On Watching the Sky Fall and Other Unscientific Observations | Word on the Street
by Douglas McDaniel
Apr 29, 2007 | 242 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The word on the street is the weather is weird.

What’s so weird about it, O Chicken Little?

What is weird about it was our series of late-season storms as wave upon wave of Pacific- -to-Jet-Stream-led full-frontal charges across the continent, sweeping the place in military rows, through and  past the San Juans like the back draft of an invisible bomber. From my cabin vista in San Bernardo, it appeared as if nature had decided to attempt to blow Sheep Mountain down, with a snow stream blowing sideways, all day, all night, intensifying into a full blown blizzard as the sun went down. It was all very interesting. Apparently, 24 inches fell at Aspen Pass and 13 tornados were reported on the eastern Colorado plains and cherry blossoms were a week early in Tokyo. Twenty four for April 24, hey! Hey!

What was weird was the sharp intensity of the pressure drops, the weirdness in the chest as each pulse of weirdness passed through.

It was just like my experience on the Oregon Coast last spring, when that same sharp drop was followed by 80 to 90 mph winds that would rock the waves into a fury, knocking down a portion of the seawall, thus placing Highway 101 at considerable risk. If you think about the next few years, Highway 101, the famed north-south glory ride which snakes along the Pacific Coast, may be due for a serious re-alignment due to the rising, churning sea..

What was weird about the crescendo of local weather on Earth Day weekend and after was the spring sunlight trying to blast through the white wind shear in the afternoons, failing to do nothing but highlight the snow curtain hurling across the valley containing San Bernardo and Trout Lake residents, who watched the wind tunnel of white press in from the sky, almost endlessly.

To start this week, a lightning-rod installer and salesman was in the rare sunshine putting up an appliance at a San Bernardo wood shop. He said the entire country was experiencing an extraordinary increase in lightning strikes. He suggested it was a symptom of global warming. He advised everyone to get lightning rods as he eyed a nearby two-story home tucked into the trees and inquired about the owner.

It’s the extremes of polarities in temperature, I told him, trying to be poetic, or at least more instinctive than scientific. Too much hot, and too much cold, too much moisture. Like watching the water boil up steam in a pot, like the late-great doomsayer of mankind, Kurt Vonnegut, might say, with some plainspoken Midwestern speech. Like the pot is boiling, and all we can do is watch. Observe. Since we can’t wait for science to come to any conclusions. We have to rely on our own senses. Our common sense.

Like watching the water boil. Indeed.

For example, a year ago I was driving a moving van down the mountain, moving south, out of Oregon and into northern California, on the way to Phoenix, trying to get out of the rain after living in a windswept flood on the Oregon Coast for six months. I could see the clouds, wrung out by the winds, streaming across the top of Mount Shasta, a white-capped behemoth overlooking the region like a Himalayan monarch. Most mountains do. They have that quality. They are monarchical. They press against the sky and there’s no telling them anything. They are in charge. We wait on them. They are never pleased. They feed the storms and just don’t care. Like the wind, they own the land, forcing their will upon all inhabitants.

And so on this day, seabirds, white gulls of some kind (I wish I knew what kind), were oddly trouncing around, sifting for food at the roadside rest stop placed like a big bird dish at the mountain’s valley table. The seabirds seemed lost, as if the wind had blown them there from far away. But at least there was trash, lots and lots of fast food containers to sift through. We were at least a hundred miles inland. I asked the rest stop attendants if it was unusual for these birds to be there. One mumbled something that was lost in the 50 mph winds. The other said the white gulls always come in the summer. I thanked them and then walked away, then realized: It was March.

That was weird. A sign of more steam in the water pot.

Another sign: When the wind gussied up a few weeks later for the Good Friday Wind Shear of 2006 in Phoenix, fences were blown down, whole branches thrown across the city and into the streets. In the Arcadia District, the old irrigated grove neighborhoods of Phoenix, every still unripe orange along the orderly blocks were on the ground. Whole bushels were in orbit around their former tree mothers, turning green manicured lands and dusty road gutters into brightly decorated fantasy zones for free fruit: Just pick it before the noon sun cooks them into juice.

Indeed, the Good Friday Wind Shear of 2006, which surprised Phoenix at dusk, forcefully demonstrated the keen possibilities for our senses to detect some sort of disturbance in the  ... um, force. A greater degree of unpredictability, at least, is clearly in the works.

Science, of course, addresses the evidence differently: in a supposedly objective language. But any truth is blocked for political reasons, for narrow, greedy causes too unseemly to describe. Speaking subjectively, I can say that what I know about the weather, and what I feel, is all that I need to know. The scientific process, whatever it takes to get theory ratified into human understanding and advancement, will not help us now. We must rely on our senses, or the situation looks terminal.

Life will adapt, you tell Chicken Little?


For example, you might live in a condo in the future in, say, Carlsbad Caverns. Certainly, Carlsbad Caverns, though I have never seen it, scientifically speaking, I know it must be a beautiful place. Yes, we humans have always done well in caves. That’s where we got our start. Caves are consistently good for being safe from, say, tornados. The attendant rain my eventually reach you, but as far as tornados go, you’re golden. They provide excellent cover from the extreme cold, and yes, the heat. It’s nice and cool down there in those caves, but consistently so. You might like that fine.

Scientifically speaking, I don’t know much about the Kyoto Protocols. My knowledge is based on hearsay. Certainly, in America, there is no evidence of any kind of Japanese-hosted global protocol, unless you count Toyotas, and, up here, Subarus. A protocol implies order. There is no order here, sir.

Chaos and disorder is what I feel when the wind gussies up and the barometric pressure drops like a rock on Earth Day. Anyone who cares to sense it can. At least they might catch a whiff of ozone in the air, right before it rains. We aren’t all robots. In fact, I believe our senses make us excellent subjective scientists, that we all might start screaming for murder in unison soon, and that gives me hope.

It’s better than just watching the water boil.

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