Global warming is AWOL

February 18, 1994|By Howard Kleinberg

ADMITTEDLY, my experience as a scientist is limited t turning the shower knob in hotel rooms to their hottest position, then hanging wrinkled shirts and suits on the shower curtain rod. The steam almost returns the clothing to its proper, but soggy, shape.

That is why I cannot understand why people -- particularly Northern friends and relatives -- continually ask me whatever happened to global warming.

Perhaps I misconstrue that they are asking me. Surely, they could not expect an intelligent answer. I think most likely they are asking this in a vacuum, not really intended for me but asking it of anyone in general -- somewhat like Nancy Kerrigan's "Why me?"

But it is a question worth asking. Whatever did happen to global warming? From my virtually immune observation post in Paradise Lost but Nevertheless Frost-Free, it would appear to me that global warming is on vacation. It is down here in South Florida (chuckle-chuckle) but not at many points north of it.

Already, the weather has caused me hardship, as my telephone bill has ascended to new heights what with all the calls I have been making to frozen friends and relatives whilst I splash about in the water of my swimming pool. (That's a lie, of course; I never go into the water unless it has a temperature of at least 82 degrees. This week, it is a frigid 75 degrees. Oh, did I just hear you groan?)

Not only is much of the United States and Canada about to disappear under a new polar ice cap, but Europe also is enduring one of the fiercest winters of the century.

If I understand what I have been reading for the past few decades, the opposite was forecast to occur. Because we humans -- and a couple of billion flatulent cows -- were releasing ++ abnormal amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases into the air, the Earth's temperature was supposed to warm by a few degrees, causing great ice melts, rising oceans, disappearing crops.

I believe the most hysterical of the scientists placed it in understandable terms when he said the ocean waters would rise to the level of the Statue of Liberty's armpits.

So most of us threw away our aerosol cans -- I don't know what was done about the cows -- and hoped for the best, although scientists told us it was too late; the die had been cast.

Perhaps it has, but would someone please explain to me, and to millions slipping and falling on the ice,why this winter has been so harsh? When we were told to expect temperatures to rise as much as an average of seven degrees, they appear to have dropped by 30 or 40 degrees.

I am certain that someone with credentials far greater than mine -- people who know how to unwrinkle clothes without steaming up the bathroom mirror -- can explain why global warming suddenly is AWOL.

Most likely, they will blame it on El Nino, that scapegoat weather pattern that hangs off Peru and allegedly changes everything on every few years. I have made an intense study of El Nino through graphics in National Geographic magazine, and can tell you with authority that I haven't the slightest idea of what El Nino is about other than it screws up the weather.

So, is El Nino in a death struggle with Global Warming, and winning this winter? If not, what is the answer? Why are water pipes freezing in New York City, tree limbs snapping under the weight of ice in St. Mary's County, Md., and people in Minneapolis walking around wearing bank robbers' masks to protect them from the cold?

The scientists owe us an explanation. What did happen to global warming? Make them get out from under their blankets and tell us!

Howard Kleinberg, a former editor of the Miami News, is a columnist for Cox Newspapers.

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