Category Archives: Weather

Thoughts on Global Warming

This isn’t going to be simplistic, pro or con political statement on “climate change.”

I used to see global warming simplistically, but my views kept changing as I learned more.

  1. Heard about global warming back in the 70s or 80s and how runaway greenhouse effect would turn planet into a Venus twin. Scary!
  2. Headlines dried up and I forgot about it because the modern culture is full of “shiny things,” basically.
  3. From roughly 90s on reminded about global warming and caught emphasis on rising sea level – very concerning!
  4. Offput when it became a political issue, but still concerned.
  5. While first researching book, learned that Earth has been much warmer in the past with much higher CO2 (but no “Venus effect”), and wondered what the big concern today is.
  6. Offput by scientists speaking politically (not in their discipline but in a public pulpit) about an issue they created called “climate skepticism” or “climate denial.” Seriously, people – that’s being human, not sciencing. Don’t prove Chesterton was right when he said that scientists are the most sentimental people around.
  7. Came across paradoxical information that made me think seriously about long-term global climate change for the first time – info like Earth’s possibly cooling during a high-CO2 time during the middle Miocene epoch, or a huge injection of greenhouse gases around the Paleocene-Eocene border that killed all life on the planet Earth handled very well actually; some global heating but no runaway greenhouse effect; cooling back down to the previous baseline (warmer and with more CO2 than today).
  8. I read this sentence: “It is clear from the geologic record that natural thermostats existed to maintain warm climates, as they must to maintain cold climates.” (Lyle and others) So Earth has a switchable “thermostat” and we don’t know much about it – scary!
  9. Learned more about the ice ages that began (for unknown reasons) around 2.5 million years ago and wondered why everybody is upset about global warming that may break this freezing cycle, which has been intensifying with each ice age.
  10. Then learned that Homo sapiens is a child of the ice-age-cycle world and suddenly understood the real issue with global warming: no one knows if we can live on this planet under any other “thermostat” setting.

As a species, we do have the technology, wealth, and social responsibility to handle a major sea-level rise of hundreds of feet and the resulting displacements and other problems.

Whether or not we also have the will to act against a slow process like this – in human terms, it’s slow – remains to be seen.

Here’s the truly unknown factor:

Continue reading Thoughts on Global Warming


Major Earth processes can happen quickly

Most of us have a hard time seeing things on a geologic time scale.

We get all excited about USGS diagrams and GIFs about, say, how earthquakes happen.  Then we look out the window and can’t see it.

“Those hills and plains aren’t moving at all,” we think.

But they will.  And the geologists can see it all playing out in slow-mo every time they look out the window.

It’s easier to see Nature’s sudden transitions in a fluid medium like water or air.

Like this satellite image of Hurricane Harvey suddenly tightening up just before landfall.  Those two images are only 30 seconds apart.

Fire Smoke East of Us

Glad we’ve got onshore breeze this morning (yes, it reaches Corvallis, which is inland a ways).  The image above is facing toward the east and those aren’t clouds; it is wildfire smoke being pushed back by the west wind.

I didn’t realize there were so many fires in the Willamette National Forest right now – we’re due west of the top two clusters on this map (live interaction here):


It’s nowhere near a BC-wildfire situation, but it’s the largest local fire outbreak I’ve seen since arriving here three years ago.

You can follow Oregon’s wildfires at Inciweb.

PS:  Firefighters were watching the eclipse closely, too.