Climate change is changing the seasons in the West. Their names should change to reflect reality.
Spring should become “flood.” Summer should become “fire.” Fall should become “smoke.” The jury is still out on a new name for winter, but “ice” or “avalanche” could become interchangeable.
Monday was Earth Day. U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, D-Wis., founded it in this country 49 years ago and kicked it off with an environmental teach-in to call attention to the challenges facing our little orb. Since the first celebration in 1970, Earth’s problems have only multiplied.
This is not news to anyone in the West or the Wood River Valley, which have faced major wildfires and their destructive fallout. The latest, the five or six avalanches in Warm Springs Canyon that destroyed two homes and threatened others this month, were likely the result of slopes whose mantle of trees was destroyed by fire combined with heavy rain on a deep snowpack.
The avalanches were a shocking surprise, even to longtime residents. Slopes at various places in the miles-long canyon were known to slide in exceptional snow years, but not to the extent that they scoured trenches and snapped large trees.
The wildfires, floods, oscillating droughts and rainy seasons, and avalanches haven’t penetrated the highest levels of government. President Trump’s comments on Earth Day could be summarized as “everything is fine.”
It’s impossible to live in the West and think everything is fine. It’s not, and it’s on track to get worse. Changing out light bulbs won’t fix it.
Resetting the climate requires a worldwide effort that the U.S. should lead. If American leaders don’t step up, the seasons’ name changes will stick, and generations to come will rightly blame us for the devastation.