snow thermometer cold

The first thing I do when I head outside in the morning is glance at the thermometer on the porch.

There are some mornings that I wish I didn’t.

Christmas Eve was one of those mornings. Under the dim glow of the porch light, the thermometer had plummeted to minus-7 degrees. I snapped a photo and sent it to a friend in Lancaster County, who told me his thermometer reading that morning was a mild 4 degrees when he headed to the barn. And then he sent another message, “How would it be if we did not have global warming?”

I chuckled at the joke, but it made me think. Is it possible that, without a warmer climate, the temperature that Christmas Eve morning would’ve actually been colder?

When it comes to global warming, or climate change, I’m on the fence regarding the severity of the impact, and the cause. I do find the topic interesting, and both sides of the debate present strong, convincing arguments to support their positions.

Still, I have questions.

While it was dangerously cold on Christmas Eve, the day before it was nearly 50 degrees and raining. In less than 24 hours, we had a flash freeze as the temperature plummeted 40 degrees. It was like climate change in reverse.

And today, as I write this, the weather around the farm feels more like March than early January. It is rainy, in the 50s and muddy.

From Dec. 23 to Jan. 4, the temperature went from 50 degrees to minus-7 and back to 50 again. Is that the result of climate change, or is it just the climate?

Plenty of experts tell us the climate is getting warmer. We can expect more rain, more floods and the like.

That doesn’t sound good, but could those factors actually offset the root cause of climate change?

A contributing cause of a warming climate is an increase in carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. How can it be reduced?

Perhaps it already is.

If the climate is getting warmer and rainfall is increasing, one would think such an occurrence would be conducive to plant and tree growth. A warm, wet climate — similar to the rain forest — promotes vegetation growth. Grass is greener, plants are lush and the forest canopy is thicker.

If increasing levels of carbon dioxide cause the Earth to warm and lead to more precipitation, shouldn’t those conditions generate significant “greening” as well? And, if CO2 is making the Earth greener, one could assume that the lush, leafy growth would be absorbing more carbon dioxide while releasing more oxygen.

That would be a good thing, right?

I’m not suggesting that we embrace a rise in CO2 levels, but I think we need to look at the matter with something other than a doomsday approach.

When it comes to farming, the variations of climate are significant, and one can argue beneficial as well.

Our growing seasons are longer — although sometimes wetter — and the opportunity for multiple crops out of the same field exists in places where the practice was unheard of years ago.

And, going back to the “greening” principle, if we can produce a multitude of crops from a single field in a growing season, isn’t that another tool to control carbon dioxide levels? The pattern of two or even three crops emerging in succession from a single field seems like a healthy aspect for the environment.

However, I acknowledge the climate can still be a detriment for agriculture. Too much rain can lead to disease, while not enough can rob us of the ability to produce any type of crop.

Last summer we had a drought in my area that burned up everything. I never want to see it happen again.

Was the drought the result of climate change, or is it just our climate?

Over the last six months, I’ve seen the farm bake under a prolonged drought, had significant rainfall that washed all the dust away and watched the temperature go from minus-7 to almost 60 degrees in January.

Yes, I believe those things are indicative of climate change. But I’m also not aware of a time in the Earth’s history that the climate wasn’t changing.

Man-made or not, it’s all very debatable.


Staff Reporter

Tom Venesky is a staff reporter for Lancaster Farming. He can be reached at