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Around 4 a.m. this morning, the dog and wife and kids and I were startled out of sleep by a bolt of lightning and a crash of thunder that sounded like the end of the world. Then the rains began to fall in a curtain of water, like the greatest waterfall of all time. I went downstairs and disconnected the computer from the wall outlet, then for an hour I lay in the dark and watched the lightning and listened to the thunder and the rain on the tin roof.

We don’t seem to get a simple rain anymore. “How gentle is the rain that falls softly on the meadow,” the Supremes sang, and Shakespeare wrote about how “the quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven.” Not anymore. Now it droppeth like the hammer of Thor. The gods are angry.

A couple of weeks ago, while we were on vacation in the South, my nephew’s house was struck by lightning while he and his family were out of town. The lightning blew the bark off a tree in their yard, then skipped across to an electrical wire, blew holes in their gas lines from which gas poured out for days, destroyed all their electronics, and sent the dog into a spastic state of terror that is probably irreversible. That story, and Tim’s recent lightning related computer crash, prompted my 4 a.m. jaunt in the dark to unplug our computer.

James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist and a widely despised figure among people who don’t believe the climate is changing (just Google him), recently came out with predictions, based on his calculations, that indicate the chances for extreme weather events have multiplied. He blames the forest fires in the western US and the killer heat wave in Russia on manmade climate change. Hansen says it’s like a loaded die, in which 4 to 5 sides of the die are painted red for extreme heat. Roll the die and you will sometimes get a cool summer, but more often than not you will get extreme heat and drought. But because warm air can hold more water vapor, other places and other times will have extreme rainfall events.

I like my rainfall events a little less extreme – more like a soft, warm tapping on my roof and walls, as Paul Simon sang in 1965, back before the gods got angry. Or whatever that is keeping me up in the night.

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