Summer’s heat came early, prompting Okanagan residents young and old to gleefully shed layers of clothes and wander about in nearly their natural state.
“Look, that man has no shirt on!” my three-year-old said at least a dozen times when sun-inspired fellas ran down the sidewalk basking in the splendour of the non-summer’s day that was last week.
“Some people think the clothes don’t make the man, sweetie. Those people are wrong,” I said.
OK, I just thought that.
It will be years until he has to know that the summer sartorial selections of Okanaganites brings on an annual eye-roll induced headache hotter than the sun. So I shoved my words down and they festered alongside another repressed feeling I was dealing with.
This weather … it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?
And not entirely good-strange. According to Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Coldwells, the warm stretch came courtesy of a ridge of high pressure built up in the Baja area. It floated north, bringing with it hot, hot heat. It was an El Nino unlike anything seen since 1997.
But, of course, this apparent one-off felt a lot like an extension of the boiling planet theme that’s been dominating headlines in the last year.
A news item out of NASA in March was one that really got my attention. According to their data, it was the most anomalously hot month the Earth has seen since record keeping began — fully 1.35 degrees Celsius warmer than the average from 1951 to 1980.
People more educated on the subject than me were actually alarmed. “This result is a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases,” meteorologists Jeff Masters and Bob Henson wrote on their blog, Weather Underground.
A shocker, yet, getting warmer isn’t actually shocking. For many, according to a paper published Thursday on Nature.com — an international weekly journal of science — warmer winters and longer summers are actually considered a good thing.
“Here we show that in the United States from 1974 to 2013, the weather conditions experienced by the vast majority of the population improved. Using previous research on how weather affects local population growth to develop an index of people’s weather preferences, we find that 80 per cent of Americans live in counties that are experiencing more pleasant weather than they did four decades ago,” reads the report summary from Patrick J. Egan and Megan Mullin.
“Virtually all Americans are now experiencing the much milder winters that they typically prefer, and these mild winters have not been offset by markedly more uncomfortable summers or other negative changes.”
Like anything, however, the good times will end. Mullin and Egan wrote that climate change models predict that U.S. summers will eventually warm more than winters and if greenhouse gas emissions grow at an unabated rate, an estimated 88 per cent of the U.S. public will experience weather at the end of the century that is far less enjoyable.
But, how do you break through the “it’s nice outside” mindset that causes inaction? I’m hoping that decades down the line, my little human doesn’t ask me why, despite all the many warnings, we didn’t save ourselves. I also hope Kelowna residents start wearing clothes when the sun comes out.
Kathy Michaels is a reporter with the Kelowna Capital News, a sister-paper to the Western News.