A Ministry of the ELCA - Supported by World Hunger

Rev. Mae Jean Zelle puts on her science hat

Written by LOPPW | 08/31/2018

After all the comments about the weather at church yesterday I have to put on my old science teacher hat for a minute to talk about why record April snowfall in Wisconsin is a result of climate change (aka global warming) and not evidence against it. Here goes:

Measurements of the temperature of sea and sky and land around the world show that the average temperature of the earth has gone up about three-quarters of a degree in my lifetime (A degree and a half since 1880 and the advent of the internal combustion engine btw). So, what does that mean? What difference does that make?

Temperature is a measure of kinetic energy. It’s a macro way to measure how fast the tiny little molecules (of the air for example) are bouncing around. The higher the temperature, the faster those little suckers are moving and bouncing into each other. In the atmosphere, the faster those molecules of nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide are moving around the more water molecules they can keep suspended in the air.  Now, the atmosphere will just keep doing all the things it normally does in terms of wind and rain (storm systems, tornadoes, hurricanes, the undulation of the jet stream, etc); it will just do it with more energy and more moisture content and therefore more intensity. {Droughts too are the result as they occur as disruption of normal patterns, now such disruptions are more frequent and more intense as all the water was dropped elsewhere.}

I like to compare it all to a two-year-old who has had some chocolate. The hyped-up chocolate-charged tyke will do all the things they normally do (run, jump, bump into things, knock stuff over), they just do it with more energy, and therefore more destructiveness. It’s not like it has never snowed in Wisconsin in April before. What is different is the winds are stronger (kinetic energy) and the snowfalls are heavier (moisture content) which makes the storm system larger and more destructive.

So our homework for the day is to write “I will work to reduce carbon emissions which cause global warming” (do I need to explain that too?) a hundred times and then go find a way to help do that. The atmosphere needs a nap.

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