Jeff Ward: If You Can't Stand the Heat, Well, There's Not Much You Can do About It!
My thoughts on our most recent temperature surge.
Now that was something! My west side Geneva weather station reported the electronic mercury hit 103 degrees on July 4, 102 degrees on Thursday, 104 degrees on Friday, and 102 degrees on the 7th. If you believe those unofficial totals, then we actually had four straight days of record-breaking triple-digit temperatures.
As I think back to my long-gone Evanston youth, I can remember some 100 degree days — a 106 degree scorcher in particular — but I can’t remember anything like what we experienced last week.
Not that this is the first time something like that happened. The Second City endured eight straight days of 100 degree weather back in 1936 which is probably why I don’t remember it. But that streak occurred at the height of the “Dust Bowl” phenomenon which was caused, in great part, by the vast over-farming of the semi-arid Great Plains.
Also, the Dust Bowl years were marked by persistent drought. We may be experiencing that symptom right now, but that’s come after two really soggy years — 2011 being the second wettest on record.
And on the rare occasion we actually do see a summer thunderstorm, they seem to be exceptionally violent considering their generally smaller size.
Whenever Mother Nature starts to resort to these kinds of consistent extremes, it can only mean one thing: climate change really is starting to rear its ugly head.
To wit, from June 2011 through May 2012, we broke the record for warmest consecutive 12-month period and each of those months ranked in the top third of the statistical distribution which hasn’t happened since we started recording temperatures 117 years ago.
Put more simply, the odds something like that being a random occurrence are one in 531,441 or once every 44,000 years.
But enough with all the details. As fascinating as they are, it was even more fascinating to watch how we all dealt with and adapted to this hot streak.
I know conventional wisdom holds that people can get a wee bit irritable in extreme heat, but I didn’t see any of that. As I’ve previously written, these kinds of shared liabilities are one of the few things that can still bring us together.
The mere notion of recurring 100 degree days is always the perfect conversation starter and there’s something positive about that shared sense of surviving the same ordeal. Ten years from now we’ll be saying, “Remember the summer of 2012? That certainly was somethin’ wasn’t it?”
The other thing I noticed is, while a plethora of people fled their domiciles during the recent power outage, most of my neighbors battened down the air conditioned hatches and hid in the basement for the heat wave duration. Who knew cabin fever could strike at the outset of July, but that’s exactly what happened.
I suppose one of the more pleasant side effects of that hunker-down mentality was that when I couldn’t stand staying home anymore, even popular retail places like Trader Joe’s were virtually empty as the afternoon temperatures peaked.
Finally, having run along the lakefront in 10 below weather in my youth, I wanted to go out for a short jogging excursion last Friday just to say I’ve done it at both ends of the spectrum. But after my wife threatened me with divorce, I decided discretion can be the better part of valor and simply shifted my running schedule to 6 a.m.
And so did everyone else who regularly hits the asphalt trails in my subdivision. The de facto heat escaping camaraderie was just like an exclusive club where the secret handshake consisted of a brief nod of recognition as you passed each other still sweating profusely from the early morning humidity.
Still, I wish I’d snuck out for just one brief mile to say that I did it, but, after considering the likelihood of finding a second woman willing to put up with me, it’s probably better that I didn’t.
That said, if the long range forecast is even remotely accurate, it looks like I’ll have plenty of opportunities to reconsider.