GUEST COLUMN: On and off Earth

After the instant relief delivered by last week’s cold front and the first day of fall actually feeling like fall, I’d almost forgotten that Earth has just experienced another sweltering, record-smashing summer and how long it had been since any northern air had made it this far south – very early August.

I’m three months from finishing another Weather Wizard’s Five-Year Weather Diary, my fifth such journal, and over those 25 years of weather journaling I have noticed dramatic changes. Weather is the condition of the air right now and changes constantly. Climate is the average weather for a region over 30 years’ time. Climate is on Earth time, generally slower than human time but still subject to change, and climatic change can be rapid, too.

September used to be a cooler month with a heat wave or two. Over the last few years, September has been a warmer month with cold fronts delivering the first cool air later and later. October, also trending warmer, has not had a frost since 2015. Attire for my daily walks in the woods has summer gear out earlier in the spring and still quite comfortable deeper into the fall.

My house, passively solar-heated, has windows all along the south side. October’s decreasing sun angle is quite apparent to me; the leaf-filtered sunlight, without doing much heating through those leaves, shines deeper into the house every sunny day. October’s color display of those leaves, through the windows or on a walk, keep it atop the list of favorite months for me! 

October, even today’s milder version, will see more cold fronts arrive, the northern air battling its way into the south lands. Fronts are boundaries between giant masses of air with similar properties, “discovered” during World War I and named for the battle zones along which much of that war was fought. Weather fronts, especially cold fronts, are where the wildest storms generally occur.

If it is reasonably safe, and if truly stormy it isn’t safe, a jaunt outside during the passage of a cold front is a great way to experience the constant, tumultuous change on our planet. Time it right and you’ll feel the warm southern breeze pushed aside by a cool northern gust. Linger and you can feel the wind switch back and forth; the passage is complete when the air remains cool and refreshing, the wind out of the northwest. 

We lose 40 minutes of evening daylight in October (28 minutes in the morning), making it easier to get out and check the planet show going on in the darkening sky. Venus still dazzles in the west, Jupiter and Saturn in the southeast. A thin crescent moon visits Venus on the 9th. Just past first quarter, the moon is below and between Saturn and Jupiter on the 14th. The Full Hunter’s Moon is on the 20th. The sun spends the entire month in sprawling Virgo.

Science, which means “having knowledge,” enriches, lengthens and by and large makes our lives easier and better every day but for a non-scientist, non-doctor to pick and choose what part of science they like is a dangerous path to walk. I’m still very confused by those that don’t trust a vaccine, a well-tested medicine proven safe and effective by millions, but who will rush to a hospital when sick to seek another, perhaps less-tested medicine to save them.

It’s so easy – get vaccinated! Or as a nurse friend asked of an unvaccinated, unhealthy mother of four, “Is your will in order? Because if you get this virus you are probably going to die.” Get a shot, see your kids grow up.

Randy Holladay is a former Louisa County High School earth science teacher. He can be reached at oldrockguy@gmail.com.

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