Wisconsin’s Woes and Weather

For the second summer in a row, the weather where I live has been fairly dry and relatively mild. Eighties during the day, sixties overnight, and mostly small strips of storms and rain that rush past, or clouds that seem to split around us before reforming once they’re past so they can drop their moisture elsewhere. Mild, compared to the heavier storms, flooding, and record-adjacent seasons of the first six summers I spent in the area. I mean, my first summer was marked by a massive storm system that dropped a few tornados southwest of Madison that, among other things, tore up a bunch of trees and some of the buildings of my then employer (my memory of the storm was being the only one in my apartment that woke from the tornado sirens at one or two in the morning to take shelter in the basement).

As I was preparing to write this post, though, I did a little research and discovered that the last two summers have actually been more in line with historic averages than the six that felt “normal” to me. Curiosity piqued, I decided to dig deeper, trying to find a way to access all of the heavy-duty weather data that various science groups have been collecting for decades now. I learned a bunch about weather science and how to find that sort of data when I was a kid, back before I had ready access to the internet, so it was relatively easy to find the stuff that is freely available (mostly through government institutions). I don’t have any notable insights to share, of course, since I’m just a curious individual and everything I’d say has already been said by weather scientists and climate activists, but it was very interesting to see the data drive home the point that Wisconsin as a whole is going to be mostly insulated from the worst of climate change.

Sure, we’re going to have some wicked storms and odd weather patterns. The various artic blasts and polar vortexes from the north and heavy rain storms from the south are only going to become more commonplace, but they’re short periods of bad weather. They will end in a week or two, as the constantly fluctuating weather patterns shift north and south over the Midwestern US as they always have (albeit to a lesser degree in decades past). The main change to Wisconsin weather, based on the projections from climate scientists, is that we’ll have a longer growing season and shorter (maybe even more mild) winters. If I live out the rest of my life here, I will likely only need to deal with worsening storms and occasional flooding. Which is really just a side-effect of living in a watershed that has been significantly worsened by climate change (which doesn’t really soften the blow so much as it make it a bit more predictable in a way that an individual can prepare for).

I mean, there are a lot of other reasons I might want to leave Wisconsin eventually. Such as the horrible state politics, for one. Wisconsin is the most gerrymandered state in the US with the biggest power-imbalance created specifically to spite one side of the political spectrum when the other side knew it was going to lose power. Given the inability for any of these problems to be solved on the federal level thus far and the absolutely ridiculousness of how imbalanced this once rather evenly split state has become, I’m not sure I believe this problem can be rectified in my lifetime. It is tempting to leave, though that temptations is tempered by the knowledge that a “blue flight” from Wisconsin would just be handing the entire state over to those power-hungry shitheads who literally show up to work, punch in, and then punch out without doing anything to help the state that they’ve been trying to wreck since I moved here.

The future in Wisconsin is difficult to determine, at least in terms of outlook. It could wind up being a great place to live or an credibly terrible one, depending on how things play out over the next decade. I’m not entirely sure that I want to stick around to find out, but I’m also not certain things will be much better anywhere else, given the problems of pretty much every other place I’ve thought about living in the past decade. Shit seems like it’s only going to get worse no matter where I look. For wildly varying reasons, of course, but it is clear there aren’t really any safe havens in my country of birth.

This is a very different post than I intended to write, given that I originally planend to write about how I feel a little guilty to be living comfortably as pretty much everyone I know who resides outside Wisconsin is dealing with record highs and heat waves. Now I just sort of feel bad about everything everywhere as I realize we’re all dealing with different flavors of the same problems. Normally, I take comfort in recognizing solidarity, but this time it just feels a little hollow.

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