A climate for change

out natcornLast week we talked a little about how mountains can influence climate. Lenticular clouds are often created when warm air masses bump into mountains. Mountains can create rain shadows — point in case, Asheville, surrounded by temperate rain forests, is the driest city in the state of North Carolina. We know that traveling vertically from the valleys to the peaks of the Southern Appalachians is biologically comparable to traveling from Georgia to Canada.


Meteorologists and storm trackers angst every year about El Nino and/or La Nina. El Nino (little boy) and La Nina (little girl) are basically opposite sides of the same meteorological coin — the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. The ENSO cycle describes the fluctuations in ocean and atmospheric temperatures in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean. During El Nino periods the sea-surface temperatures are above normal and during La Nina periods the temperatures are below normal. These variations in temperature have profound, pronounced, predictable and publicly acknowledged effects on global weather and climate. Typical El Nino effects in North America include warmer than average temperatures over western and central Canada and the western and northern United States. The Ohio Valley and the Pacific Northwest tend to be drier than average while the U.S. Gulf Coast and Florida are generally wetter than average. During La Nina years winter temperature are usually cooler than normal in the Pacific Northwest and warmer than normal in the Southeast. Hurricanes are more dangerous and destructive during La Nina periods.

And on a personal note if you gravitate to gardening and or landscaping on your property you know there are myriad ways to influence microhabitats. Cutting trees can let in more sunlight to a previously shady area creating warmer drier conditions changing plant communities and even affecting the fauna, like attracting birds and/or butterflies. Trees and or shrubs near your home or outdoor gazebo can block the sun producing cooler temperatures.

The idea that there are processes in place that can affect climate on a global scale and the idea that anthropogenic actions can affect the climate of your backyard or cities where concrete and asphalt create warmer temperatures than neighboring green spaces are nonchalantly accepted and often time implemented (in the case of gardening/landscaping) by the general public.

But logically expand these scenarios to suggest that the staggering increase (16 fold between 1900 and 2008) of man-made greenhouse gas emissions over the last century or so could actually be impacting the global climate and you might find yourself feeling like Galileo on a Sunday morning in the 1600s. If, however, you still see the logical connection and would like to go on record in support of common sense ways to help curtail these rampant runaway emissions mark your calendar.

On Tuesday Oct. 29, the Western North Carolina Alliance and partners including the Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Western North Carolina Green Congregations and Climate Parents will present the Citizens’ Climate Hearing at Cathedral of All Souls, 9 Swan Street from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The meeting is in support of new EPA regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. All comments regarding the proposal will be recorded and sent to the EPA as a matter of public record. This is a great chance to speak up for the health of the planet and in recognition of peer-reviewed science. 

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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