Sunday, January 28, 2018

It’s hot outside

“Everybody complains about the weather,” as Charles Dudley Warner noted, “but nobody does anything about it.” Talking about the weather is one thing we humans do a LOT, especially when there’s a particularly noticeable variation—heat, cold, rain, snow, wind, whatever. It’s what we humans do. Lately, it’s been a major topic in New Zealand.

This summer, New Zealand has been experiencing a lot of hot and dry weather. It hasn’t necessarily been a heatwave, which they define as five or more days in a row in which the temperatures are above the average for that time of year, but in this case, close is clearly close enough for most people.

This past week, a town in the South Island recorded New Zealand’s highest temperature (37 degrees, which is about 98.6F) in seven years [See also: “New Zealand’s 10 highest temperatures ever recorded"].

Yesterday, Wanaka hit its highest-ever temperature, 35.2 degrees (95.36F), and Central Otago has been told to prepare for temperatures at 40 degrees (104F)—or even higher. So, the heat isn’t done with us yet, and this is still January—and February often brings us some of our hottest days (January and February in the Southern Hemisphere are equivalent to July and August in the Northern Hemisphere).

So far, the not-quite-a-heatwave has resulted in one death, which surprised me: New Zealand is a country with a lot of outdoor workers, including farmers, of course, and also construction workers of various kinds. Although air conditioning is becoming common, it’s not everywhere and, poorer and older people are most likely to lack it or not run it due to cost. I was visiting a retirement village recently and the facility wasn’t air conditioned, nor were the apartments unless the resident put it in themselves (and some have). Yet even with high temperatures, there’s no talk of opening “cooling centres” as there are in American cities when there are extended high temperatures.

We’re extremely lucky because we have air conditioning and can afford to run it. I appreciate all that every time I venture outside, which I do as little as possible. In fact, I’ve avoided going to my office (on the ground floor; the living space is all one floor up) to finish the organising project I mentioned recently. The ground level isn’t air conditioned, and gets quite hot and stuffy, even with a fan, so the project has basically been stalled for more than a week. Most days I think I’ll resume work, but change my mind once I get there.

As I get ready to publish this post, it’s officially a cool 27 degrees in the area where we live (80.6F). Yesterday, it hit 28-29 here (82.4-84.2F). But it’s not even midday yet, so no telling where we’ll end up, except, of course, it’ll be hot with intense sun.

And tomorrow is a public holiday—Auckland Anniversary Day. Public holidays are always nice, but this one means we don’t have to go anywhere, which is even better.

Still, it’s summer, and hot though it is, I definitely prefer it to winter. Thing is, when winter returns, we’ll no doubt have some unusually cold weather, and people will talk about that, too. It’s what we humans do.

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