Friday, July 19, 2013

The Heat and History

The NY Times has a short piece on the hottest summer on record, not now but in 1953. They state:

In 1953, New York baked for 12 all-but-unbearable days in a row. From Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, the high temperature in Central Park was never less than 90 degrees, and the nights seemed almost as warm. Consolidated Edison, which prepared a PowerPoint presentation on past heat waves in anticipation for this one, calculated that the average temperature for those 12 days was 95 degrees. The peak was a scalding, scorching 102 on Sept. 2. 

I remember that summer quite well.  We lived in our new post WW II Cape Cod house and I had the bedroom on the second floor with the window open to the garage next door, about 4" or so, and thus there was no circulation of air. I spent nights sleeping on the concrete in the back yard on WW II cots. There was no air conditioning and we had no car at the time, we went everywhere by bus. Or we walked. No one on Staten Island went to the beaches, they were polluted daily by New Jersey sewerage.

In 1953 there was no place to get away from the heat, you just sat there an by day twelve or so you  just started to wilt. Unlike Thailand where it hits 90 in the day time but drops to 70 at night in this New York Heat Wave it just sat there, and stayed 90 all the time.

What amazed me was one of the comments:

Fascinating to look at old photos like the one accompanying this one. People were so thin in the olden days.

Those were the days when we did not have a McDonald's, no Starbucks, no Twinkies, because we had little extra cash. Pizza was a once a summer treat. Yes, people were thinner. It was not genetic then, nor genetic now. People just ate less then and more now. That is what amazes me about the obesity debate, it is just consumption. Global warming not withstanding.

Finally, one should remember also that during the same period of the early 1950s we have multiple hurricanes. The heat wave heats the ocean and in turn sets up conditions for north east hurricanes. So perhaps Sandy was just a prelude. Hope not but history sets a precedent.