They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me


It's the last day of February. The first day of my Spring Break by a technicality called Spirit Day, which I've mentioned before.

It's also most assuredly still winter in West Michigan.

A recent report says all this bitter cold has decimated the stink bugs wintering over. Aw-www, too bad. Not. Suspect the mosquitoes will be down a bit, too -- Michigan's state bird. (grin)

After our last big snow, the top fan housing on R2D2, our cylindrical heat pump external unit, had a cap of snow maybe 8" high. The warm up into the upper 40s shed the snow cap, but since the warm was to be short-lived, I set the thermostat to do furnace only and not switch to the heat pump at 42°F, figuring there was still ice and snow inside. Besides, the compressor makes horrible noises when it starts at low temps -- nothing wrong but the thermodynamics of cold refrigerants.

Of course this past week we've been steadily dropping from 30s to 20s to teens and colder. By the time I went to bed last night it was down to -9°F. Reading the temperature used to mean going up to a cold window or poking a head out the door -- now there's a digital display on the softly glowing programmable thermostat display in the warm central core of the house. We are so spoiled living in the future.

It was bright blue skies and sunny this morning. -1°F when I got up. Last I checked the temp is up to +14°F and after lunch it's cloudy with a weak sun poking through. The high winds have faded. Indeed, by the time I went to PT at 3:45pm on Thursday, despite being below zero, it was calm enough to make it from parking lot to clinic with just gloves and a sweater. No unwieldy big blue warm parka required.

Next week the temps are forecast to drop again. We're setting records and given that it is unusual here to be subzero in March, so record temps will continue.

Thirty years ago, when global warming began to get some media play, I tried to point out to people that we were likely to have some colder, snowier winters to go along with hotter wetter or drier summers. I was laughed at, of course, because people don't understand the difference between weather and climate. (Hint, has to do with local versus global.)

Heat flow creates moving air masses. Changes promote churning and changes break old patterns. So the warming of the Arctic sometimes results in Arctic air masses spilling south. Hence our current new weather term which nobody understands -- the dread polar vortex.

Throughout all this, gas shot up inexplicably from the $3.20s to $3.65.9/gal. I couldn't think of any reason, except the usual greed, but it occurred to me that at some point the refineries would be expecting to switch to summer blends. Surely some of that conversion already has started. But the bitter cold north and severe cold snaps in the South has created more demand for winter gasoline.

Yeah, it may be this time I'm giving the oil companies a bit of a pass. But don't go crazy guys.

Dr. Phil

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