February 11, 2011 10:32:00 AM
We have a hard time remembering when a sunny day felt so cold in Columbus. We were emboldened Thursday afternoon, encouraged by the clouds parting and the snow dripping slowly off the rooftops. But looks were deceiving. The temperature remained well below freezing. Anyone without multiple layers of clothing was toast. Or rather, what''s the opposite of toast? Frozen waffles?
Bright sunlight and sub-freezing weather just don''t mix in Mississippi, even in February. It''s supposed to be warm when the sun comes out, at least 99 percent of the time.
And we already used up our 1 percent of cold, or so we thought. Weren''t our friends and neighbors sliding off every available bridge in Lowndes County just a week ago? That episode was supposed to last us at least a year. A few weeks before that, we were building snowmen in our front yards. We figured that rare event would last us at least five.
But here we are again. Schools are closed, roads are icy, rooftops and trees and fields are four inches beneath the snow.
As we shuffled along, shivering, to wherever it was we needed to get, two thoughts came to mind. The first is, this is the best evidence yet that rodents can''t predict the future. We were still nursing our hangover from January''s snowstorm when Punxsutawney Phil popped out of his hatch to predict an early spring. We were convinced the hog had it right this time. We wanted to believe. We were burned. Or rather, iced.
The second thought was, Al Gore clearly doesn''t know what he''s talking about, any more than Phil does. Fox News commentator Bill O''Reilly wondered the same thing a week or so ago, remarking how "southern New York turned into the tundra," smirkily adding that he had "a call in to Al Gore." (Some climate-change nay-sayers, pointing at the all the icicles and the cars in the ditches as evidence, argue that the earth is cooling, not warming.)
O''Reilly didn''t really have a call into Gore, but the ex-VP and current crusader for a better understanding of climate change piped up anyway.
"In fact, scientists have been warning for at least two decades that global warming could make snowstorms more severe," he said in a statement, very sciencey and boring in its Al Gore-ness. "A rise in global temperature can create all sorts of havoc, ranging from hotter dry spells to colder winters, along with increasingly violent storms, flooding, forest fires and loss of endangered species."
So taking the long view, few scientists dispute that the earth is warmer now than it''s ever been. But winter is still winter. Global warming "can''t turn January into July," Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress said in a recent Washington Post article.
Maybe not, but it would be nice. (For that matter, we wish the "cold earth" theorists would hold off until summer and turn July into January. Even better than warm weather now, would be snow in July. Give us some of this ice when we need it the most.)
We realize it''s a snow day, so we''ll wrap up the science lesson. Instead, we''ll take a little time to enjoy it while we can. Bitter cold and inconvenient truths aside, we all can surely agree that our local scenery looks its best cloaked in winter white.