That this has been a week of astonishing weather is pretty well documented on the news and in social media. I was away visiting family in a famously warmer part of the United States, where temperatures were about 80 degrees (and I brought along two sweaters for whatever reason). The trip back home was hard because winter weather forced me to fly into a different airport, then I faced a long drive back on messy roads going half the speed limit most of the way. Three days later the temperature had climbed to fifty degrees, and the masses of snow began to melt. Then on Monday I watched the temperature plummet in the afternoon to the coldest I have ever experienced (which is not saying much, having spent most of my life in warmer climes). Now my trip to the MLA convention has been delayed because the weather interrupted this week’s travel plans.
The cold weather predictably brought out the usual suspects of global warming denialists, trotting out arguments that are barely worth taking seriously save as case studies in irrational defense mechanisms. What’s interesting is that we living in the middle latitudes can expect more severe cold with global warming. If I may make an institutional plug, two Cornell professors, Charles Greene and Bruce Monger, published on this very phenomenon in 2012.
A warmer Earth increases the melting of sea ice during summer, exposing more dark ocean water to incoming sunlight. This causes increased absorption of solar radiation and excess summertime heating of the ocean — further accelerating the ice melt. The excess heat is released to the atmosphere, especially during the autumn, decreasing the temperature and atmospheric pressure gradients between the Arctic and middle latitudes.
A diminished latitudinal pressure gradient is linked to a weakening of the winds associated with the polar vortex and jet stream. Since the polar vortex normally retains the cold Arctic air masses up above the Arctic Circle, its weakening allows the cold air to invade lower latitudes.
On an only tangentially related note, I was sorting my digital photos from 2014 and came upon this one. Here I am during a camping trip on an island in the Adirondacks. I’ll offer it as a pleasant memory of the warmer months. What I have in my hand is the best cup of coffee I drank in all of 2013!
The PG Film Series “Neues deutsches Kino” continues this evening with a showing of Wim Wenders’ film Alice in den Städten. Come out to Kaufmann Auditorium tonight at 8 PM in Goldwin Smith Hall on the Cornell Campus. The film will be presented by a grad student, and followed up by discussion. Intro and discussion in English, film in German with English subtitles.
More information can be found here!
Our Berlin Wall Memorial Week at Cornell kicks off on Tuesday, September 22nd! The following is a list of the events that will be taking place. Come out to the Arts Quad and check it out!
On Tuesday, September 22 a replica of the Wall will be placed on the Cornell Arts Quad. At noon we will begin the wall art competition “Über-Free,” for which a select group of students will cover each section with graffiti art. The winner will enter a national competition with a chance to win two free tickets to Berlin.
On September 22nd from 4:30 – 5:30 PM a themed charity race – Breakthrough! – will take place on Cornell University’s Arts Quad. Donations from local businesses and raffle proceeds will go to the downtown food bank and kitchen, Loaves and Fishes. The event will involve teams of students creatively navigating obstacles and tasks that deal in various ways with the history of the Berlin Wall and the Cold War.
A public speaking competition entitled “Tear Down This Wall!” will be held from 12:20-1:10 PM on Wednesday, September 23 in front of the replica of the wall. Each participant, playing the role of a U.S. president, will speak on the topic of freedom.
On the evening of Wednesday, September 23 at 5:00 PM there will be a screening of select films relating to the Berlin Wall will and its subsequent fall in Kaufmann Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall on the Cornell Campus.
Thursday, September 24 there will be a panel discussion on the fall of the wall held in 142 Goldwin Smith Hall on the Cornell Campus. The conversation will be led by guests from campus and beyond, including eyewitnesses from Berlin.
Saturday, September 26 at 11:00 AM begins the DAAD Weekend “1989 for the 21st Century.” Sponsored by the Department of German Studies and the German Academic Exchange Service, papers presented at this conference will treat upon the year 1989 in German culture and politics.
The week will conclude with a gala event on September 26th at 6:00 PM themed “Ich bin ein Berliner.” The event is by invitation only.
Raffle tickets for airfare from New York to Berlin will be sold at all events. The drawing will take place at the gala on Saturday. Proceeds will also be donated to Loaves and Fishes.