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.)