We are so going to pay for the mild winter we recently experienced. I fear that it's a grim foreboding of things to come and that this summer in Memphis is going to resemble KFC: hot, greasy, and extra-crispy.
There are other such biblical signs. Melody and I were sitting on the deck enjoying the balmy weather when a mosquito the size of a sparrow landed on my arm. I swatted it before it could bite, but the splatter looked like it just flew in from the blood bank.
Until now, it's been a relatively mild June, so you might ask, "What other scientific methods do you use to reach your doomsday predictions?" Easy. We made it through the Beale Street Music Festival, the barbecue festival, and the Sunset Symphony without a single drop of rain. It must be decades since the Memphis in May celebration went three for three. I don't remember that happening ever. That's great for the folks at MIM, but it's like one of the plagues of ancient Egypt for the citizenry. I mean, what's a Beale Street Festival without a sea of mud or a cookout on the bluff without a torrential downpour? Do you even imagine that we're going to celebrate a sunny, dry, and hugely successful Memphis in May without somehow paying for it? If there's to be a forthcoming equal and opposite reaction, I fear the ides of August.
There's nothing like a good old Bluff City summer, where the temperature is 100 degrees at noon and 90 at midnight, and you live in a perpetual state of damp and discomfort until the simple act of breathing burns your lungs. You walk outside, and it feels like the air itself is sweating. Then it goes on for three straight weeks until irritability spreads like prickly heat and you're snapping at your co-workers like a giant turtle on his back with red, swollen eyes that will not close. Then whiskey and beer sales skyrocket, along with firearms purchases and incidents of domestic altercations until long-time partners can no longer stand the sight of one another, and the next thing you know there's a zombie apocalypse and some crackhead is trying to chew on your face. And that's during a normal summer. I can still recall years at the barbecue fest when I was cooking faster than the pork. Imagine ultraviolet rays penetrated by new, atomic sunbeams while "Tan Moms" fry like bacon in a skillet. They'll have to move mobile burn units to the beaches. The thought of lying in the sun, oiled up like a Caesar salad, is horrific to me in every way, but the mutated solar flares may cause even the most devout sun-worshipper to seek extended periods of shelter. This may be difficult for some but not for a great indoorsman like me. I've been practicing for years.
In case you haven't noticed, this year's weather extremes are breaking records all over the world. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that last month was the second hottest May since they began keeping records in 1880, exceeded only by 2010. March was the hottest on record with over 15,000 temperature records broken across the country. This was the warmest spring in history for the continental United States. Greenhouse gas emissions from industry, transportation, and land usage were cited as reasons that the first decade of this century was the warmest ever recorded.
Currently, the states of Texas, Colorado, and California are on fire. Arizona and New Mexico are suffering the largest wildfires in their char-broiled histories. There have been killer tornadoes and historic floods dotting the map this past year, and hurricane season just started. The good news is that NOAA is predicting fewer storms than usual this summer. The bad news is that, because May produced the highest temperatures ever recorded for both land and ocean surfaces in North America, the hurricanes will be of greater intensity and destructive power. As a nation, we've spewed enough fluorocarbons, vehicle exhaust, radioactive waste, and other gasses into the atmosphere to have severely damaged the ozone layer, and there are five decades' worth of space trash orbiting the Earth like the rings of Saturn. I'd say this is "reaping the whirlwind."
The international scientific data about man-made causes of climate change is in. The only ones left disputing it are a few hucksters who make their money selling snake oil to the yokels and the entire congressional delegation of the Republican Party. John Boehner once blamed climate change on cow farts. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, whose state is burning, called global warming "a hoax." Iowa's Senator Chuck Grassley said, "Climate legislation is a scheme by coastal liberals to take your money." And the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, wants to eliminate the EPA, founded in 1970 by Richard Nixon.
Since the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil and gas industry, they will not consider alternative means of energy until they have sucked the last stegosaurus stain from the bowels of the Earth. They claim that tougher regulations will make it harder to compete with the lax Chinese, but even in big old Communist Red China, the government has released a 710-page report saying, "China faces extremely grim ecological conditions under the impact of continued global warming."
Still, almost presidential nominee Rick Santorum said, "It is one thing for ideologically driven science to indoctrinate children in classrooms. It is another for politicians to use science to destroy national economies and redistribute global wealth. I refer, of course, to the latest scientific non-controversy, man-made global warming."
I suppose by the time anyone reads this, the thermometer will have reached 100 degrees or close to it. The only people looking forward to this summer's temperatures are the executives at Memphis Light, Gas & Water and Baskin-Robbins. Over here, we're investing in dark curtains and stocking up on air filters, hoping another "Hurricane Elvis" doesn't pass this way soon. If this is to be the hottest summer on record, I would also be investing in iced-tea futures if I had any money left. As for the idiotic pseudo-debate over whether or not climate change is affected by humans, we may have already reached the tipping point. If that's the case, the argument is irrelevant, despite the tsunami of cash flowing into Republican coffers from fossil fuel consortiums, like oil onto the beaches of the Gulf Coast.
President Carter tried to warn us, but he was such a downer. We were too busy disco dancing to pay attention to a buzz-kill like Jimmy. That's why we're at the mercy of severe and unpredictable weather and continual "Code Orange" air alerts. It's been 35 years since Jimmy Carter's "heads-up" to the country, but we scorned him, so by now there may be nothing left to do but sit back and watch the show. At least until the New Madrid fault ruptures. Then I imagine the power might be out for a while.
Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column first appeared.