Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Need to Go Surfing, or "Screw You Guys I'm Going Home"

It has been a hot summer in the Pacific Northwest.  The heat has ushered forth a lot of physical and emotional discontent for me, some certainly due to the lack of AC in our Portland home; Portland is on track for its sixth warmest July on record.  When we moved here a year and a half ago, the word on the street was that summers were perfect and there was no AC required.  Well, slow down big fella because my psychological dependency on air conditioning has garnered a very real physiological precedent having lived in our sauna of a house this summer.

And, it appears from this National Weather Service article that the East is cooler than the West this year AND this pattern may persist (in the near term) in our increasingly warming world.  Great...drought, wildfires, and less snow in the PNW while the East Coast enjoys new cooler summers.  See except here:

cool conditions in the East contrasted, as they have nearly all year, with baking conditions in the West, which have exacerbated the effects of California’s epic drought and helped fuel wildfires. This temperature pattern is occurring over a background warming fueled by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere that are making record lows overall less likely and record highs more common. The pattern the U.S. has seen is also one scientists say could be more common in a warming world.

But, of course, this role reversal of cool summers is temporary.  Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere will ultimately ensure that everyone sees more record highs against record lows.  Early in the summer, I found myself thinking that enduring this heat and traffic of Portland would at least payoff with some snow in the Cascades this winter.  But given last year's delayed snowfall on Mt. Hood and what looks like a trend (see Timberline chart here)I've often though about what Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia's founder) said about climate change: "We're getting into the surf market, because it's never going to snow again, and the waves are going to get bigger and bigger".  Chouinard seems right.  Now if only the Oregon ocean water heat up and the sharks will stop eating people, I'm set.


Unknown said...

You are looking at this all wrong. Well sure, our world is going to crap, but I think that's beside the point. Hot weather and less snow pack = great summer river swimming in beautiful forests.

Sure it may be hot in your house, just sleep in the basement.

I know what your thinking, the forests aren't going to continue to be awesome and lush if rainfall decreases and fires increase. That is true, though fire is a natural disturbance to our ecosystems which wouldn't be nearly as destructive if fire prevention hadn't been the norm for the past century.

For now, enjoy it. Oregon is a natural playground. It's cooler in the forest. Go for a hike and when your done jump in a river.

carol/ine said...

This summer heat has been so difficult for me too! I usually love the heat and spent most of my life in areas with much hotter, more humid summers than what we typically have in Portland - or even the summer we've had here this year.

That said, I still feel very lucky that Portland has remained far less affected (it seems) by weather extremes than other areas of the country have in recent years. I listen to the news as Texas suffers drought, the mid-Atlantic region is battered with hurricanes and heavy snow, the midwest gets hit with all of it. Until now, I have felt rather protected from it all. But now I'm afraid - will summers always be this hot? If I move outside of the city will I have to worry about wildfires? Will I ever enjoy the summer heat again or have I become a Pacific Northwester, intolerant of extreme seasons? It will all come back into perspective for me, I fear, in a few weeks. I'm heading to Texas in August.

Unknown said...

I also moved to Oregon two summers ago and have often heard the same thing about not requiring AC. I am from Michigan where summer usually means thunderstorms, tornado watches and humidity unless you go north. I just spent a week back in Michigan all over the state and every day was beautiful with little humidity expect for the some severe weather on Sunday. I grew up in a house with AC however it was very well shaded. I have found the still air, hot sun and long days making wish for more time to be by the water and less time commuting or studying in my hot house. As you mentioned it can be better to just get out and surf but I lack the balance and will always be afraid of sharks. My goal for the rest of the summer is to get out and enjoy the weather every weekend. With a warm summer we also had an amazing spring from April on so we can always be thankful for that!

Unknown said...

I can completely empathize, not only as an individual without air conditioning in my sauna of an apartment, but also having lived in the Portland-metro area my whole life. Every year is a slightly different, but the trends are that the summers get hotter and the winters get colder. This makes one more than a little reluctant to try to enjoy some of the outdoor activities that the Pacific Northwest offers, and takes a toll on some natural resources. How to adapt is easier said than done and may require an effort put forth by whole populations rather than individuals or small groups.
On that note, global warming, greenhouse gases, and ozone depletion are real. Severe weather patterns (creating tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, among other natural disasters), sun-exposure related skin cancer (such as melanoma), rising ocean levels due to polar ice caps melting, and altered agricultural trends are of increased concern. Multiple stakeholders in policy and regulatory development who could influence lifestyle changes to slow this process, however, demonstrate disbelief in these concepts. Developing change will take a multidisciplinary approach that rises above investing in air conditioning and finding new hobbies that are more forgiving and permissive of climate change and extreme weather.

Unknown said...

This brings up a very close to home feeling while reading your post. As a girl growing up in the Midwest and the south we relied on our air conditioning and screened-in porches for comfort. How privileged we are to be protected from discomfort of weather and bugs. How privileged we are to be protected from discomfort of weather and bugs.This summer in Oregon brings back these memories. I can remember the emotional meltdowns that occurred in power outages during storms which forced us all to sleep just a single night in our sweaty sheets. It is interesting to think that the homes and comforts we designed will soon be outside of what's appropriate due to these climate changes. Yvon at Patagonia has it right, sadly, it's time to start thinking about the new world we live in.

Julia BT said...

I have lived in the Northwest my entire life and have learned how to live without air-conditioning. There are ways to live without air-conditioning. Every summer I reinstate a daily ritual of closing all my windows and window shades to capture the cool of the morning, and then do the reverse in the evening to let out the heat that built up during the day. I have learned how to strategically place fans in each of my residences to best draw in the air during the eight hours of darkness. I have learned how to prepare foods to reduce heat generation in my home. I think learning how to live without air-conditioning is one way to combat global warming and reduce my carbon footprint. Air-conditioning is part of the problem, not the solution, and learning to live without air-conditioning is an important part of combating global warming.

Unknown said...

Although it has been uncomfortably warm for some in the Pacific Northwest, it has been a welcome change to the stifling humidity and scattered tornados of the Midwest. The state of NE averages 50 tornados a year and humidity percentages in the high 80s over the summers (citation). The absence of the tornado sirens and the dry summer air has been a comfortable and acceptable adjustment coming from the middle of America. The ocean is just a short drive away where the temperature drops significantly and occasionally, a day escape to the mountains can lend a break to the brief to the brief heat waves in Portland. However, adjusting to the Portland traffic on the other hand makes me wish I was back frolicking with tornados.