The ice age endeth, perhaps

A couple of weeks ago, while I was sacked out in the bedroom with my air conditioner set to High on a day when the temperatures were in the mid-90s with some humidity, I reflected on the end of the ice age. Colloquially, we think the ice age ended about 12,000 years ago, but scientists actually consider that we are still in one, and what ended 12,000 years ago was just one of a series of glaciations. (Check this in Wikipedia, if you want a quickie overview.) The end of the ice age will be signified by the long-term disappearance of the glaciers near Earth’s poles, which according to reports is going to happen sooner than later.

At the moment, I’m not as concerned about some of the doomsday scenarios that could happen if the planet gets much warmer. If I was a scientist or policymaker of some sort, I might be active in whatever efforts make sense to either modify our contributions to climate change or plan for the eventuality of it. But I’m a desktop typesetter and a songwriter, so I’m trying to not worry about something I can’t really change.

What I am worried about is the loss of decent winters. Yeah, another thing I can’t do much about, I know. It’s just that I like winter—I mean, cold and snowy winters, at least the sort I’ve known in my life—and I know how to handle them. I have the clothes! I know how to snowshoe and how to get my car unstuck from a snowdrift! Centuries of culture are built up around winter being a part of life, too. At a bare minimum, consider how much of our Christmas or Solstice holiday traditions are rooted in the “Little Ice Age” (16th to 19th centuries). Good King Wenceslas’ tale wouldn’t be so poignant if St. Stephen’s Day hadn’t had snow laying all about, crisp and clean and even.

If mid-January becomes more like early November here, vaguely cool and rainy instead of snowy, nothing to look forward to than long months of a gray and brown environment, then what’s the point? May as well live in Hawaii then.

We’ve had two years of record warmth in much of the U.S. Yeah, it’s only two years and it’s based on the records kept by government weather offices only since the 1880s. It’s hard to know what the cycle is doing when you’re in a cycle. But I checked a year’s worth of three-month forecasts by the National Weather Service, which predicted warmer than usual temperatures for almost all periods. If this keeps up, I’m going to be one of those annoying old people telling the kids of his great-nieces “I remember when it would SNOW! You needed BOOTS and SHOVELS! I walked to school in the snow BOTH WAYS!”

Then again, here’s a rebuttal of a sort: “End the Ice Age” advocates that we should not just embrace global warming, but take steps to prevent the return of the glaciers. Among other things, the page says that much of the land that is unusable for agriculture would become arable if we could get out of the ice age once and for all (warmer temps, more rain). The gains here would offset land lost due to sea level rises. Interesting thoughts. Guess I’m kind of cool to it, though. (Sorry, just had to say that.)

About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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5 Responses to The ice age endeth, perhaps

  1. maxauburn says:

    And: If we get global warming, which we are, it will most likely lead to another full-out ice age!

    Then, you’ll get ALL the winter anyone could ever want-year round for thousands of years.

    I would not mind that, myself.

    • songdogmi says:

      Well, it could, yes. I think it’s really hard to know what will happen in the long run. And if we start trying to counteract the trends, there’s a danger of some wild unexpected developments, at least it seems that way to me.

      I’m not sure I want a super-bad winter. Just, say, a typical Michigan winter from days of my youth. Just a few feet of snow a year, that’s all.

  2. kenny2fl says:

    This planet can be fragile and too complex to foresee the consequences of changes. It seems clear that we are in a warming trend and humans are a contributing force.
    We have too many people and our technology enables us to apply corrective patches for our short term convenience and ignore the long term problems. I fear the human race is playing a very dangerous game.

    • songdogmi says:

      I totally agree. There are so many examples of where we’ve done something small that had a huge effect in ways we didn’t expect. My usual example in LJ has been Asian carp, which were imported for a relatively contained fish operation in Mississippi, until a hurricane-related flood let them escape into the wild, so that now they’re on the doorstep of the Great Lakes, eating everything in sight on the way. Humans think they can improve on nature, but time after time the “improvements” get out of control. I hate the idea that we’re now going to try in any way to “improve” something as huge as the climate.

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