The Blog

In Defense of Snow, Sort Of

Maybe the real message this year is that we should appreciate the snow while we've got it; value the way our fragile planet attempts to set itself right.
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Once upon a time, before I moved to Wisconsin, I found the old classic "White Christmas" to be a lovely little film. The music was sweet and Bing Crosby charming - as long as one didn't dwell on the fact that he was apparently uncharming in his real life. And the movie's closing scene, when the stage doors swung open to reveal a fantasy of falling snow, made me wish that I too lived in a winter wonderland.

Of course, that was before I did. Live in one. Last winter in Madison, we received 101.4 fluffy white inches, a historic high. So far - at least based on this December - we're apparently set to surpass that.. Since the start of the month, more than 28 inches of snow have fallen, compared to the normal monthly snowfall of 7.4 inches. Having grown up in the South - Louisiana, Georgia, you know what I mean - my tendency is to see this as just wrong, completely wrong.

Of course, these days others also appear to be suffering the environment of a perpetually shaken snowglobe - the Pacific Northwest, the Northeast, okay, much of the country, Canada, Europe. And all of them have my personal sympathy. I do not count the few inches reported in Las Vegas and other unlikely spots; we on the Midwestern tundra do not regard that as "real" snow.

But there are those who do take that Las Vegas snow seriously, alarmingly so. Last week, CNN meterologist Chad Myers used that unexpected storm to promote his opinion that the world's major research institutions have been wrong about global climate change: "You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant," Myers told host Lou Dobbs, explaining that "Mother Nature was too big" to be affected by human activities.

My information here is based on news reports as I am continuing that personal boycott of CNN, which I wrote about last week. But by all accounts Dobbs agreed with Myers, stating that snow in the desert could mean that global warming was all a big mistake. Yes, this comes from the same network that fired its well-trained environmental and reporting staff this month. Not that those reporters could have necessarily could influence Dobb's opinion. But they might have been able to add some rational balance to the network's reporting of events.

Because Dobb and his conveniently agreeable meteorologist just happen to have missed the important part of the story. Climatologists had already announced that the Earth is entering a cooler period, related to a regular cycle of shifting ocean currents, which occur about every 70 years, and which cycle warmer waters away from the Northern Hemisphere, reducing the amount of heat energy released from the oceans in our direction. They suggest that this chilling effect may continue for a number of years, masking the effects of manmade gases building up in the atmosphere.

The World Meteorological Association reports 2008 is the ninth warmest year on record, regardless of those blizzards sweeping across North America at the moment.

Maybe the real message is that we should appreciate the snow while we've got it; value the way our fragile planet attempts to set itself right. I'm still not a Crosby fan. But I'm willing to go, for the moment, with the spirit of the song: "May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases [or any of your December holidays] be white."