Saturday, January 21, 2012

Summer - Or Why I Believe Climate Change Is Real

It's summer. It's hot. You're probably thinking something along the lines of 'Well what do you expect' and I understand that. The thing about summer in south western Australia is that when we say hot we mean over 35 degrees Celsius with 38 degrees not uncommon. It starts in December and continues into March. I know there are many places which are hotter - north western Australia for example where I used to go for work - but that doesn't make up for the enervating effect of day after day of grinding heat. Yes, many of us have air conditioners but they only work indoors so every time we have to make a dash from say the front door to the letter box the heat blasts us. It's like opening a door to a furnace or a very hot oven. The gardens shrivel as the leaves burn to crisps and, if you have a vegetable garden as I do, you spend a considerable amount of time daily in the late afternoon or early evening hand-watering the thirstiest vegies because we have permanent water restrictions for most of the year.

If there's one thing that convinces me that climate change is real it is how our weather has changed. Actually I don't mind dry heat. I was born in a heat-wave and it seems to have preset my thermostat to be able to cope with higher temperatures than many can but humidity is another thing entirely. There was a time when our summers were hot and dry and our winters were short but wet and we had only a handful of hot, humid days, usually in February. It's different these days. Our summers are increasingly humid without any lessening of the heat and we are getting a lower rainfall in the winter. We've always had occasional droughts but now we continually struggle to fill our dams - they are more often half empty than half full.

The way I garden has had to adapt to these changes and I now have very different criteria for plant selection with drought tolerant and native species being favoured with the exception of the vegie patch. There I put up shadecloth shelters to protect exotics like lettuce but even that's not always enough. After today's heat much of the chive bed looks like it's a layer of straw and even hardy plants like flat leaf parsley have had tender bits seared to white. I'm not ready to give up on the pleasure of fresh food from my own garden but it gets harder every year so I will enjoy it while I can.

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