It doesn't take a climate scientist to realize July 2010 was a hot month in Nashville. You stepped outside, right? For some, the heat was a nuisance, like skin sticking to hot leather seats. For others, it was as serious as sunstroke. But just how hot did it really get? According to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature for July 2010 was 82.4 degrees — 3.3 degrees above normal — making it the 10th-hottest July on record in Nashville.
Wait, that's just the median. On all but six days, the high temperature reached at least 90 degrees, including 14 consecutive days to close out the month. Furthermore, not only did July 2010 come on the heels of the fifth-hottest June on record, it gave way to an August in which the high temperature reached 101 within the first week. If current projections are correct, Nashville won't have to wait long for the next heat wave. And the next. And the next.
Granted, no single weather event or string of hot days should be taken alone as proof of climate change. That includes even our ruinous, once inconceivable May flood. Nevertheless, there is broad consensus in the scientific community that this year's oppressive heat in Nashville and Middle Tennessee is part of a larger trend. What's more, it will accelerate in coming years as temperatures around the globe continue to increase. While Nashville does not face the threat of, say, becoming partially submerged by rising sea waters, as New York City does, scientists say we do face potentially disastrous consequences if we don't adapt.
Released in February, the "Report on the U.S. EPA Southeast Climate Adaptation Planning Workshop" doesn't exactly have a snappy title. A more chilling text, though, you're not likely to read than this projected future of the region. Among its litany of startling assertions: Since 1970, the average temperature in the Southeastern United States has risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit. By 2080, it is expected to rise by as much as 9 degrees.
With it, the frequency, duration and severity of droughts in the Southeast are likely to increase. Reduced oxygen in streams and lakes, caused by higher temperatures, could kill off fish and other aquatic life. The kind of heat wave that once happened 20 years apart could hit the Southeast as often as every other year. It's not just a matter of cranking up the AC. Extremely hot days will occur more frequently — and the hottest of those days will be 10 degrees hotter.
All this building heat is more than a nuisance. Rising temperatures have the potential to set off a chain reaction of consequences, ranging from the inconvenient to the intractable. Greater heat leads to greater stress on the power grid as demand for electricity increases. It also increases demand for water. Decreased water supplies, in turn, can affect economic and natural systems. Native plant and animal species could be hurt by the heat, as could crops and livestock. Heat stress and heat-related deaths, in addition to respiratory problems caused by poorer air quality, present serious public health hazards.
Perhaps ironically, a warmer climate can also lead to more precipitation. Rain falls less frequently, but when it does, it's a deluge. This can trigger a drought-flood-drought cycle, as water evaporates more quickly from the soil when temperatures are hotter. Just last week, the Nashville area went from heat advisories to swiftwater rescues and submerged roads in a span of days.
There is no avoiding climate change entirely, no matter who you are. Those most at risk as temperatures rise are already among our most vulnerable populations: the elderly, the very young, the poor and the homeless. And yet attempts to reduce the carbon emissions responsible for global warming have sputtered. As for regional efforts to move toward adapting to an already warming climate, the EPA report charitably describes them as "nascent."
In other words, we have a long way to go. At the moment, it's tough to say which is more daunting: not knowing what we're heading toward, or having an increasingly queasy sense of what might await us when we get there.
Real Christianists don't call themselves Christianists, Jim Collins. I see right through you.
gast/xray/whatever costume you're wearing today: we aren't talking about illegal immigrants. We're talking about asylum…
Lisa ~ "One nation under God" is from the 1950's. It was in response to…
When one has to depend upon ( and thanks) that dreaded and ridiculous troll, under…
In this case Islamic burial is in essence considered a "Green Burial", without a container…