Now THAT'S Climate Change

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This post was written by Chad Merchant


“If you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour.” As a fresh-faced 20-year-old in arriving on the scene in Denver in the late 80s, that’s what I was told about the weather there. Nothing stayed static for long.

So perhaps even more so than most locales in America, the weather is a frequent and popular topic of casual conversation in Denver, whether we’re wondering if it will ever rain again, or just how hard those winds coming down the mountains were earlier today, or mocking yet another forecast that the local meteorologists got wrong. (“We got six inches of ‘light flurries’ at my house!” is a common wisecrack.) So you can imagine my amusement and surprise as I settled into life here in Malaysia, where nobody talks about the weather! There are no weather segments on the morning radio shows or TV newscast, no forecasts announced, and just not much interest in the weather at all. And really, why should there be? As one of my former colleagues quipped, “There are actually only two weather possibilities in KL: It’s either raining, or it will be raining soon.”

Indeed, it seems that most Malaysians’ concerns with weather matters extend only as far as wistful comments on how much worse the jam will be on the drive home. And make no mistake, their laments are well-founded: Even a light rain is sufficient to snarl traffic horribly, to say nothing of the routine tropical downpours we get here. Occasionally, locals here will make a passing remark about the heat, but I’ve found this to be pretty uncommon unless there’s a long rainless stretch with lots of sunshine. Heat is just part of the package deal when living near the equator, and bringing it up in conversation is about as sensible as emerging from your shelter on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and musing that it’s a bit chilly out there today.

One source of continued delight for me, after nearly four years of Malaysian living, is that I routinely have to really stop and think about what time of the year it is! Consider… there are none of the sensory clues we are accustomed to in the northern latitudes (or southern, for the Aussies and Kiwis). No deciduous leaves falling to the ground, never a mantle of snow on KLCC

Park, no subtle change of temperature from month to month, nothing to tip you off. And on a somewhat more subconscious level, even the amount of daylight each day is unchanged. No discreet shortening of daylight hours as a languid summer segues into autumn, then eases into the dark of winter. We may not be consciously aware of these cues in our native environs as one season gives way to the next, but we do take note of them on some internal, unrealized level. Sun setting at 5 in the afternoon? Barren trees and not a patch of green grass in sight? Must be winter. Here in Malaysia, though, none of these visual cues exist. We get roughly 12 hours of daylight every day, year-round. Lush swaths of green are always abundant at every turn (to my great pleasure). In many respects, certainly the ones that matter in this context, every day here is the same. So there are many times when I have to actually stop and think, “What month is it? July? February? November?”

Finally, among the biggest changes for me in coming from the arid, high-altitude climate of Denver (known as the Mile-High City for its elevation) to KL was the return to breath-stealing humidity. I was born and raised in the damp climate of southern Alabama, so this wasn’t anything new, but having lived all my adult life in Colorado, where the relative humidity often drops to a parching 10%, the sultry tropical air here was quite a change. I don’t mind it, of course… it’s great for the skin, and you never get the static electric shocks so common during the winter in a dry climate, but I do find myself combatting the humidity at home. Back in Denver, a wet towel hung on a peg will literally be bone-dry in two hours. The air is simply so arid, it sucks the moisture out of anything. Here, towels must be hung in the sunshine, and your clothes better be fully dry before you hang them in your wardrobe or you’ll have a real mildew and odor problem rapidly. It’s all part of the process of adapting, I guess.

Sometimes, like so many expats, I do miss the seasonal changes, but then I think of driving on icy streets, or shoveling a foot of freshly fallen snow, or even raking up a dozen huge bagfuls of leaves… and I say to myself, “You know, this tropical living thing just isn’t so bad!”


Source: The Expat April 2012
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