Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sour berries

Earlier this summer I believe I had some nice things to say about the weather. A "blackberry summer" I called it. The first plump blackberries were appearing in the hedgerows at the side of the road, weeks early, fat and pulpy in the sun. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world.

I was, of course, premature. The Irish summer does not take well to being called clement. It has wreaked its revenge. For the past month-and-a-half the Atlantic Ocean has lifted itself out of its basin and dumped itself on our hillside. Days and nights of rain of biblical proportions. The hill leaks. The ground is sodden. Our unpaved driveway down to the road is a gurgling brook. In the big sloping windows of my studio the morning glories refuse to blossom and the tomatoes struggle to find a blush of red. At the Valentia weather station out there across Dingle Bay, it has been the wettest summer since record-keeping began in 1866.

The third wretched unsunny summer in a row! My neighbors scoff. "Where's all this global warming we hear about?" they ask.

Well, I don't know about global warming, but what goes up, must come down, and that includes water evaporated from Atlantic Ocean. Where does it come down? Just follow the prevailing wind and the first land you hit is -- yes, the Dingle Peninsula.

It takes about 1,000 calories of solar energy to evaporate a thimbleful of water from the sea, a bit less if the water is warmer. Each thimbleful of water in the atmosphere represents 1,000 calories of stored solar energy. When it comes back down it gives up that energy. Round and round. It's the same principle as a steam engine, except sunlight, not fossil fuel, does the heavy lifting. I'm an old TVA boy from Chattanooga. I grew up with electricity squeezed from sun-evaporated water. The Tennessee River runs downhill, taking all those thimblefuls of water back to the sea. Catch your calories while you can.

Too bad I can't put a dam and generator at the bottom of my driveway. Global warming -- if that's what it is -- could power my house. In the meantime, here is a weathery pic from Anne. Click to enlarge.