Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lancaster County Burn Ban

I've been meaning to post something on this for weeks -- ever since I first heard it might happen earlier this month, in fact -- and now I'm just going to post something abbreviated before I lose my inspiration totally.

So here's the question: did anyone else, upon hearing of a county-wide burn ban, think to themselves "is this due to global warming?" If you did, you're not alone, although you might be forgiven for thinking so, because there was literally no mention of such a possibility on any of the local news sources I pay attention to, including WITF/NPR and the Lancaster News. (In fact, as an aside, I never hear "global warming" or "climate change" mentioned in connection with strange weather events from these sources.)

For global warming aficionados -- and aren't we all, really? -- this might strike one as rather absurd. You have the hottest year on record, on top of the hottest decade on record, on top of two other previously record-breaking decades, and no one in the media seems to think to themselves "huh. I wonder if this drought which has led to a rash of fires is in any way related to global warming and the extreme weather events it portends?" Now, I don't actually expect a reporter to use a word like "portends", but leave me and my diction alone, ok?

Below is a great image I lifted off the Climate Progress blog. It shows the difference in temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, between the actual maximum temperature (for the day) and the average maximum temperature, on July 6. You'll notice that, in Central PA, this was apparently in the 12-16 degree range. That's rather a lot. As NASA has pointed out, this is what global warming looks like. We can throw out all the old averages because they're based on a different climate -- the climate of Earth. We live on Eaarth, now. And in Lancaster, that apparently means months with very little rain, higher probability of fires that burn farm fields (and food) and homes... and burn bans.

Weather Underground offers this “plot of the difference between maximum temperature (the high for the day) and average maximum temperature in degrees F for July 6″ (source)

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