NPR had a good interview Sunday morning with Robert Henson of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (listen here). He explained that the heat wave - which extends to a Europe and the Rockies (warmer-than-usual air over Colorado has been responsible for the blizzards there, since warmer air can carry more moisture in the typically dry West) - is due to a convergence of El Nino in the Pacific, southerly jet streams over the Atlantic, and melting sea ice in the Arctic. The first two factors are cyclical, and it's uncertain to what extent climate change affects them. The ice caps, on the other hand, are getting smaller every year, and global warming is clearly responsible. We'll still have a few cold winters when ocean and air currents cooperate, but they'll become rarer and rarer as sea ice disappears: Henson described the trend as "two steps forward, one step back."
At least the warm weekend extends the season for practical bicycling and walking, forms of transportation that emit no climate-changing pollutants. On Saturday, Portland's streets were almost as lively as they are in the months of cruise ships and whale watches. We rode bikes to Yarmouth in order to visit the giant globe at Delorme. It took 45 minutes to get there at a no-sweat pace on our road bikes, and the same 28-mile round trip in a hybrid car would have spewed 16 pounds of carbon pollution into the capsizing atmosphere.
Plus, it was a lot more fun than a car ride. Suburb-dwellers, take note: if you're not enjoying the problem of climate change on your bike or as a pedestrian, you're not a part of the solution, either.