That was some storm Monday night–the second powerful storm this summer, the third powerful storm in a year. Unusual, you might say. A sign of something perhaps? Climate change perhaps?
“Oh, it was just a storm,” the climate-change naysayers will say. “Don’t get hysterical.”
OK, I won’t get hysterical. How about historical? According to the front page of the Tribune yesterday, 90,000 lightning strikes were detected across northern Illinois. It usually takes six months, they said, to register those numbers. At the peak of the storm, 800 strikes per minute were taking place.
But you don’t need statistics to tell you the storm Monday night was different. It wasn’t just unusual. It was completely unprecedented. I’ve never witnessed that kind of lightning frequency, and I’m both 56 years old and a connoisseur of thunderstorms.
As it happens, Thomas Friedman had an interesting column in the N.Y. Times yesterday about the people in Greenland, where the results of climate change are particularly noticeable. Friedman says their “climate-speak” consists of three phrases that come up more and more often now:
1) “Just a few years ago …”
2) “I’ve never seen that before …”
3) “Well, usually … but now I don’t know anymore.”
Monday night, residents of the Chicago area experienced a #2. None of us have seen that before. Not even close. By the way, in Greenland, which is above the Arctic Circle, it rained this past December and January. No. 2 indeed.
Occasionally, this area gets hit by powerful storms. There was one in August of 1990 (remember the tornados going through Plainfield?). In August of 1987, we had a deluge of biblical proportions. These things happen infrequently enough that they’re pretty easy to remember. A violent windstorm swept through Oak Park, ironically, on Ernest Hemingway’s 100th birthday (July 21, 1999).
We’ve now had three storms in a 12-month period that exceeded those. “Well, usually … but now I don’t know anymore.”
You can scoff all you want, but the climate is definitely changing.