Some faceless bureaucrat in Washington, DC has proclaimed that this past summer was one of the driest and hottest since faceless bureaucrats in Washington have been keeping track of such things. The National Climactic Center reports that this was the third hottest summer on record - only surpassed by the summers of 1936 and 1934.
Not that I really needed the official confirmation.
From mid-June through early August, I can't recall a single sustained
rain shower. My lawn was the colour and texture of straw - even the weeds and dandelions withered. Please don't ask about our family vegetable garden, we're still in mourning for our wilted tomatoes, spinach and zucchini.
The center's record keepers tell us that 'moderate' to 'extreme' drought conditions covered more than 45 percent United States during the summer. Their records show that the worst was in 1934 when 80 percent of the USA was in moderate or extreme drought. The period in US history known as the Dust Bowl occurred during this time when fertile midwestern farmlands simply dried out and blew away in the wind.
However, the National Climactic Center reports that a careful study of tree rings shows that the drought of the 1930s was a puppy when compared to the droughts of the 1570s and 1580s.
So who are these people who sit around studying tree rings and telling us the obvious?
They are part of the legion of governmental employees that make me proud to be an American.
Just think of it. You're sitting at home and suddenly you need to know what the average temperature was this past summer. You know it was hot, but just exactly how hot was it?
You can pick up the phone directory and in the blue pages will be local, county, state and federal governmental listings. Somewhere in those listings you'll see the number for a branch office of the National
Climactic Center and, when you call them, you can talk to a real person who will tell you your answer1.
I love these people. When you phone them, they're thrilled to talk to
you. In fact, it can sometimes be difficult to get them to hang-up because when they do, it means that they'll go back to examining tree rings and writing reports that nobody reads.
It's wonderful to call a county agency with a simple question about the location of recycling drop-off centres for old tyres and realise you've been on the phone for nearly 15 minutes. Not only did I get my answer but, a few days later in the mail I received a couple of recycling-themed colouring books for my kids, a magnet for my refrigerator door and a booklet extolling the virtues of purchasing products made from recycled materials.
Let's face it. The county recycling co-ordinator spends his day reviewing reports from the recycling co-ordinators from local townships and boroughs and writing reports of his own for the state recycling coordinator. Talking to me is the highlight of his day - if not of his whole week!
It's a shame that so many Americans don't know how to use the elaborate system of government which has been established, for the most part, for their own benefit.
Wow! How did I wind up at the end of this page babbling about the fun I have playing with bureaucrats?
Ah, that's right. This was supposed to be a column about the fierce
drought we've been suffering under, and looking out of the window I can see it's pouring down rain.
I wonder what the boys at the National Climactic Center will say about this downpour. Will it be enough to ease the voluntary water restrictions that are currently in place?
Only one way to find out...