- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

By now, all the TV weather forecasters have exhausted their supply of heat adjectives. They even may have fallen into a tropical depression, blankly gesturing before a national weather map that has become one big yellow blob, with several dangerous orange blobs and a least four really bad red splotches.

“Yes, this big red round thing is us. Hot. Hot,” murmurs the evening weather guy.

Gone is the academic talk about Bermuda highs, heat indexes, dew points, jet streams and El Nino. Cute culinary descriptions including sizzling, grilling, roasting and burning have lost their flavor. Sweltering, blistering and blazing won’t cut it either, though some forecasters can have a last-minute burst of creativity and go for withering, unmerciful or diabolic.

This signals that the weather person has reached the dreaded “hottern” stage, a trend noticed by Texas writer John David Powell. He believes TV weather people down his way simply have run out of terms to describe the stupefying heat of August.

“Don’t forget the whole hottern category. Hottern a firecracker. Hottern a pistol. Hottern a two-dollar pistol. Hottern Hades,” Mr. Powell observes. “Oh, I forgot. Hottern a matchhead and hottern a pepper sprout, both members of the weather lyrics category.”

Here at the Attic Fan Desk, we respectfully suggest that an obscure political category might be appropriate. Think of it — hottern hanging chads, hottern Al Gore over global warming or maybe just plain hottern global warming.

Meanwhile, it is helpful to remember that at this very moment, it is cold somewhere else. Like Saturn. Why, it’s a cool 300 degrees below zero on Saturn. See? Doesn’t that feel better?

Closer to home, it is 60 degrees below zero at the unmanned Nico Automatic Weather Station in Antarctica, this according to the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center of the University of Wisconsin, which monitors such things. Nico is located in the middle of Antarctica, at the very bottom of the world. It has not been visited by man, beast or snowmobile since January 2005, when three battery packs were replaced.

So when the weather is withering, cauterizing, incinerating and hottern a Democrat at a Republican pig roast, well, just remember Nico.

It’s also good to consider cold culture at this time — like glacier ice, a chichi thing indeed. Intrepid entrepreneurs have been harvesting crystal-clear, 3,000-year-old glacier ice from the Earth’s coldest climes for several years and selling it as the ultimate must-have for cocktail time. Sly scientists in Antarctica have refined the practice to an art form, filling their glasses with “waste ice” left over from ice sampling projects.

Their ancient ice is, on occasion, 500,000 years old. As it melts, the ice releases air that is, well, a half-million years old.

“There was prehistoric atmosphere imprisoned in those cubes,” marveled explorer Bill Jirsa, who chronicled his Antarctic experiences in a Web log (www.elementary penguin.com).

With the help of American scientists at the U.S. Antarctica Program, Mr. Jirsa recently imbibed rarified ice from the Barne glacier splashed with a single-malt scotch.

“As they poured a couple of fingers of amber liquid into my glass, I heard the ice start to fizzle and wheeze. … I put my nose over the glass and inhaled a whiff of scotch and ancient air,” he continued.

As we continue to frizzle, frazzle and possibly evaporate here, it also is helpful to know there is an entire frigid industry at work even as the Beltway melts into the Mall. Five wedding planners specialize in glacier weddings. Yes, the happy couples journey to Alaska and pay up to $4,000 to be helicoptered to and married upon a glacier, where most brides opt for a lovely white gown, not to mention long underwear and hiking boots somewhere underneath.

Just in case that’s not enough — or the Beltway really is melting into the Mall — a Finnish icebreaker that has been converted into a fancy passenger ship will be heading for the nether regions of Antarctica in December, when the temperature warms to a full zero degrees.

Some tours onboard the MV Polar Star already have sold out, evidence that freeze tourism is booming. More than 26,000 people visited Antarctica last year, so many that an international coalition has developed a new set of guidelines to make the humans behave while they cavort around on the ice.

“It covers only a fraction of the areas used by tourists,” Jim Barnes of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition said with a sigh earlier this year.

For the rest of us, there are always Antarctica Web cams. That’s right, there are at least a dozen live, free views of the coldest place on Earth, 24 hours a day, maintained by generous researchers eager to share their beloved snow and ice. Here’s a start from our pals at the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center — it includes images of icebergs and outposts (https://amrc.ssec.wisc.edu/webcam.html).

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and heated discussions for The Washington Times’ national desk. Reach her at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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