Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Blizzard Strikes US: Drops National IQ 24 Inches

by Tom Lewis (editor), , February 11, 2010

Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt/Flickr
Mother Nature delivered a major snow job to the U.S. this month. Now the Know Nothings are trying to show her up.

When snowflakes fall in catastrophic proportions, human flakes come out of the woodwork.

Two snowstorms of epic proportions in quick succession this month have triggered mass episodes of brain trauma among the public, and among public figures.

Drivers, of course, are the first to be afflicted. The third consecutive flake of snow divides all drivers (in all but the northernmost tier of states) into two categories: the feckless and the reckless. The feckless feel safer driving at 15 miles per hour, no matter how desperately momentum is needed to get up the next icy rise in the road, and no matter how many dozens of vehicles are stacked up behind them. They obey the legendary advice given the pilot by his mother: just fly low and slow, and you'll be fine. The reckless, on the other hand, do not lower their speed or alter their driving habits for anything, because, like, why should they?

A few years ago I picked up a young man who was standing beside the road with his thumb up at 2 am in a howling blizzard, with wind speeds in the 30s and the temperature in the teens. He was standing beside his ditched car clad in a short-sleeved T shirt, blue jeans and shoes. Period. I asked him, as I fought a very close fight to get my car under way again and keep it that way, why he had risked his life by going out in the storm (I was trying to get home from work). He looked quizzical at the idea of risking his life -- how could that be? -- and said he just felt like going to see his girl friend. I have been wracked with guilt ever since, at the thought that my intervention may have made it possible for him to reproduce.

The total disconnect from any comprehension of the operations and power of the natural world has become pervasive, especially among urban and suburban people. Food comes in plastic, the temperature is always 68 degrees, cars run because you have a key, entertainment is continuous and we are entitled to do what we want when we want in eternal comfort, for ever and ever, amen. When the snow falls, the water rises or the ground shakes, we stand in some shattered street and wail to the indifferent skies (as one woman did in post-Katrina New Orleans) "What are we es-posed to do?"

But the soft-headedness of drivers in blizzards is a major worry only for those forced to share a road with them. What is really scary is the way that public figures can use natural disasters as blunt instruments with which to attack the mettle of the nation.

Mayors are always being criticized by their adversaries for not clearing the snow fast enough. Never mind that last year when they asked for enough money in the budget to provide for adequate snowfall preparations, they were condemned as tax-and-spend, government-expanding socialists. The very same people who did that, now condemn them as out of touch and incompetent. And they are getting away with it.

Far worse is the eagerness of the avid members of the Know Nothing Party to politicize climatology, and to divide people between those who think pollution is benign and those who think it does harm. The Virginia Republican Party, a charter member of the Know Nothing movement, put up an ad while the recent blizzard was still raging ridiculing some opponents for supporting limitations on carbon emissions because, look, it's snowing, so global warming is a myth. Never mind that the people who actually study the subject (as opposed to those who know what they think before any information is provided) have predicted larger, more powerful snowstorms (and hurricanes and tornadoes) as a direct consequence of human-assisted climate change, and never mind that their predictions made many years ago have been borne out.

Never mind, also, that a cursory look at the issue will tell you that "global warming" is an inapt way to refer to what is going on, because it leads the Know Nothings to think it implies that everyplace will get constantly warmer, which is not how it works, indeed, is impossible unless you repeal the laws of physics. (Next on the agenda of the filibuster-mad Senate minority? Stay tuned.) The increased retention of heat energy in the unbelievably complex system that is our atmosphere will express itself in myriad ways, only some of which we can possibly understand and predict.

It is still possible, however, for the non-scientists among us to come to a conclusion as to whether massive air pollution -- and remember, that's what we are talking about -- is good for us, or not. All we need to do is to Know Something, and we know it's a bad idea to keep on poisoning our air and water. Which, I say again, is what we are talking about when we use code words such as "global warming."

Whether it's the self-induced coma of the self-indulgent that is shocked into an altered state by discovering you can't always go to the corner market for cigarettes; or the aggressive ignorance of the Know-Nothings using an eruption of nature's raw power to confirm they don't know anything; the flakes that swirl around us in an historic blizzard are not all made of ice.

About the Writer

Tom Lewis is an editor for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Blizzard Strikes US: Drops National IQ 24 Inches

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By JJFCPA on February 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I do not know if it is El Nino or what, but your writing has become more witty and with a good dose of humor.

I did read that it was the pattern of El Nino that was causing the blinding snowstorms, especially in the Mid Atlantic. I think the Virginia Republican party sent me aflyer about this after I mailed $10 to them and the Virginia Democratic Party in hopes that whomever is elected will leave my business alone.

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By Tom Lewis on February 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Ah, but what is El Nino? A changed pattern of ocean upwelling that is tenuously linked with atmospheric circulation, and that is part of the marvelous complex atmospheric and oceanic system that moves heat away from the equator toward the poles and is thus accelerated and altered by an increase in retained heat. El Nino does not cause anything, it is one of a million interrelated effects of the same thing -- the sun's fortunate heat.

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By Charles Harmison on February 11, 2010 at 08:47 pm

Seems pretty obvious to me all that snow melting in greenland and the arctic ocean has got to go somewhere. We are gonna cool down first as the worlds ice container is emptied but after that initial cool down melts there will be nothing to sustain the temperature in its balance of hot and cold and the sun will just keep on heating everything up with nothing to cool us back down again.

I see it like this imagine that you open the door of a freezer that has broken down and all the icecubes once held in a container in the top to fall into a bowl of water in the fridge. At first due to the frozen ice the fridge temp will drop as the ice cools the fridge lower than it was originally held. After awhile when the ice melts there will be no more regulation of the fridges natural tendency to rise to room temperature now put a heat lamp on full blast on the same experiment again the temp will initially drop until it melts and then the fridge will heat up as there is no longer a permafrost to regulate the heat from the lamp.

These blizzards are in fact proving climate change more than anything. Its not supposed to snow in southern Texas or Arizona i am pretty sure.

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By ranfuchs on February 12, 2010 at 09:21 am

It's an interesting point that the name 'global warming' may, in fact, be doing more harm than good. Probably chaotic weather describes it better.

It's also interesting that we don't need tsunamis, meteorites or earthquakes to cause devastation. A reasonably mild snowstorm is all that is needed to throw our life into a complete turmoil. Observing how badly we handle minor disruptions, one can only speculate what will happen when the big ones will hit us.

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