Are climates changing? Scientists may theorize. But what are the real causes behind today's weather upsets?
NOTHING has such a vital physical impact on human beings as the weather. Past civilizations have risen or fallen on the fortunes of good or bad weather. Yet, for the most part, today's generation has come to take the largely tranquil, predictable weather of the mid-20th century for granted. Few realize today that the period from 1910 to 1960 is considered to be the most unusually good run of weather experienced in the history of climatology. As global temperatures slowly rose in the first part of the 20th century, so did agricultural output. By the 1950s, yields were unprecedentedly high. In the 1960s the so-called green revolution was under way. Spurred on by new hybrid seed, chemical fertilizers and relatively stable climate, world hunger seemed to be on its way to being a thing of the past. But something happened in the last few years that was unexpected. Our climates have become more variable and extreme. Droughts are followed by floods. And the hopes that were pinned on the agricultural miracles of the '60s have vanished. Is there indeed a soon-coming crisis in our weather? If so, why?
Why a Change in the Weather?
It is accepted by climatologists that climatic change can result, in general, from variations in the earth's solar orbit. These slight modifications produce alternating periods of relatively warm, stable climate then frigid, unstable ones. Some scientists note that there may be other factors that may bring about climatic change. In a debate that has raged for more than a decade, climatologists have argued over whether or not the earth has passed the peak of a warm, stable cycle of weather patterns. Is it now entering a more unpredictable period? This seems to be especially true of the Northern Hemisphere Among the proposals now being carefully monitored is the role of sunspot activity in directly affecting our temperatures here on earth. Sunspot activity reaches its peak at the end of an 11.2 — year cycle. The last sunspot maximum was in 1979. The sun's temperature is actually cooler during a sunspot maximum and therefore the earth becomes cooler. Others are studying volcanic clouds — such as that resulting from the Mexican volcano, El Chich6n, in March 1982 — and industrial pollution. Even soil particles can be suspended high in the atmosphere and there create a thin layer of reflective substances that block out some of the sun's warming rays. Still another area of concern is the simple fact that cold weather begets more cold weather. For instance, for a single day in January 1982, 75 percent of North America was covered with snow. 1982 went on to be a severe winter with many record lows in the normally balmy southern states. Snow reflects about 90 percent of sunlight. Winters with a lot of initial snowfall consequently cause a sort of "snow feedback." Warming sunshine is reflected back into space while colder temperatures cause moist air to condense — thus more snow or sleet. Winters are intensified and longer. Another phenomenon widely accepted as a cause of our upset weather is jet-stream locking. A jet stream is a narrow, fast-moving body of air about 6 to 10 miles high (10-16 km) flanked by broader, slow-moving currents of air. It is formed by an energy exchange process that takes place when warm tropical air meets cold polar air. What has been happening is that instead of the jet stream slowly moving from area to area, it has been, of late, locking into one position for long periods of time. By locking in one position, an area will continue to experience the same type of weather until the jet stream finally moves. What causes this process is a group of "blocking highs" that keep weather channeled in an area until the highs suddenly and inexplicably break down. This locking phenomenon was what occurred in 1980 when the U.S. experienced a devastating heat wave that took more than 1,300 lives. At the same time, South Africa froze while Eastern Europe was drenched by torrential rains.
The "Greenhouse Effect"
Man is also undeniably affecting his environment and climate in ways he has thus far refused to regulate. A growing body of evidence exists that our increasing use of fuels like wood, coal and oil, along with other pollution makers like the slash-and-burn agricultural techniques popular in tropical areas, poses grave consequences for the future. Unless that course is altered, we will see a tremendous buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This will trap heat and cause the earth's average temperatures to rise. The result is a so-called greenhouse effect. In an article in Science magazine dated August 28, 1981, NASA's Institute for Space Studies in New York City noted that carbon dioxide levels in the air across America on average were 293 parts per million (ppm), with a 10 ppm margin of error, in 1880. In 1980, the level was 335 ppm. This report points out that if the present level of fuel use grows slowly, average temperatures in the U.S. could increase about 5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 °C) by the end of the 21st century. However, a more rapid development of fuel use could raise temperatures by as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 °C). Any rise in average temperature will begin a melting of the polar ice caps, flooding large areas of the world's •coastlands. In the decade of the '70s alone, ocean levels rose 4 inches from this effect. Man is, in addition, rapidly destroying the earth's natural carbon dioxide converter: the forests. Some figures put the rate of deforestation at 120 acres every single minute of every single day. That amounts to more than 63 million acres a year. Deforestation also affects the water table, rainfall, as well as soil erosion.
What Are the Consequences?
Gone are the days when a people simply migrated away from a drought or famine. With fixed borders and a burgeoning world population, little new land is available. Today the world is dependent on primarily the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and parts of Western Europe to supply the surplus, foodstuffs to meet the shortfalls elsewhere in the world. A bad year or two of weather for these nations would have a disastrous impact on the rest of the world. In addition, we have narrowed the number of plant species on which we depend for food to less than 30. In fact, five crops — potatoes, rice, wheat, maize (corn) and barley — comprise more than 60 percent of the world's food crops. By narrowing our variety we have also increased our vulnerability to climatic change.
What Is the Source of Our Weather?
What's it going to be? Are we going to be shoveling snow and ice, or will we be fleeing the coastlines to avoid the onrushing oceans? A simple answer to this question is given by David Arthur Davies, one of the leading meteorologists in the United Kingdom, and the former Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Concerning the reliability of long-range weather prediction, Dr. Davies states, "Frankly, we do not know the extent to which we can predict climatic change or climatic variability." While scientists may not be able to accurately predict weather in the long term, almost all of their theories point to bad times ahead. Still they can only view the physical evidence and that tells only part of the story. There is, however, a source we can turn to for the other half of the picture. That source is God's revealed word: the Bible. God says he controls the weather. "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matt. 5:45, NIV). God sends the snow and ice as well as drought and heat. He bathes the earth with gentle rain to show his love, yet also sends floods and mildew to punish (Job 37; Deut. 28:22, last part). Apart from normal patterns that he set in motion, God also allows mankind to reap the consequences of physical sins: pollution, abuse of the environment or attempts to manipulate the weather. God also uses the weather to punish for spiritual sins. Indeed, if we read Deuteronomy 28, we see that God's blessings on obedience includes good weather (verses 1-14) and his punishing of sin includes weather catastrophes (verses 15-24). Centuries ago, one of God's prophets, Elijah, prayed and God withheld rain from a rebellious and sinful nation to warn the people to turn from their false gods (I Kings 17-18). But that was the ancient House of Israel; right? If that occurred in the time of ancient Israel, what is going to be the effect on a world filled with sin? — which is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). The cause of our upset weather conditions involves sin: physical and spiritual, whether we like to think so or not. The nations are about to be punished for their corruption and immorality. We are beginning to reap the rewards for living the "get" way of life.
The Near Future
Today's upset weather conditions will soon pale into insignificance, unless mankind alters the present course. In the foreseeable future, our weather is going to be turned upside down (see Revelation 6:5-8; 8:4-12). The powerful forces of nature are going to be unleashed upon a disobedient, nuclear-armed world to bring it to its knees in repentance. Wise king Solomon understood the relationship between the transgression of moral law (defined in the Bible as "sin") and bad weather. When he dedicated the Temple of God, Solomon prayed: "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned [emphasis ours] against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of... your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance" (II Chron. 6:26-27, NIV). God is warning the nations today to turn from their materialism, false religions and all of the various selfish economic and political "isms" that are leading us away from the true path of peace and prosperity. We can expect our weather to become worse... until we repent and acknowledge our Creator and his laws. Were the nations to do so, we would find ourselves blessed with good weather and stable climates. We would not have to worry about either a new ice age or a greenhouse effect occurring sometime in the future. We can experience the abundant life with good, healthful weather — but only if we are willing to acknowledge God and his laws and his government. But that would mean a new age — the wonderful world tomorrow. If you would like to know more about that soon — coming world, read our free booklet: The Wonderful World Tomorrow - What It Will Be Like.