In the ’50’s when I was a child, the big event of the day was Daddy coming home from work. As soon as he got home he would promptly turn on the television to get the weather report. We lived in a small town in West Texas where the weather had a real impact on the farmers, which in turn had a real impact on everyone. To this day, I regularly surf the channels for the weather, and I still get a thrill inside when storm clouds fill the sky and the north wind begins to blow.
Those who live in the country or in rural communities can be strongly impacted by the weather. Anyone who is dealing in agriculture has a great concern with how much rain we’re getting, and how late or early in the growing season it comes, and how high or how low the thermometer is going to go that day. Farm animals may need shelter or other provisions for weathering serious weather. Heavy rains can cause unwanted erosion to the land; creeks can rise; flooding can occur. On the other hand, for many of those who have left the city for the benefits of a more rural lifestyle, a winter storm gives cause to thank their lucky stars that they are not driving on a five-lane freeway, dealing with the five o’clock traffic in the pouring rain.
For over two centuries now, many rural Americans have faithfully consulted the Farmer’s Almanac for weather forecasts and the like and have planted their crops based on the reports given. According to its publishers, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which was first published in 1792, is "the oldest continuously published periodical on the continent." It is truly a piece of American history and tradition. Copies of the 1802 and 1902 editions of the Old Farmer’s Almanac can be purchased from www.Almanac.com. The Farmer’s Almanac is truly an anachronism. Even in today’s age of technology, meteorologists agree that forecasting day-to-day weather changes more than five or six days out isn’t possible. And yet the Almanac has been making predictions a year out for over 200 years. The publishers of the Old Farmer’s Almanac state that their weather forecasts "are determined by the use of a secret formula (devised in 1792 by the founder of this Almanac, Robert B. Thomas), enhanced by the most modern scientific calculations based on solar activity, particularly sunspot cycles. We also analyze weather records for particular locales. We believe nothing in the universe occurs haphazardly; there is a cause-and-effect pattern to all phenomena, including weather. It follows, therefore, that we believe weather is predictable. Modesty requires, however, that we add this caveat: It is obvious that neither we nor anyone else has as yet gained sufficient insight into the mysteries of the universe to predict weather long-range with anything resembling total accuracy." Meteorologists claim that today’s long-term weather forecasts are by necessity nothing more than projected trends based on documented averages, and that forecasts for even 6 to 10 days out are based on averages. There are enormous backlogs of weather data available to today’s meteorologists. In the United States, weather data compilation has been ongoing since colonial times. Up until 1814, the data was kept in individual diaries in localized areas.
Interest in establishing standardized research practices grew through the 1800’s. This eventually led to the establishment of the U.S. Weather Bureau of the Department of Agriculture in 1891, with a budget of over $1,000,000. The department paid station attendants throughout the county who read instruments, launched weather balloons, and wired the data to Washington. Subsequently, the twentieth century brought in radar, computers, and satellites along with more sophisticated measurements and data gathering techniques, which resulted in a much more "global" approach to weather data compilation.
Long term weather patterns and trends associated with a particular region are collectively called “climate.” Climatologists examine the data of past weather patterns in order to make predictions for the future. While climate is specific to a particular region, the “climate models” used by climatologists in order to project trends, often involve the integration of data from a broader, more global perspective. Climate models involved mathematical equations that describe the relationship among many atmospheric variables, including the composition of gases that make up the atmosphere. For example, if the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere increases, the result will be an increase in the average temperature in all regions across the entire planet.
Many scientists are predicting that the climate of our planet will be warmer in the future, and the term “global warming” has become a familiar phrase. Typically, this phrase is used in relation to the increase in the concentration of certain gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which reduce the amount of heat that escapes from our atmosphere into space. The increase in heat results in warmer temperatures.
One might think that a little bit warmer weather could be a good thing. But it’s not quite that simple. Data shows that in the last 10,000, the Earth’s average temperature hasn’t varied by more than 1.8 degrees. A difference of just a few degrees in the earth’s average temperature could have a dramatic impact on the weather globally. For example, the earth’s average global temperature at the end of the last Ice Age was only in the range of 5 to 9 degrees lower than today’s average temperature.
The United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to examine the most current scientific data related to global climate. The web site for IPCC is www.ipcc.ch It offers detailed information. Studies project a warming trend on the order of 2.5 degrees up to 10 degrees over the next 100 years. The result of such warmer temperatures would case a rise in sea level, more extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes and tornadoes, wide-spread flooding, and an increase in disease carried by rodents and insects such as mosquitoes.
Of course these projections take into account the prediction that carbon dioxide emissions and other “greenhouse gases,” will increase as a result of continued and expanded burning of fossil fuels. But alternative energy resources are on the rise. Visit www. NewScience.com for more information. Also reforestation programs, if stepped up in the future, could reverse some of the ill effects of carbon dioxide emissions by absorbing them.
However, there is evidence that a warming trend has been in process over the last 100 years. According to the EPA (see www.EPA.gov), data shows that temperatures have increased approximately 1 degree globally over the last 100 years with an overall increase in precipitation. Regional data of course varies. In Fresno, California, the average temperature has increased a little over 1 degree in the last hundred years, and precipitation has decreased up to 20% in many parts of the state of California. Along much of the Pacific coastline, sea level is rising by 3-8 inches per century (3 inches at Los Angeles, 5 inches at San Francisco, and 8 inches at San Diego), a trend which purportedly will result in an increase in precipitation in the future. In Arizona, average temperatures increased from 1 to 3 degrees and precipitation increased up to 20% during the last 100 years. The same is true for Oregon except for the leeward side of the Cascades, where precipitation has decreased almost 20% in the last decade. In Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming temperatures have increased from 1 to 4 degrees over the last 100 years, while precipitation has decreased by 20%. On the other hand, Albuquerque, New Mexico shows a decrease in average temperature over the last 100 years of almost 1 degree, and an increase in precipitation of 20% in much of the state. Texas shows a decrease in both temperature and precipitation over the last 100 years, but data suggests this trend will reverse in the future because of the rising sea level. At Galveston, sea level has risen 25 inches in the last 100 years. In fact, the EPA says that most of the data given here is not suggestive of trends because of the impact of global warming and other environmental factors.
Long term weather trends and global changes don’t really tell us much about today’s weather right here locally, or next week’s weather, or the weather forecast for this season and the next one. The National Weather Service Forecast Office (www.nws.noaa.gov) has some really good information about present day weather conditions. You can get a 7-day forecast for any area in the country. You can forecasts related to precipitation and average daily temperatures for the next 12 months. The site also gives information on weather advisories and warnings. It gives reports on the drought that has plagued the Northwest, Southwest, and central Great Basin. There is information on El Nino, La Nina, and more much more. It’s a really fun site and there’s quite a lot to learn about the weather. But, for me, when I really just want to find out if it’s going to rain here tomorrow, nothing beats turning on the television for the 6:00 news to get the local weather report.
♥ Ranch & Country Editorial Staff