I read a lot. I look a lot. Most times to see what goes on our Island and what goes on in our world. After our umpteenth snowfall of the 2014 winter season, I came to realize that most of the population of this Island is adversely affected not simply by the falling of snow, but by the messages, warnings, and instructions doled out by local government, news media, highway officials, and school officials that accompany the falling snow. Unfortunately, none of the messages emanating from these various sources appear to be alike, because the predictability of our weather forecasters continues to be perceived in an unflattering way. Watch any weather report (local or national), read any weather report, or hear any weather report about an upcoming storm and you may not be sure to just live your life as usual or vacate your home as soon as possible.
Now I am supposed to refrain from placing some blame on our meteorologists (or climatologists, if you will) because we all know weather is not an exact science. And because of that assumption, our local or national weatherperson can give us varying estimates on what kind of storm we are to face. You must have heard the most recent prognostication: 6 to 12 inches of snow, 15 to 155 mph wind gusts, storm lasting for anywhere from 2 am Tuesday to 9 pm next Thursday. Okay, now all of those local government officials, news media, highway officials, school officials, and working parents know exactly what to do and what to say. I think not.
Now imagine in this day and age a plumber comes to your home to fix a leak and tells you the repair will be between $150 and $2200. Or that new car salesman tells you the car of your dreams is priced somewhere between $19,999 and $149,999. I believe in most cases we can expect estimates to be more exacting than that.
Another aspect of modern-day climatologists that causes me dismay is that in the Northeast we have undergone an astonishing amount of precipitation, but on the left coast I understand California is going through a horrendous drought. At this point in time, can’t we expect climatologists to have some readily accessible capability to move our clouds away from us and send them off to California? Or can’t they somehow minimize our rainfall and enhance the rainfall out West?
To really look at a fundamental comparison, over the past 40 to 50 years medical research has made tremendous strides in enabling health care professionals to not only treat a plethora of previously untreatable diseases but to prevent many of them from occurring. We have the ability to look at tiny specs of human matter such as genes and manipulate them to provide improved health. However, why can’t we inspect and research similar tiny environmental matter that would enable us to manipulate weather events to improve our world’s health?
Perhaps the culprit, as it always seems to be, can be identified as money. But we are able to raise tons of dollars to promote medical research so why can’t we do so for weather research? According to data from the National Climatic Data Center, last year in the U.S. we spent over 1 trillion dollars on weather-related deaths, injuries, and loss of property. According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2011 we spent 201.5 billion dollars on cancer prevention and treatment.
The abominable effects of Sandy on Long Island continue to flourish. The same is true of New Jersey. New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina. And yet we trudge along scraping car windows and shoring up for hurricanes that sometimes show up with a vengeance and sometimes don’t show up at all. And we tend to either place our entire faith or ignore completely that favorite weatherperson. We can continue to note that weather is not an exact science and really, what’s the harm in that? A lot.