Hot all over

August 04, 1994

In the past few years, when Baltimore has had a hot summer or a mild winter, it was possible to argue against a conclusion of global warming or carbon dioxide greenhouse effect. There was always unseasonal cold simultaneously in Scotland or somewhere. World temperatures did not seem out of whack, only the Eastern Seaboard, U.S.A., thermometers.

No more. This is as long and relentless a summer heat wave as anyone can remember in Baltimore. It began earlier than usual and feels like it's going to Halloween. But Europe? It is hot, hot, hot. Czech railroad rails have bent, Stockholm had its highest July temperature average ever, the Baltic Sea is full of subtropical algae that discourages the swimmers the water temperatures lured, Dutch and German river temperatures are so high they are failing to cool power plant turbines adequately. Spain has brush fires like California.

Baltimoreans, other than the poor, have air conditioning at home, at work and in the car. Everywhere but in the schools that Gov. William Donald Schaefer wants open year round. Or in the college classrooms and dormitories that increasingly open before Labor Day for reasons known only to a handful of higher education administrators who aren't saying what they are.

But British, German, Dutch, Polish folk and their neighbors don't have air conditioning. They are supposed to be in temperate zones where such esoterica are not needed. Or so their architects thought. Now they are suffering.

Ah, but maybe this is compensatory for a cool Asia? No such thing. Tokyo has sweltered all summer. It's a trilateral heat wave. And not just in developed countries. Rural India is burning up.

Yes, but last winter was awful in Baltimore. That's not consistent with global warming. Yes, but consider this. It wasn't particularly cold here last February, it was icy. Basically, our atmosphere was not frigid so much as confused, all that rain falling on frozen ground, temperatures flirting with 32 degrees Fahrenheit rather than moving decisively away from it one way or the other.

It would be nice -- comforting, reassuring -- to believe there is not global warming here and now. But we need evidence. To start with, a cool August would help.

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