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The long season that never ends

Robert Houk • Jun 2, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Despite what the calendar says, the hazy, lazy days of summer are upon us. Like most things in these complicated times, dear readers, we’ve skipped a peaceful transition of the seasons and dropped straight into the dog days of August.

Hope you enjoyed the few weeks of a traditional spring we did see. Most days were wet and warm — two things we’d better get used to around here.

Which brings me to the topic of this column: Coping with the new normal when it comes our local climate. Yep, I said climate and not weather.

And yes, I’ve become that crazy old man standing on his front porch ranting about the way things used to be.

In my day, we had a clear winter, followed by a noticeable spring, radiant summer and a glorious fall. Sometimes the winter would drag into the spring, and if we were lucky, summer often lingered into fall.

Not anymore. We have one long season now, and it’s generally hot and humid.

And don’t let this recent dry spell fool you. The rain will soon return.

If you don’t believe me, check your Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2019.

The almanac’s long-range weather forecast was spot on in 2018, and it’s proving to be pretty darn accurate for this calendar year.

In recent years, the trusted periodical has placed our climate forecasts in the same region as the Deep South. It’s editors were right to do so.

The National Arbor Day Foundation came to the same conclusion a few years earlier when our warming climate prompted it to change Tennessee’s designation on its “hardiness-zone” map — a guide to help growers determine what trees might do best in certain regions.

The foundation’s map, which factors in climate data from recent years, placed most of Tennessee into the more moderate zone.

With many trees budding this year in late January, it’s hard to question that reclassification.

Local governments and businesses that monitor changes to the climate have also seen a warming trend. That includes BrightRidge, which has noted the number of days that its electrical customers use their heating systems has sharply declined, while cooling days have increased.

Like other organizations that keep up with such data, BrightRidge and the Tennessee Valley Authority recorded the recent winter to be the warmest on the books.

So how do we cope with this new normal? Do we grin and bear it? Maybe we should make lame jokes invoking Al Gore’s name when we do get the occasional blizzard in winter. (That’s always a big hit on Facebook.)

We can say: “Where’s your global warming now?” when we experience frigid temperatures from a polar vortex in February. Snidely ask our neighbors, “Hot enough for you?” when the temperatures hoover above the mid-90s for most of July.

What baffles me is that some people are still surprised when thunderstorms dump several inches of rain in a matter of minutes, spilling streams and flooding downtown Johnson City. No 100-year flood remedies or storm water controls can deal with this new normal. Therefore, I am left to cope with the situation the way people have for centuries — I will complain.

But will anybody listen?

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