Washington D.C. weather in the year 2076, part II
[ Part I ]
This is a continuation of my futuristic journey into how the year 2076 unfolded, both weatherwise and otherwise--in retrospect from the year 2077. As I mentioned in my first piece, take this little futuristic journey with a grain of salt. The various projections and assumptions are drawn from a variety of sources and some are quite controversial, to say the least.
On Independence Day, 2076, the Mall hosted its annual fireworks display--this year with a new twist, however, as environmentalists have finally succeeded in getting the old-style rocket compounds eliminated. They've insisted that the aluminum, strontium, antimony, barium nitrate, and sulphide and copper compounds have caused past health problems in those who've been exposed. The new compounds are composed of sawdust and rice chaff. (1) Really!
In addition, past fireworks displays have been implicated in massive bird kills, when night-blind birds are uprooted from their roosts and crash into themselves and everything else in sight. Such was the case in January 2010 when a New Year's Eve fireworks display in Arkansas resulted in the death of 5000 blackbirds.
Traditionally the period from about late July to late August, the "dog days" are now plaguing the country during much of the summer. This summer was no exception, so that by late August the Washington area had accumulated almost 65 ninety-degree days, with plenty of summer to go. Seventy ninety-degree days would represent almost double the number experienced at the turn of the century, as pointed out in Part I.
Much of this was predicted by Heidi Cullen, a former senior research scientist with Climate Central, a nonprofit research organization, who published The Weather of the Future, back in 2010.
In her book, Ms. Cullen suggested that by the end of the century, D.C., as well as many other parts of the country, could experience a day every other year "so hot that it is currently experienced only once every 20 years." Her prediction resembled that of NASA research climatologist James Hansen who, in 1988, said that instead of averaging one 100 degree day per year, D.C. might eventually average twelve such days per year. By the end of August, D.C. had seen nine 100 degree days and NYC three. The resulting strain on the electrical grid has been tremendous.
With the hurricane season in full swing, the month began with a couple of near misses for East Coast cities such as Norfolk, Ocean City, and NYC. Thereafter, nerves remained on edge up and down the coastline due to the extreme vulnerability of certain areas to flooding caused by our higher sea levels.
Reagan National Airport, situated on the Potomac, a tidal estuary from D.C. southward, is certainly not immune to such flooding. But perhaps even worse is the situation in New York City. In 2009, Its Climate Change Panel expressed great concern about the city's hurricane vulnerability given that most of the critical infrastructure was less than 10 feet (now 9 feet) above sea level. In particular, the panel mentioned La Guardia Airport and the city entrance to the Holland Tunnel, which were only 9.5 feet (now 8.5 feet) and 7.8 feet (now 6.8 feet) above sea level, respectively. (See the Part I video, which, in 2005, depicted NYC with an 18-inch rise in sea levels.)
By the calendar, fall arrived on schedule this year, but weatherwise it remained quite warm throughout the month. Vacationers returning from September cruises in the Bahamas, Bermuda, and elsewhere have become increasingly alarmed at the continued bleaching and loss of the coral reefs, due primarily to the warmer and more acidified oceans.*
The loss of the coral reefs represents far more, of course, than the loss of their sheer beauty. The reefs also provide natural protection to many island groups and a habitat for many fish species that dwell exclusively within the reefs. But perhaps most important of all, they've been regarded as the "medicine cabinets of the 21st century," providing a source of life-saving pharmaceutical derivatives to treat cancer, bone disease, and other ailments.
With the growing season over, experts remain divided as to whether the net effect on crop yields of a warmer atmosphere has had a negative or a positive effect. A 2008 study suggested very harmful effects in the U.S. on corn, soybean, and cotton crops when temperatures regularly and substantially exceed 86-90 degrees F. This appears to have held true. The same study, however, admitted that there could be agricultural gains elsewhere in the world due to the longer growing season and increase in arable land in Canada, Siberia, and elsewhere.
In 2010, Professor Julian Cribb, an Australian science journalist, warned in his book, The Coming Famine: The Global Food Crisis and What We Can Do to Avoid It, that there would be a catastrophic shortfall of food output unless major countermeasures were undertaken. With almost 9.5 billion people by mid-century, he said, food production would need to double from what it was in 2010 due to higher meat consumption by a growing middle class and a population one third greater. Fortunately (fingers crossed), neither his predictions nor those of many before him, such as Malthus, have materialized, since technology has always seemed to have come to the rescue.
As we approached Thanksgiving, turkeys were still in decent supply for the holiday feast, but increasingly, poultry farmers were dealing with increased air conditioning and/or ventilation costs to keep their birds healthy and to maintain breeding rates in the face of higher temperatures. On the other hand, in some parts of the country, production costs had actually declined where turkeys and other poultry could be acclimatized outside.
What would "turkey day" be like, of course, without cranberries? Although a plentiful supply was available this year, much of the crop was harvested in Quebec, replacing Massachusetts and Wisconsin as the top cranberry producers in the world. The reason: cranberries are moving northward, so to speak, since they don't tolerate storminess, drought, floods, or warmth very well, all of which have been more common in the northeast and north-central cranberry bogs during recent years.
The last month of our tercentennial year rolled in quietly, with little sign of any real winter weather. In the D.C. area, offices were lightly manned during the pre-holiday period and also because so many are now telecommuting. The "outer" beltway, finally completed in 2060, now seems to have been largely unnecessary, at least for commuters, because so many can now fly, or rather, float to work over sub-standard roadways in anti-gravity vehicles. Others, of course, still require a smooth macadam surface.
By December 10th, Congress had agreed to adjourn for the holidays and return on February 1st, as usual, children still dreamed of a white Christmas...............and so it went during the year 2076.
(1) Guardian.co.uk, 5 November 2009
*So much carbon dioxide has been absorbed into the oceans that they have now become a moderate solution of carbonic acid. In 2006, Richard Feely of NOAA's Seattle Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory noted that the average pH level of the oceans had dropped from 8.2 in 1800 to 8.1. He predicted a further drop to 7.9 during this century, which has now come true, meaning that the oceans are now 150% more acidic than they were in 1800.
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