(Photo credit: Beth Sefcik)
By Rev. Dr. Phyllis Tippit
Weather is created by changes in air pressure–the highs and lows the weatherman is always
talking about. One way to think about these differences in pressure is that hot air is lighter and
thinner, cold air is thicker and heavier. When two different air masses collide we get weather.
Usually the air over the arctic, the north pole, is extremely cold and extremely heavy and dense.
It spins in its own spiral over the pole. But occasionally other air currents are strong enough to
push it away from the pole and down to other parts of the globe. When the polar vortex comes
to us, we get unusually cold weather.
Is this particular polar vortex a result of climate change? Movement of the polar vortex has
happened throughout our weather history, although this particular movement was the most
extreme on record. Scientists disagree about the exact influence of climate change on this
recurring pattern. We know the arctic is warming faster than the rest of the earth. Maybe that
weakens the Arctic Vortex and makes it easier to move. We know that warming of other air
currents gives them more energy; perhaps that makes for more of a push on the vortex. We’re
learning more all the time, but not enough to make accurate predictions.
So what do we know? Changing climate means our old predictions aren’t as reliable. In
addition, adding heat to the atmosphere means more extreme weather events of all kinds,
because heat is energy. We are having more and more extreme weather events: floods,
hurricanes, mudslides, droughts, blizzards, cold waves and heat waves.
What does being Christian have to do with weather?
Christians know that God made the world with a weather system that is designed to support
life. God also gave human beings guardianship of the earth and the intelligence to develop
power over it, including predicting some storms and building in ways that protect us. God also
gave us responsibility toward each other. What should we do with that power and
responsibility when it comes to weather?
- Listen to the people who study weather (and crops and supply chains and water and
utility reserves) and use their knowledge to plan ahead. We have been warned about
extreme weather becoming more common. We even have severe weather events every
few years, but we never use those events to plan better ways of building or insulating or
storing up supplies.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether
he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
- Don’t assume that because we have lived a certain way, we can continue in the same
way without having to change or adapt or prepare for new crises. Nothing in this world
is certain unless you are God. The most over-used word in the news right now is
unprecedented, used because so many of the things that have happened in the last year
were either new or much more extreme than things we have dealt with in the past.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
- Be concerned not just for your own safety and comfort, but for the safety of those
around you—the rich and the poor, the prepared and the unprepared. Maybe that
means sharing blankets or water or food. Or maybe it means asking that the
government enforce bad weather rules for utilities. Look around, listen, think—then
act. We’re all in this together.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also
are to love one another. (John 13:34) Which means:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
For an article explaining the Polar Vortex, check out this link.