Welcome to life on Venus! We’ve got the greenhouse effect going full blast, the sun is nearing Solar Maximum, and the Earth is tilted toward the parent star as if trying to dip the northern hemisphere into a vat of boiling oil. Now comes the Heat Bubble.
You’ve seen the maps. The Heat Bubble covers nearly half the country, and it has been sauntering eastward, from the midwest, and today camps out for the weekend right on top of us here in Washington. We are dead center in the bubble.
But I embrace this, because I get to dress like Lawrence of Arabia.
[Insert protracted sepia-toned paragraph about how we didn’t have air-conditioning growing up in Hogtown.]
[Update: Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang tells me that the heat index hit 113 degrees at 11 a.m. today and could potentially rise to 120. The heat index is the actual, raw temperature multiplied by the humidity, divided by the barometric pressure, plus the reciprocal of the dewpoint, times the square root of the number of days remaining until the equinox.]
[Here’s the hour-by-hour forecast: Hits 102 actual temperature at 4 p.m.]
[Update 2:56 p.m.: The heat index has hit 120.] [Wait, Jason says 121!]
The truth is, we’re living in a Heat Bubble Economy. Bubbles burst, and this one is poised to do so — eventually — because of our collective refusal to act on climate change. Look how hard it is to simply stop running gigantic deficits! Now try to get your arms around a problem that’s global, generally invisible day to day and whose solution may require speed bumps on economic growth (the precise opposite of what you want if you’re trying to end budget deficits).
Plus, the atmosphere isn’t simple, so an intelligent public has to pick its way through sometimes contradictory and confusing bulletins. Check out the latest peer-reviewed report on global warming: It hasn’t been happening as fast since 1998 as the models would predict. Volcanoes have had a cooling effect.
But so, apparently, does more traditional air pollution, even at stratospheric levels, high above the pollution we generally think of as smog. [Here’s the Post’s story on it.] All those coal-fired power plants in China? It looks like they’re simultaneously contributing to global warming and inhibiting it’s short-term impact as the pollution leaks into the stratosphere. See this article by Richard Kerr in Science.
Pollution masks the effects of pollution. For a while.
May you live in interesting times.