Hot enough for you?
If you enjoy sweating profusely, you're in luck. It's going to get hotter. In just 70 years, Central Kentucky will average 105 days of over 90 degrees Fahrenheit each year.
That's the scenario forecast by the United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), a consortium of 13 federal agencies, including NASA, eight Cabinet departments and the National Science Foundation.
The Defense Department is part of the USGCRP. You may be skeptical of global warming, but the folks at the Pentagon aren't. They have been quietly assessing the impact climate change will have on national security.
Poppycock, you say? How can forecasters predict the weather 70 years into the future when they missed that hailstorm that hit yesterday?
It's simple. Meteorology and climatology are two distinct branches of atmospheric science, ones that many people confuse as one and the same.
Students, listen up: Meteorology is the scientific study of the atmosphere that focuses on weather processes and short term forecasting. Climatology focuses on describing climate — the mean and variability of weather conditions for a particular location, season and time of day — and analyzing the causes and consequences of climatic differences and changes of a region or the entire world.
One reason people may confuse the two disciplines is because some meteorologists are the most vocal climate-change deniers. A meteorologist delving into climatology would be similar to a podiatrist analyzing a brain tumor.
Which brings us to one of the biggest problems in convincing a skeptical public global warming is real and the result of human activity: Scientists make lousy agitators.
Scientists consider it unseemly to preach, warn, advocate, lobby and cajole. Most are far more comfortable in a laboratory than in front of television cameras. Many rightfully fear losing corporate and, depending on which party is in office, government funding if they speak up.
So that leaves it to the Al Gores and a few scientists like NASA's James Hansen who are like the cowboy in a Western movie who tells his thirsty companions, "There's a dead varmint by that watering hole. Don't drink the water."
But back to the USGCRP and its June report, "Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States," available on the internet at globalchange.org. In this report you'll find interesting tidbits, like your grandchildren's future. Their inheritance will be a hot time in the old town each night.
In addition to blistering heat, the Bluegrass will endure sudden, powerful storms that produce torrential downpours and deadly flash floods; years of frequent deluges interspersed with years of crippling drought; wildly unpredictable growing seasons with severe food shortages, and the forests of eastern and central Kentucky, ravaged by strip mining and insect infestations will be further decimated by wildfires.
Prepare yourself for drastically reduced air quality and skyrocketing death rates from respiratory diseases; widespread species extinction; the explosion of tropical diseases such as West Nile, Dengue Fever and, yes, even malaria and more fatalities from heart disease, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
If you think that's bad, read the report to discover what lies ahead for Florida. You might want to consider trading your timeshare in the Keys for one in, say, northern Saskatchewan.
Anyone notice that many of the impacts are already occurring? And as the carbon dioxide-consuming forests wither and sunlight-deflecting ice sheets melt away, expect the warming, and its consequences, to accelerate.
Since 1950, Kentucky's average annual temperature has increased two degrees Fahrenheit. The USGCRP projects the annual average temperature in our state to increase another four to 10 degrees by 2080. Earth hasn't warmed that much in so short a time period since 250 million years ago. That's when everything, save for a small pig-like creature, died.
In a recent Herald-Leader op-ed, the writer said we should pay no attention to global warming because the public simply doesn't care about it. Cheap electric rates are what matter.
I say cheap electricity will be the last thing on your mind when you realize your goose is cooked.