I am really making an effort not to grumble about the cold weather this winter.
It seems like not that far back that I was sweltering in temperatures hanging unmercifully around the 40 Celsius mark. There was grumbling aplenty then.
Some fellow travellers we met on our recent road trip over to Western Australia told of having their marriage seriously tested during a spell of 52 degree days in one location.
“What the hell do you do when it is 52 degrees?” I asked.
“Melt. You melt and you…you do your best to survive.” Was the short summary.
During the long hot summer I came to the certain conclusion that I can deal with being cold far more easily than being hot.
I’m not talking about the Antarctic or Sahara here, just the climate peaks and troughs delivered by my local environments.
But that is enough.
At wet bulb temperatures1 above 35 Celsius, the body is no longer able dissipate its own metabolic heat resulting in a steady creep towards hyperthermia. Without its usual thermal defence mechanisms of conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation, heat now gradients from the environment into the body.
In an article for The Atlantic, climatologist Matthew Huber warns that conservative predictions of 3-4 degree rises in average global temperature by 2100 are just that. Conservative. Although the consensus is that global warming from man-made influence is a thing, the actual modelling is far less certain with some predictions of up to an unimaginable 20 degrees.
At the point where the average global temperature rise hits 10°C, “even Siberia reaches values exceeding anything in the present-day tropics” and many populated parts of the globe might become, if habitable at all, places where the relatively affluent would likely find themselves “imprisoned” in air-conditioned spaces and where “power failures would become life-threatening.” Lacking access to AC, the world’s poor would have little choice but to flee. Even “modest” global warming, Huber and Sherwood conclude, could “expose large fractions of the population to unprecedented heat stress.” The Atlantic
Of course we are talking about average global temperatures here. Areas already prone to heatwaves are going to get nailed. And big cities with their massive concrete thermal mass will really struggle. Air-conditioners will become life support systems and power failures or ‘grey-outs’ risk developing into real mass casuslty events.
It is deeply disturbing that some gloomy variation of these predictions seems to be our likely long term future.
And the consensus amongst those involved in climate modelling is that it is going to happen a good deal sooner than was first predicted.
Yes, this winter I have been thinking about my grumblings a lot. I have been doing my best to really enjoy the colder weather. After all, it’s really not that difficult to warm up when feeling cold. Adding another layer of clothing, an extra blanket or two, increasing physical activity, generating a little shared body heat with the one you love.
And I have found that if I just stop the negative mental narrative that accompanies being out in the cold, my body adapts and you I can get on with enjoying life.
But when I’m hot, attempts at cooling myself limit activities to seeking air-conditioning, shade and water, and lying around watching Netflix.
I don’t want to be active. I forget to hydrate. My temper is frazzled and sleeping is difficult.
I am a dish best served cold. This does not bode well.
- Wet bulb temperatures are measured by a thermometer bulb wrapped in wet cloth and ventilated giving a ‘best case’ scenario. Wet and dry bulb temps approach the same number as humidity increases. ↩