- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Once upon a time in August, every year, every girl in town was a hottie. So were the men and boys. You could look it up.

Everybody complained about the heat but neither ex-vice presidents nor newspaper columnists, old wives or even television evangelists waxed hysterical about it. You could look that up, too. And if you did you would see that we’ve been here before, and the sky, despite everything the calamity howlers are telling you, is not falling this summer, either.

The record of the summer of 1930, now swiftly fading into ancient history, puts our summer in the shade. Between June 1 and Aug. 31 of that year Washington recorded 21 days when the temperature soared to 100 degrees or more. “That summer has never been approached,” Patrick Michaels, a professor of natural resources at Virginia Tech and senior fellow for environmental studies at the Cato Institute, tells Cybercast News Service. “And it’s not going to be approached this year.”

Between July 19 and Aug. 9 of 1930, records were set nine times. These marks still stand three-quarters of a century later. It’s enough to give everybody but Al Gore pause. And it wasn’t just in Washington, where bloviation and man-made hot air are enough to keep the mercury bubbling but not enough to broil the upper atmosphere. (It’s no coincidence that temperatures on Capitol Hill are usually warmer than in the more polite precincts of the nation’s capital.)

The hysteria in certain newspapers and on certain television newscasts, fueled by academics eager to publish lest they perish, is just what media do. Last winter, it was avian flu; this summer, it’s the arrival of the loudly promised global warming, and next winter, it will be something else. Hysteria over global warming — the notion that we’re all soon to be dead and we might as well lie down and enjoy it — has become the received religion of modern science. Even the Rev. Pat Robertson, the eminent televangelist, is preaching it. It was hot last week in Virginia Beach, and Pat, now 76, was feeling it. “We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels,” he told his considerable television audience. “It is getting hotter, and the ice caps are melting, and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air.” Pat is something of an icon on weather, if not necessarily an authority. He once commanded a killer hurricane to veer away from Virginia Beach, and it did. Let’s see the theologians at the National Science Foundation do that.

No one argues that the Earth’s weather is not warmer than it was a decade ago, though not warmer than it was in decades and centuries before that. It’s observable fact that the Earth has warmed more than a degree over the past century; the weather always warms and cools over the centuries, brought about by solar activity and other natural phenomena. Modern Scientific Man is obsessed with the notion that since there is no ordained order in the universe, it must have been man who did it. Modern Scientific Man’s sidekick, Chicken Little, figures the hot weather we’re having this summer proves it.

A researcher at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change concedes that this summer’s heat doesn’t necessarily prove anything, except that a prudent man stays in the shade and sips a lot of iced tea, but he’s pleased that this summer’s heat is “completely consistent with what we expect to become more common as a result of global warming.”

Or maybe not. A cursory look at the record temperatures in the 50 states reveals that most of the records were set years ago, some of them early in the century. The “all-time new record high,” as an excited cub reporter might write it, was 134 degrees, set in Death Valley in 1913. Libya eclipsed this by 2 degrees in 1922. Several state-by-state records were set in that horrific summer of 1930 — 110 in Millsboro, Del., 113 in Perryville, Ky., 114 in Greensburg, Ky., 115 in Holly Springs, Miss.

“Climatologically speaking,” says Prof. Michaels, “the last week in July is the warmest week of the year on average, and when the atmospheric flow patterns get into anomalously warm configurations during this time of year, temperatures will skyrocket.”

The professor might well be correct, but he won’t get headlines with news like that. Scientific Man, who once scoffed that Columbus would never be seen again because Science knew the Earth was flat, is on the boil.

Pruden on Politics runs Tuesdays and Fridays.

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