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Weather, climate, patterns, how our lying eyes deceive us. Soccer dad version …

September 9th, 2013 · No Comments

It is all too easy for our lying eyes to deceive us as large-scale patterns, trends, and otherwise are difficult to recognize in the face of the immediate.  And, individual memory can be such a difficult thing.

The Washington, DC, area has had an unusually cool past several months.  As a ‘native’, I refer to the insufferable August weather as “90/90” as so much of the time is above 90 degrees F and above 90 percent humidity.  E.g., unbearably hot, muggy, sticky … A typical August and early September might have many Washington area residents spending just a few minutes a day as they rush from their air conditioned homes, to their air conditioned cars, to their air-conditioned offices, stores, restaurants, …  Such weather has been the (rare) exception rather than the rule.

As we watched our sons play soccer, yesterday, in beautifully comfortable conditions, a fellow soccer dad said: “This really is beautiful weather … we haven’t had many hot days this year … When I grew up in the area, in Falls Church, Virginia, I remember that we had tens of days of 100 degree weather each year and this just isn’t happening.”  I refrained from saying that I, too, remembered walking 12 miles to school with snow above my shoulders … I did comment that 2012 had set hot weather records and that there was a really ugly stretch of heat earlier this year, but really couldn’t do much more than that. Iit isn’t as if I had meteorological records at my finger tips on the sidelines.

This morning, I sent him a note:

Re 100 degree days, our memories perhaps can play tricks.  … Here is a Washington Post graph on 100 degree days 1872 to 2012 :
Inline image 1
Note that DC had 12 days 100 and above in all of the 1950s and 3 in the 1960s.  We’ve already had more 100 degree days in 2011-2013 than occurred in either of those decades.
And, well not topping 100, this year the Washington, DC, area broke a record for longest period where temperature didn’t fall below 80 degrees.
What we see, ourselves, can deceive us as to larger patterns and developments. What we see, what happens in our gardens, what we experience is ‘evidence’ and ‘data’ but it is far from all-encompassing and conclusive. And, well, our (dutifully) selective (faulty, even …) memories can make this problem far more serious.
As to this particular soccer dad, do I know if he is a science denier? No.  Do I know his political beliefs? No.  Did I change his mind about the history of Washington, DC, weather?  Hmmm … don’t know.  I do know, however, that I didn’t let his erroneous comments go unchallenged and I followed up with solid evidence that he can — if he does have an open mind — use to modify his understanding and discussion of the world around him.
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Tags: Energy