James Hansen, the famed NASA scientist/climate prophet, has a much discussed and self-touted analysis this week declaring that the extreme heat we have seen over the last decade, from Russia to Texas, is part of an emerging pattern of man-made climate change. Others may consider it unscientific to pick out particular weather events and call that evidence of climate change. How can you say that Katrina or an unusually hot summer is part of an overall global pattern when the weather is so localized and changeable. And when you can find excessively snowy winters in amongst the pattern.
However, arguing over particular weather events misses the point. Its well documented that global temperatures have risen 1 to 2 degrees over the past century as CO2 levels have risen. This puts more energy and moisture into the atmosphere. That means that any event that would normally occur due to El Nino, La Nina, climactic oscillations and other natural patterns will be enhanced -- magnified -- creating the phenomenon of "weather on steroids." A category 2 becomes a category 3, a heat wave takes an extra week to break, the winds blow extra hard and turn small brush fires into statewide disasters. Last fall in New England we had a nor-easter turn into a freak snowstorm that knocked us back to the dark ages for several weeks. It's like the home-run hitter on steroids -- without enhancement many of his drives fall short but steroids provide the extra power to reach the seats and break baseball's longstanding records. That damages the game and to baseball's credit they've done a lot to get rid of steroids. Weather on steroids is a much more serious matter and yet little is being done to fix it. Maybe the next time you are bailing out your basement from the latest "100-year flood" you should ask, can this be prevented? When enough of us ask this question and demand answers we will start turning the corner on climate change.
Dog Days of Summer: Don't Let Mold Get a Foothold
One of the consequences of extreme summer weather is mold. Heat and humidity fosters furry colonies in damp basements, attics and closets. Added to this is the onset of hurricane season along the gulf and east coasts. Sudden floods leave behind a wake of wet walls, carpets, clothing and furnishings that are ripe for mold growth. If you can make it through the summer without a mold invasion, chances are good your home will be okay the rest of the year. That is, assuming your roof and pipes don't leak. The cornerstone of mold prevention is keeping things dry. Most basements and crawl spaces need a dehumidifier in the summer, one whose bucket gets emptied on a daily basis. At the first sign of dampness, water damage or mold growth find out the source and fix it. You may need a plumber, waterproofer, roofer or carpenter to help you. Usually testing your house for mold is unnecessary and a waste of money. A moisture/mold problem is pretty obvious -- you don't need someone to tell you you've got mold. Also, it doesn't matter what kind it is -- black, brown, green, white. It's all a problem. But you may need advice about how to fix it and what exactly needs to be discarded. Remember the 48-hour rule -- if furnishings or walls get wet from a storm or burst pipe, you need to dry it out within 48 hours to prevent mold from attacking. Schools shut up for the summer can have mold growth on desks and carpets just from the humidity and lack of air circulation. We have seen the start of school delayed in some towns by an urgent and costly cleanup.
And why is this so urgent? The colonies release highly allergenic spores into the air which can trigger headache, asthmatic attacks or make the inhabitants feel like they have a sinus infection. Learn to recognize musty odors and you may be able to avoid bad nights in funky hotels and B&Bs. Fortunately, most people feel better when they get out of the moldy environment for a few hours. But being allergic to your home is not a good thing. Mold is clearly a crop you don't want to grow.