Changing weather patters are nothing new, and they have been happening ever since the earth has had weather. Looking back over just the last few decades, we can see that the weather and weather change is truly global. As one location experiences droughts, another has torrential downpours. Again, this is nothing new, nor should it be a surprise to anyone.
If weather patterns have been changing for a long time, why are people just now noticing them? The truth is that many people have been noticing them for a long time, while others simply haven’t paid much attention.
Do you remember the Columbus Day storms that raged all over the country back in the 60’s? Enormous amounts of rain fell in places that normally didn’t receive that much rain, and areas that were usually damp received a corresponding increase in precipitation. High winds slammed through several areas, including the entire Pacific Northwest portion of the US. There were flash floods over much or Oregon and Washington, including the desert zones. Winds at Crater Lake National Park in south central Oregon were so high that though the weather equipment used there at the time was incapable of measuring them, the winds snapped and uprooted enormous Ponderosa Pines that were 20 feet in diameter and nearly 200 feet tall. The power lines that fed energy to the park were snapped in so many places due to falling trees that they were replaced instead of being spliced and repaired.
At the same time that this was occurring in the continental US, there were severe droughts in much of Africa, global areas normally hit with monsoons got practically no rain, and El Nino gripped the Pacific currents, disrupting weather in South America.
Was this an isolated incident? Hardly; in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, tremendous storms hit one place or another, droughts occurred in many locations around the globe including in the US, and yet other areas, including Alaska, experienced many times of unseasonably mild weather. Indeed, various areas also experienced earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions which were not weather related, but which made the devastation that much more wide spread.
So what is the cause of the weather changes? Scientists are not entirely sure. The amount of recorded data we have is scanty, and our knowledge of the many different contributing factors is still in its’ infancy. There are a few things that we’ve learned through the years, however.
For instance, except for locally isolated weather patterns, we know that ocean currents have a major effect on weather. Warm water flows away from the equator and toward the poles, while frigid water flows deep, back toward the equator. This process is not fast, and may take thousands of years to complete the circuit. Normal fluctuations in the current, such as what happens during El Nino and La Nina, changes the weather patterns over vast areas, sometimes for years at a time.
We also know that the heat actually comes from the sun, sometimes unevenly. We have identified many solar cycles, such as the 11-year sunspot cycle, but it is doubtless that there are many more cycles we don’t know about. In part, this is because of the relatively small amount of time man has been observing the star at the center of our planetary system. Historically, there have been several times when sunspots seemed to be missing, at times, for decades. Only much more recently have scientists drawn a correlation between the diminished sunspots and times of increased cold all over the globe. Though the relationship is clear, since there has been severe and rapid cooling each time the sun has gone through a quiescent phase, we still don’t understand the mechanism that creates the changes, either in our weather or in the lack of sunspots. The best we can do is to say that even seemingly minor changes in the sun have a big impact on our worldwide weather patterns.
The more we explore the causes of change in weather patterns, the more abundantly clear it becomes that we need more information, and we need to learn what that data really means. This means that we cannot afford to be swayed by emotions, but need to keep open minds. It may be that there are simple and straightforward reasons for the changes. It may just as easily be that there is a complex interaction between cycles we don’t even know about yet.
Once again, it will be the quest for knowledge that will allow us all to properly investigate the cause for changing weather patterns. It won’t be wild speculations based on emotions, nor will it happen because we ignore it, if we do. We may never be able to do much about the changes, but understanding them can ultimately help us prepare for them. That is of supreme importance.