Weather is Not Climate

This blog has enjoyed a month’s vacation which turned out to be very hot for our island. For much of that time two ceiling fans revolved over my couch, ice water close at hand. From my horizontal perspective, I had time to ponder how local weather relates to climate change.

There are plenty of teaching guides highlighting the difference between short-term weather (days, weeks) and longer term climate (years). What I got hung up on is how we feel weather in our bodies (hot/cold, wet/dry, still/blowy) but can only get a hint about climate by relying on measuring devices’ abstract numbers we can tally (tables and graphs we may need glasses to read).

Managing Blood Pressure

Oddly enough, a recent go-around with my own rising blood pressure highlighted the difficulties we humans making decisions based on numbers provided by others rather than our own experience.

My doc and I both noticed my blood pressure had been rising over a six-month period as measured in her office. I don’t feel this. In fact, for many of my medical experiences it’s the doctors who tell me what’s going on, not something I can directly feel. I got her to agree to a couple of weeks of tracking with a home monitor.                               

Measuring Tools

It took some time to get a routine that included which time of day, remembering to uncross my legs, position my arm, etc. I got good at comparing machines, and it took two (thank you Rite Aid) before I came up with of a string of numbers I could email in.

Normal and Stress Variations

I also did my best at googling the current levels for people my age, currently being changed by the way. I was not so happy with where my  numbers fell. But . . . maybe they were due to recent family surgeries that had me pretty worked up. I got ready to use one-time stress as a way explain the rise and stall off medication.

Long-Term Changes

My doc educated me that levels from stress are still a problem and we both looked at the lower levels from prior years. It seemed to me that those numbers might also have been due to short-term changes like diet and exercise but she convinced me that the big picture was showing a real long-term rise.

Action Decision Needed

To make my decision we also went over side effects, costs, and that medication is a reversible step in this case, leaving room for continuing changes in diet and exercise. I am currently on a low dose medication and doing the ongoing diet and exercise challenge.

Moving from Weather to Climate

Underneath it all was a low fog of uncertainty since I still could not feel any problem at all. I had to trust not only my doctor but the engineers that keep tweaking the measuring tools, the science of how blood pressure varies normally and under stress, and the health policy wonks in think tanks that decide what the healthy levels are.

Managing Climate Change

And that’s just how it is with the weather and the climate. I can’t relate to climate change only with my human experience; it is limited  mostly to arms length or the visible horizon and an unreliable memory for past level.

I understand a bit better how it’s hard to balance my own experience of local weather with ongoing input from others people around long-term climate change. It helps me to notice whether the disagreements are about measuring tools, about normal or one-time variations, or about what healthy levels are. And these are big controversies to resolve before we even get to making action decisions, many of which will not be reversible, unlike taking a blood pressure pill.