The Global Warming Desk Reference

By Bruce E. Johansen | Go to book overview
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Preface: Diary of a Warm Winter

Nebraska winters have been notable for their severity. During my 18 years in Omaha, winter has usually paid its first visit by the first week of November, with heavy snow an occasional possibility through the third week of April. As I set to work researching and writing The Global Warming Desk Reference (and not, of course, because I had any role in determining the weather), I was met with a November notable for spring-like warmth.

On November 8, 1999, the high temperature reached 82 degrees F., the highest November reading in the 127 years records have been kept in Omaha. On November 11, our two housecats began to shed, off cycle. A few days later, the record monthly high of 82 was eclipsed by a new monthly high temperature of 84. It was a Saturday and the Nebraska Cornhuskers were playing at home as television sports commentators in Lincoln amused themselves by recalling Husker games that had been played in ice, snow, and howling cold winds.

Most people in Omaha remembered that November as a very nice time, not the harbinger of a wrenchingly hot future portended by rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We had a sparkling, mild fall with cool nights, trees rich in broadleaf color, and salmon-colored sunsets. The squirrels became as fat as Pillsbury doughboys, some of them nearly tottering over, as they stored up fat for the cold weather, ice, and snow that didn’t arrive on time. The city crows also became fat and sleek. “Nice day,” people remarked all around me, but all I could think of was the angle of the temperature and carbon dioxide curves. That November turned out to be the warmest on record in Omaha and in many other Midwestern locations. Temperatures in Omaha averaged 46.8 degrees F., 8.2 degrees above average (Rosman 1999, 11).

I watched the Huskers play football, remarking that their Memorial Stadium is a shrine to greenhouse gas generation. There was, among the 77,000 people in the stadium, nothing that produced oxygen. Not even the stadium turf (plastic “Astroturf”) produced oxygen. At least the Huskers play in the open air, how-

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