Children of Men

Summer loving, had me a blast

I’m tired of people complaining about how crappy the summer has been in New Zealand.

Sure, the Kiwi capital, Wellington, has recorded the highest number of cloudy days since the Kelburn weather station started tracking them in 1928.

And, yeah, maybe this disruption to average days of sunlight, temperature and rainfall has flipped seasonal purchasing patterns on their heads.

But why should I waste my beautiful mind on any of that?

Instead of ruing the 20 percent year-over-year drop in sun-block and ice cream purchases, I choose to celebrate the 24 percent increase in over-the-counter cold remedies. Way to go, influenza.

An important thing to keep in mind is, technically, there are still a few more weeks before the autumnal equinox. So, don’t worry, New Zealand. There’s plenty of time to catch a nasty head cold.

What I can’t gloss over with my usual optimism and Pollyanna thinking is the fact that I can’t lay blame for this inclement summer on living in New Zealand. Typically, I find it quite easy to cast all of life’s irritations and setbacks on my decision to migrate here.

From my disgusting trichotillomania to the tattered remnants of my sense of humor, there isn’t one circumstance that I can’t find a causal relationship with this frontier existence. Yet, try as I might, I can’t say this weather stuff is a function of New Zealand’s oceanic isolation or Latitude, per se. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says we’re at the tail end of a La Niña weather pattern.

Meanwhile, back home in the US, the lower-48 states have experienced higher than average winter temperatures—the fourth warmest January in more than 100 years—and record low snowfalls. Alaska has gone the other way with record lows.

At the risk of appearing to mistake weather for climate, it is unlikely these unusual patterns are unrelated. Global Climate Disruption, (yes I’m going there), is a far better term than Global Warming, considering how easy it is for vested interests to distort science in the public imagination. But whatever you want to call it, the theory supports an increased disruption to average historic atmospheric patterns. The Royal Society climate page summarizes nicely:

It is certain that increased greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and from land use change lead to a warming of climate, and it is very likely that these green house gases are the dominant cause of the global warming that has been taking place over the last 50 years.

Whilst the extent of climate change is often expressed in a single figure – global temperature – the effects of climate change (such as temperature, precipitation and the frequency of extreme weather events) will vary greatly from place to place.

This is true regardless of how a vainglorious, hick demagogue edited his wildly popular yet utterly depressing movie, which I watched under the influence of a bottle of vodka, having just seen Children of Men the day before. (One of the few cases in cinema history where the movie is far superior to the book, especially when you watch the DVD extras with Slavoj Žižek).

That movie depressed the hell out of me, not only because Clive Owen was in it, but because of Alfonso Cuarón’s deft contextualization of contemporary crises within one of the best-made battle scenes ever.

But I was severely depressed back then. Now that I’m only mildly depressed, I spend my time looking on the bright side of life.

That video comes from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory YouTube channel, which I recommend. The SDO is a satellite fitted with cameras aimed at the sun, tuned to varying wavelengths.

The SDO’s mission is to help understand “the Sun’s influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously”, according to the SDO website. It also provides some spectacular images.

Watching these videos, I can’t think of a better way to pass the long, cold days of summer.