Might as well get used to it. Global warming is not a passing fancy. Heat records are getting shattered every month. Fifty-five all time highs around the world this summer. Kumagaya, Japan hit 106. Hayang, South Korea 108. Ouargla, Algeria in the Sahara topped out at 123 on July 5. Turku, Finland hit 92, a personal best.
While in the United States, we’re not hitting these benchmarks, we are desperately gutting out the summer. We’re just not reaching the dominance we Americans expect as the leaders of every aspect of life on this planet. Other countries are getting credit for first place because we’re dropping the ball on ingenuity. Is it not our manifest destiny to be the “best”, the “most”, the “hottest”?
We’re not keeping pace and that’s our own fault. We always had the upper hand. You think it just coincidence that we use the Fahrenheit temperature scale while the rest of the world goes by Celsius (centigrade)? In 1724, the German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit came up with a scale calculated on a brine solution. His numbers really have no significance to anything we can relate to. He might as well have based it on the freezing point of beer, which, considering the popularity of the Munich Biergartens, conceivably played no small role in his theories.
Since 212 degrees Fahrenheit is the same as 100 degrees Celsius, we always have the higher number. We win! It’s been the American way right from the start. While the colonists were fighting for their independence, The Royal Society of London had accepted the work of Andrus Celsius as the definitive scientific measure of temperature. The Royal Society was founded by Henry Cavendish whose mother was the fourth daughter of the Duke of Kent and whose father was the third son of the Duke of Devonshire. Considering their revulsion for anything royal, Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys would have led the patriots toward the Fahrenheit model just out of spite. They win!
That rebellious nature has sustained us now for over 200 years. If you’re sick; I’m sicker. If your daughter married a drunk, mine ran off with a circus clown. If your taxes are high, my governor is Murphy. It’s just basic one-up-manship. Our reference to heat works the same way.
We may not be able to keep up with climate change on a technical level, but we should at least be first seed in the complaint competition. That’s why we needed the heat index. We didn’t always have one, you know. It wasn’t until 1978 that George Winterling, a TV weatherman (and Pine Beach, NJ native by the way) added humidity to the equation. Now we not only know how hot it is, but also how hot we feel. Your kvetching status skyrockets dramatically when a temperature of only 88, but with a humidity of 70, parlays into a heat index of 100. The amount of sympathy derived from the higher number is significant and, let’s face it; isn’t that what it’s all about?
But there are deviations that must account for body mass and height, clothing, thickness of blood, amount of physical activity, and wind speed. Winterling developed his calculations for shady conditions. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the value of these numbers by fifteen degrees. And that is where we can propel past the rest of the pack.. Call it the “Work Index”.
Not everyone gets to invoke it. You have to actually be expend energy. Say you’re pruning your roses and the temperature hits 90 but the heat index is 97. When you talk to your cousin on the phone that night, it’s okay to say you worked out in a 112 degree work index. The guy on a road crew raking asphalt; he gets to claim the work index. The guy in the hard hat watching him rake does not. The guy watching the guy watching the raker? No way. The flag holders at the end of the traffic lane? Sorry! At the car wash, the window wiper-offer? He gets it. The guy that tells you it will be seven dollars more for your tires? He’s ineligible. Mail carriers on foot -yes. Mail carriers in air conditioned trucks – no.
Obviously the recipients of the work index can be debated all day. Like the heat index, it can be manipulated. But we must bring it into our meteorological wheelhouse. Otherwise the Kumagaya will out complain us every time.