will come to the trees in a matter of hours. They are sooo ready. But the chill goes on and on, and in a couple days we have May.


I have hinted, only half in jest, that the greenhouse effect is simply people moving from Detroit to Los Angeles. There has been a steady migration of people to warmer parts, particularly in the USA. We have lots of elderly people moving to Spain over here in Europe too, but it is the USA which sets the global agenda. And if people there think it's getting warmer, then there is a greenhouse effect. Intriguingly, they don't seem very eager to do anything about it. I guess if global warming was so bad, people would have moved to Alaska instead. As some wise person said: "What a person really believes can not be determined from his creed, but from the assumptions on which he habitually acts."

Actually it seems these days to be almost a full agreement among climatologists that our planet is growing warmer. But there is also a growing agreement that it is not happening at the speed expected from earlier models. Something is pulling the other way, and there is no consensus on what this is or how long it will last.

In the past, ice ages have been the norm for millions of years. Each glaciation lasted for 100 000 years or more, punctuated by warmer bouts of 10 000 years or so. This particular "interglacial", as they are called, has been remarkable in two ways. One, it has been largely free of sudden fluctuations. Two, it has seen the rise of human civilization.

But human civilization arose early in this ice-free age. And this was when the climate was warmer. The heat that melted off the great glaciers was more intense than what has been needed to keep them away. In the first millenia after the ice sheet was gone, France teemed with hippos and apes. Sahara was green, and remained so until shortly before the building of the first pyramids. (In fact, more and more archeologists now connect the first Egyptian culture to the earlier Sahara culture.) Here in Norway, wild boars roamed the woods, and forest covered much of the mountains that are now almost bare. Even into the bronze age, Scandinavian women would wear straw skirts.

After the first hot years, the climate has slowly grown colder. We have now reached the time where the new ice age would normally have set in. Maybe the added greenhouse effect from our civilization is the only reason why my native Norway is not covered by a growing layer of snow all year round, like it was for a hundred thousand years, and before that, again and again and again. If so, we could need all the greenhouse effect we can get. Of course, people on small coral islands may hold a different opinion.

But if this spring is any indication, there's a long time before the ice caps melt.

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