Sunday, March 29, 2009

When the Earth Speaks

Around 6:00 p.m. this evening, angry dark green clouds roiled into our neighborhood. Last time I had seen that color cloud was 1980 in North Carolina, when a tornado passed over the summer camp where I worked.

Well, the skies opened, and an impossible amount of hail mixed with buckets of rain poured over my neighborhood—a river of whitewater rolled down the street and swirled down the storm drain. Mixed with in were half-inch sized hailstones that covered lawns like snow.

It was easily the strangest storm I have ever witnessed—never so much water is so short a time; never hail like this. Our family gathered on the porch to watch in awe.

Oddly, I was just between reading two intriguing pieces in the NY Times, one Thomas Friedman column about needing an ecological Dow to monitor the earth’s health, the other the magazine’s cover story on global warming naysayer Freeman Dyson.

It’s been said here and everywhere before that one weather event is not proof of global warming, but a storm of that violence—indicating large amount so energy—in March is uncommonly rare.

And this storm followed a day of summerish temperatures in the high 70s.

My gut was also right: this same storm had triggered tornados in Lancaster County an hour earlier. The photo above is from the web site of WHTM in Lancaster of a mobile home-- of course-- upended. Those green clouds were, in fact, tornado-makers. In March. Unheard of.

We continue setting records for strange weather—but that’s OK, the weather’s not broken.

Truth is, the Dyson article is extremely important—global warming is the signature discussion of this time, and there should be vigorous debate in the court of public opinion weighing the science. Our knees should not all jerk in the same direction.

But we better talk fast, because when the earth speaks like it did today, we better listen.

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