Halloween was spookier than usual this year in Memphis, with the temperature topping out at a record 87 degrees. It was so hot that one of my colleagues here at the Flyer posted a picture of himself diving into his backyard pool. Now that's spooky.
It appears that October 2016 will likely be the hottest October ever recorded for this area. It follows September 2016, which was the second-hottest September ever recorded around here. It's not just us. It's the entire planet. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) says September 2016 was the warmest September in 136 years of record-keeping. It gets even better: July and August of 2016 tied each other for the "warmest month ever recorded." Ever.
In fact, according to GISS, 2016 will crush the previous record for the hottest year, set in 2015, which eclipsed the previous record for hottest year, set in 2014. Do you sense a pattern here? Scientists do. It's a three-year run that's never happened before in 136 years. In addition to our streak of record heat, much of the South and Mid-South is experiencing "extreme" and "exceptional" drought. Good times!
The Flyer reported earlier this week that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded Shelby County $60 million as part of its National Disaster Resilience Competition. The county plans to use the money to restore wetlands and flood plain areas to help protect area homes from the kind of massive flooding that occurred in 2011. HUD's grant is also intended to assist the Wolf River Conservancy with mitigating future flooding and preventing soil erosion that could have negative effects on the Memphis Sand Aquifer — the source of our drinking water.
Predictably, even this bit of apparent good news was greeted by the usual, tired rhetoric of local climate-deniers in the article's comments section. Climate change is "right up there with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Elvis sightings, and Yeti," said one wag. "As always," he added, "follow the money."
Yes, there are still people who deny climate change because they think 98 percent of the world's climate scientists are in on some plot to make millions. Bwa-hahah!
"It's called 'weather,'" wrote another local anonymous genius. The comments then disintegrated into attacks on Hillary Clinton's email server and Al Gore, and so forth.
Everything is tied to politics now. You can cite all the studies by all the reputable scientific organizations around the world, and it makes no difference. Some folks will find an outlier "study" to claim the earth is flat. And they'll find politicians who will agree with them. If you cite a fact-checking organization, the other side will say that fact-checking organization is biased, and cite their own.
It's been said that "everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts." Wrong. We are now so polarized that we think we are entitled to our own facts. In fact, we can't even agree what facts are.
But unless you don't trust, you know, thermometers — or the scientists recording the temperature — you have to be an idiot to not at least acknowledge that the world has been getting warmer for decades. Denial is not a river in Egypt.
In fact, if we listen to the fools — and the politicians who cater to them — who urge us to ignore the findings of science, the Nile won't even be a river in Egypt.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...