Memory is unreliable and historical records provide an incomplete picture, so it's possible the valley I grew up in was not all that warmer than the one I walked through today. I know I didn't own a proper winter coat then, but I was also tougher, perhaps, and went more places in a car.
Still, there's no question the air quality in this high desert town is worse and the inversion phenomenon that traps bitter cold for weeks at a time seems to have worsened, too.
And we know why.
The particular shape of the valley combines with snow cover and weather systems to trap frigid air. Pollutants don't rise, forming a cloud that blocks sun from melting the snow and warming the earth.
Since Jan. 18, air quality in low-lying areas of Grand Junction has been worse than Denver’s, a metropolitan center of 2.6 million people. For that matter, the amount of fine particulates — a mix of acids like nitrates and sulfates, organic chemicals, metals, soil and dust particles — trapped above the valley are more concentrated here than in any other city in Colorado.
[T]he pollution measuring less than 2.5 micrometers — which creates the health risks — is caused by any number of combustion sources. Smoke from wood-burning stoves and vehicle exhaust make up most of it. Other factors include the use of hot water heaters, industrial pollution, the effects of drilling and dust from dirt roads.
To climate change deniers, the cold provides an occasion to make gleeful comments about global warming. Others, whose denial has begun to be penetrated by science, have shifted to "yeah, but climate always changes. It's not my fault!"
And since climate changes, we have the earth's permission to go on doing what we've been doing. We press on with "reducing our dependence on foreign oil" without really addressing the dependence part. Another way to say it is, we're committed to using up our domestic energy supplies sooner rather than later.
No one can live in this valley and deny the massive changes that have taken place on earth or fail to see the relatively little say any puny creatures have had in the matter. But neither can they bundle up in an extra layer, watch their heating bill climb, and breathe lousy air, while believing mankind's fate is out of their hands.