Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Is it The Day After Tomorrow? Wild thing I've been wondering since the earthquake...

Little after 10 PM on an early January evening here in North Carolina. Average for this time of year for this part of the night is about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit, and if we're getting buffeted by a winter storm that usually goes to between 5 and 20 and sometimes a lot lower.

According to the Weather Channel's website, right now it is 64 degrees. The projected low for the next ten days is predicted to be 39.

Now, we've had it be this warm before only to make up for it in spades. Twenty winters ago we had a Christmas and New Years in the seventies and mid-eighties... only to suffer through a massive snow and ice storm a few weeks later that dropped the mercury to minus-2. And that was the high for a couple of days! And this part of the state went four years or so with nary a snowflake in sight. Younger kids were wondering if older people were just making up stories about the white stuff and some of us were even forgetting what it really looked like. But as the saying goes "be careful what you wish for" 'cuz then came "the Storm of the Century" in 1993 and we didn't complain about snow for the next ten years or so.

So, weather here can be a little wonky. The thing is, it's really wonky all over the place right now: snow in Phoenix, warm rain in Michigan, unseasonably hot in places that should be freezing...

I'm just wondering: did last week's earthquake in Southeast Asia do something to Earth's climate? More to the point: could it have permanently altered the world's weather patterns?

Had a science teacher years ago who told us that there was evidence that the ice ages happened because of precession of the Earth's axis. The poles aren't quite stationary: they wobble like the axis of a spinning top that follows a circular path (here's a good site that explains it better). And the theory went that as the pole migrated a little further one way, it caused the hemispheres to either receive more or less direct sunlight than they normally got. So if precession caused the northern hemisphere to lose sunlight, it could have triggered a climate change that led to massive sheets of ice covering most of northern Europe and North America.

Scientists are now reporting that last week's earthquake shifted the North Pole by an inch or two. Doesn't sound like much. But when you consider Complexity Theory and the whole "butterfly effect" thing where a butterfly flaps its wings in Hong Kong and changes weather in New York City... well, how much more a headache would meteorologists get from an entire planet moving?

I've only a cursory knowledge of weather (sometimes wish that I'd studied it in college) so I don't know: I'm just a historian/writer/filmmaker/website designer. But it's something to consider. In light of my earlier post, thought I'd throw that theory out for public consumption.