#skyfail

Like an inversion of J.G. Ballard's first novel, The Wind From Nowhere – in which winds blow to hurricane strength around the world, flattening cities, decimating civilization, and making readers wonder why the book wasn't simply written as a short story – it seems that winds across the continental U.S. are slowing down.

[Images: Three covers from J.G. Ballard's first novel, The Wind From Nowhere: "London and New York reduced to rubble," the cover on the right side reads, "as nature goes mad"].

As The New York Times reports, "wind speeds in the United States have dropped 15 to 30 percent over the course of about 30 years." There is absolutely no reason to assume that this trend will continue at the same pace – but, should it, the winds of America would come to a stand-still within just four or five generations.
One of the suspected reasons behind this atmospheric deceleration is climate change, the NYT explains:
    As polar regions warm faster than the Equator... the temperature difference between them – and the pressure differential – shrinks. And, lower pressure differences mean slower winds.
Of course, it shouldn't be surprising, meanwhile, that, "in scattered pockets of the country, wind speeds have risen." These sorts of changes are rarely homogenous: a cooling trend in one spot is matched by a warming trend in another; the death of breezes in one location is counteracted by increased number of hurricanes elsewhere.
Nonetheless, how interesting to speculate what might happen if the atmosphere gradually did fail, falling still, forming the aerial equivalent of a glacier: hazy and unmoving, polluted and heavy, a kind of anti-hurricane with no less deadly effects in the long term. Certain plants would no longer pollinate. International travel, by both sea and air, would become unpredictable. The use of fossil fuels would skyrocket.
I do wonder, then, if Ballard, given another few years in which to write, might have tried out this kind of anti-storm scenario, describing a world without aerial movement. The death of the sky.

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7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nothing about global warming this week then.....? oh sorry climate change. excuse me.

June 16, 2009 5:38 PM  
Blogger j said...

Please no more hurricanes! Living down here in south Louisiana is too stressful during hurricane season.

A Constructed Reality

June 17, 2009 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Douglas Harding said...

Another great post Geoff. Thank you for maintaining such an awesome blog. I ordered your book recently and look forward to reading it when I return to the UK in August (I've been working in Cape Town for the past year) Thank you too for introducing me to the amazing work of J G Ballard.

June 17, 2009 3:59 AM  
Blogger pia ednie-brown said...

Ballard actually wrote a short story called 'Say Goodbye to the Wind' (1970) – one of the Vermilion Sands collection. Maybe you had this in the back of your mind given the mention of short stories and a loss of air movement? In 'Say Goodbye to the Wind', however, the Wind turns out to be a glamorous, troublesome woman, who becomes a lover of the protagonist. As a character she is cast as a kind of "dark air" whose white gown drew "empty signatures in the sand". Eventually she sweeps away with another man, and attempts to murder her now ex-lover with a gold bio-fabric suit that starts crushing him to death. In that light, the resulting dark, polluted, heavy atmosphere you speculate upon might not be too dissimilar to the mood of the protagonist at the end of that story :-)

June 17, 2009 9:36 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Douglas, thanks so much for ordering the book - I'm really excited that it's finally out there for people to see, and would love to hear more of your thoughts once you've had some time to flip through (or read!) it.

Pia, embarrassingly I didn't actually know that story - but thanks for pointing it out. Maybe we can do an atmospheric design studio of some sort in Melbourne next term...

And, anonymous, medical terms such as Alzheimer's Disease are now used to replace previously popular terms like "dementia" - so I take it you don't believe in Alzheimer's Disease, either?

June 17, 2009 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Diamon said...

What parts of our earth might become uninhabitable if the winds were to stop? We count on the wind as our atmospheric sewage system, to sweep away the accumulated wastes, and bring in breathable new air!

June 21, 2009 9:21 AM  
Anonymous Douglas Harding said...

As soon as I have read the book I will email you my thoughts on it if you wish! I've been anticipating the BLDGBLOG book release for some time now and its really annoying that I will have to wait a couple of weeks until I get a chance to read it (for reasons mentioned in my previous post above)

Hopefully I will be able to catch you speaking at The Bartlett some time in the near future...

July 06, 2009 11:50 AM  

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