New York is in the grip of an awful heat wave. Yet, only a few short months ago, we were battling snowstorms and cold waves.
Weather has a way of becoming an important actor in all our endeavors and so it has been throughout human history.
In biblical times, the Amorites united five armies to attack the Israelites in Gibeon, near Jerusalem. Joshua and a small army went to the rescue. Surprising the Amorites, Joshua’s troops attacked and the Lord sent down great stones. “More who died with the hail stones than they who the children of Israel slew with the sword,” the Book of Joshua says.
Hannibal conquered a Roman army, aided by bad winter weather in the Alps. Julius Caesar mobilized 800 ships to attack England, but the winds were unfavorable for a month and then a storm struck and Caesar had to call it off. In the Far East, Kublai Khan, the great Mongol leader, invaded Japan with 40,000 men and 300 large ships. A typhoon crippled the invading force and, seven years later, Khan tried again and another typhoon struck, killing thousands more. Kublai Khan gave up his campaign to subdue the Japanese.
In the Revolutionary War, a mighty British fleet in New York Harbor was held back by fierce northerly winds, enabling Washington and his men to retreat across the East River from Long Island to safety. And severe winter weather brought Napoleon’s army to a standstill and ultimate defeat in the early 19th Century.
In World War II, Hitler had expected to defeat Russia in a few months. Instead, the coldest winter in 50 years paralyzed the German army and ultimately, he lost the war. In Normandy, Eisenhower was able to launch his successful invasion of Europe when the weather forecasters were able to add to their prediction of poor weather for June 5th an assurance of much better weather for June 6th.
Now about this heat wave we’re having …
There’s nothing new about this either.
The worst recorded heat wave came in Marble Bar, Australia, on October 31, 1923 Temperatures soared to above100 degrees for 160 days. In 1972, heat waves in New York and the northeastern United States resulted in more than 900 deaths in 16 days. An estimated 10,000 people died in the 1980 heat wave and drought that hit the central and eastern United States.
So, when it comes to weather, is there any good news?
Well, writers and poets have always been able to find good things to say about the weather, John Ruskin called sunshine “delicious,” rain “refreshing,” wind “bracing,” snow “exhilarating.” He said: “There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”
A quote attributed to Mark Twain, but actually coming from Charles Dudley Warner: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Jane Austen nailed it when she said: “What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.”
And there’s one anonymous saying that several mayors of New York found to be too true: “A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!”
Back to the heat wave, do you remember Linda Ronstadt’s song of the same name?
“It’s like a heat wave
Burning in my heart
Can’t keep from crying
It’s tearing me apart.”
So maybe, when we suffer in the good old summer time, it’s best to think about the dead of winter. Twain did say: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”
And, to tide us over until winter comes, an anonymous author wrote: “When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels.”