Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Still Snowbound, Still Down

Atlanta's still iced over. No mail service, no garbage pick-up, most all stores and shops closed. I didn't make it to work today, and I may not be able to make it tomorrow. The road on which I live, above, was basically a sheet of ice pretty much the entire day.

Not that I would have been able to even try to drive on it. My car is still perched on top of my driveway, approximately 30 feet above street grade. This morning, I found some iced-over footprints, probably of a child, that looks like he or she made it about halfway up my drive before sliding back down.

According to the local news, the perimeter highway around the city is gridlocked with dozens of tractor-trailers stuck on the ice. Other portions are blocked by jack-knifed trucks. The remaining stretches of highway are technically open, but impassable due to the slick conditions. Don't even try to drive anywhere, we were being told over the radio and the television.

I decided to go out for a walk and take a look for myself.

Below is normally busy Northside Drive, usually packed with traffic at this hour (about 8:30 am). Notice I'm standing in the middle of the road, and there's no cars anywhere in sight. I've never seen that before, at any time of day. In the time it took me to walk down Northside to it's junction with Interstate 75, beyond the point of perspective in the photo, only three cars passed me, one a cop who seemed to be having more trouble maintaining traction than the other two.

Here's Interstate 75 during this morning's "rush hour," facing north. No cars. This highway, and this stretch just before the junction with I-85, is almost emblematic of Atlanta's choking traffic. It was spooky, even unsettling, to see it so empty.

Here's the view from the same overpass, looking south toward the city. Nothing. Incidentally, this is also the same spot where the tragic March 2007 Bluffton University bus accident occurred. Haze hanging over the road obscures the usual view of the Atlanta skyline from this point.

That was enough to convince me not to try to drive to work; that, and the fact that the ice was keeping me from driving my car down the driveway. However, by about mid-afternoon, temperatures reached the mid 30s and a little rain began, turning the ice into slush. I knew that the rain and slush would freeze overnight, reprising this morning's conditions, and if I was going to get my car down the drive before, say, Friday, it was now or never. So I devised a plan.

The plan was basically just to slide down the driveway. Not really much of a plan in hindsight. I knew that I probably wouldn't be able to brake on the ice, but the slush on the road seemed deep enough to slow my car down before it slid all the way across the road and into the ravine opposite my house. So I backed up, slowly turned the car around, and ever so slowly began to approach the slope down to the street.

Once gravity got a hold of my car, there was no stopping on the ice - I was right about that. But surprisingly, I was also right about the deep slush stopping my momentum. I was able to stop before careening into the ravine, and straightened the car out and parked in front of my house. My big accomplishment of the day.

I've already heard people on the radio saying that this second snowfall in normally temperate Atlanta "proves" that global warming isn't occurring. Their thinking seems to be that in the "post-climate-change" world, the weather will be eternal summer, and if it isn't hot right where they happen to be at that particular moment, global warming can't be occurring.

Well. According to Professor Neville Nicholls, President of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the flooding in Queensland, Australia is "caused by what is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, La Niña events since our records began in the late 19th century. The La Niña is also associated with record warm sea surface temperatures around Australia and these would have contributed to the heavy rains."

La Niña events are not caused by global change - they occur naturally - but the frequency and intensity of the events are affected by climate change. A good explanation of the effect of climate change on the Australian floods can be found here.

So, globally, we have winter storms during winter in North America and record monsoons in the Southern Hemisphere during the antipodal summer. But while I might have a mild case of cabin fever and am slightly inconvenienced, right now, there's real suffering by both man and beast going on down under.

Not that you'd necessarily want to rescue all wildlife. Where's your bodhisattva vows of saving all sentient beings now? (Hint: to save all beings, you first have to save yourself.)

No the flooding in Australia, affected as it is by higher-than-normal ocean temperatures, is causing real suffering, and gives me some needed perspective on the situation here in Atlanta, not only in terms of climate lessons, but also on relative degrees of suffering.

1 comment:

chelsea said...

I feel sad after looking at the posted pictures here.

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