Robert Meeropol

Robby, Abel, Michael and trains

my perennial chaos

"Robby & Elli" 1968

Robby speaking at the re-launch of the Mary Pitawanakwat Fund in Toronto

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Weather Report

March 1, 2017

Tags: Weather & climate change

Last week most of the East Coast had an extraordinary warm spell. In interior Southern New England, we had four very warm days in a row. On Feb 23 and 24 it reached 72 degrees at our local official recording station, the highest temperatures ever recorded here in the month of February. The spell broke on the evening of the 25th with a tornado in the Berkshires. Unbelievable, a tornado in the hills of Western Massachusetts in February. I wouldn’t be surprised if that has not happened in hundreds of thousands of years.

We opened windows at our house because the outside temperature was warmer than the air inside. But it wasn't only humans who reacted to the freakish weather. A flock of Red-wing Blackbirds descended on my backyard bird feeders. Since Robins now are year-round residents in our area, the Red-wing’s arrival has become the new harbinger of spring. Usually they show up at the end of March, but not this year. A few flies and other insects were also out and about.

I know the difference between weather (the conditions at any given place at a given time) and climate (the range of conditions you can expect in your region over an annual cycle). No single weather event proves climate change, let alone the extent of that change. But this year’s winter season, sprinkled throughout with region-wide record warmth, appears to be a preview of what will become common in the near future.

This year’s winter at my house was milder than those I experienced as a teenager in the New York City area. I know this is true because I kept daily weather records for many years. This winter’s local climate approximated that found in the Washington, DC area in the 1960’s. That’s a 400 mile shift northward in 50 years. Intellectually, we can extrapolate that another 50 years (years we hope today’s children will live to see), and factor in the accelerating rate of change, but can we wrap our brains around a Florida-like winter in New England by 2067?

Our concerns should be even more immediate. New England is still subject to polar out-breaks. It can be warmer than average most of the time, but we remain vulnerable to short, but brutal, cold-snaps. We face unusual warmth, coupled with more erratic conditions. For instance, last winter was also very mild. It featured an early spring, but an April cold-snap destroyed the region’s peach crop because it killed the blossoms that had opened too early. I hope the premature return of the Red-wings does not mean their fledgelings will be born too soon and suffer a similar fate this spring.

Scientists have been saying for decades that we are running out of time. That has happened. Four beautifully warm days in February may seem benign (except for the tornado), but they are a sign that climate chaos is upon us. We have to admit it, face it and take it on. Humanity, Red-wings and fruit blossoms are all worth fighting for no matter the final outcome.


  1. March 1, 2017 10:18 AM EST
    How should we take it on, Robby?
    - Marty
  2. March 1, 2017 10:46 AM EST
    I wish I had a better answer, but for now I'd say, do something. Whether it is putting your body on the line in North Dakota, attending demonstrations, writing letters, giving speeches, giving money or talking with friends. The important thing is not to remain silent and not to give up.
    - Robert Meeropol
  3. March 3, 2017 6:19 PM EST
    Hi Robert,

    Your observations (as well as the overwhelming scientific data which has accumulated in the last 30 years) are indisputable and your call to action commendable.

    How do you deal with expert climate scientists who are convinced (for the same scientific reasons)that catastrophic outcomes are inevitable now, even if humanity were to terminate the industrial civilization tomorrow?
    Perhaps the most notable of these is Prof. Guy McPherson, but he is not alone in his assessment. Even the World Bank has very dire predictions regardless of human effort to mitigate.
    - Anon
  4. March 4, 2017 8:13 AM EST
    This is perhaps the most vexing question of all. If you think there is no hope why do anything? But giving up turns despair into a self fulfilling prophecy. However, this question is worth another blog, even a book. Wen Stephenson's book "What We're Fighting for Now is Each Other" sheds some insight on this. I'm not sure I'm up to tackling this in a blog, but I'm going to consider it over the next few weeks.
    - Robert Meeropol
  5. March 4, 2017 8:41 PM EST
    Hi Robert,

    Not only do I very much look forward to your elaborating on this, it would be great for you to directly confront those experts who propose a different operative paradigm for the human species going forward. For example, there will certainly will be be abundant opportuntity for anyone to directly engage Prof. McPherson in California in the coming months: His cogent body of scientific evidence is available here:
    - Anon
  6. March 6, 2017 9:56 AM EST
    Not impressed with McPherson's essay. Anyone who writes that Noam Chomsky "concludes we're done" (meaning humanity's imminent extinction) because Chomsky said climate change "may doom us all, and not in the distant future" doesn't know the meaning of the word "may." He writes a brief for a position rather than an even-handed analysis.
    - Robert Meeropol
  7. March 9, 2017 6:34 PM EST
    Robert -

    Prof. McPherson has only come around to this thinking within the last 8 years or so and the evidence has continously incremented in his favor. In fact, his technical assessment is quite similar to James Hansen's although for political reasons Hansen is much more reticent in his prognosis. Yes, McPherson's extremely long essay [packed with ovewhelming peer-reviewed data which is irrefutable, by the way] does give an interpretation which has been deliberately marginalized from mainstream discussion, but that is by design. What's also instructive is that VERY few climate scientists courageously debate him directly; most avoid him through the back door, which is very telling. That's not to say McPherson is "right" - we are in uncharted territory right now. Almost everyone knows that life on this planet as we know it is impossible at 5C above baseline, and inner continents are already approaching 3C above baseline. The entire ecosystem at 400ppm carbon is already where it hasn't been in 4 million yrs...and it took only about 100 years to do this. It's all too easy even for educated lay persons to want to minimize the magnitude of this and grope for "balanced" reporting. But there is no balance; right now the burden of proof is on those who say that robust mitigation to avoid catastrophic outcomes is possible.
    - Anon
  8. June 11, 2018 7:00 AM EDT
    Really great information. Content is the most important factor for the blog. this is also key point to the successful blogger. Thanks for sharing information.
    - natural hacks

Selected Works

"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
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