Wednesday, July 8, 2015

'Wrath of God' Headliner

On June 23, 2015, vicious thunderstorms and windstorms tore through northeastern Iowa. Our local newspaper described widespread damage. Heavy winds knocked down trees and damaged multiple homes. There were no injuries but there was widespread damage even without a tornado.

On the following day the local newspaper headlined the ‘Wrath of God’ on front page one inch bold letters. Violent thunderstorms are not uncommon during the warm seasons in the midwest. Residents have learned to cope with and endure the most extreme manifestations of summertime in this region. The warm weather spate of meteorological turbulence is not surprising. However, this media headline was surprising for Iowa in the summer. One wonders if harsh, even damaging summer thunderstorms are truly manifestations of the ‘Wrath of God.’ Or are such headlines merely an example of editorial exuberance? The quote came from a frightened resident interviewed after the storm passed.

The ‘Wrath of God’ is an emotional reaction to a frightening experience with wind. We do not feel God’s wrath is literally manifest in meteorological extremes, especially as God’s punishment in our age of grace. Some weather disasters such as flash flooding may result from environmental degradation by humans—severe deforestation, erosion, or over-cultivation. In such cases, some people may call the disaster an ‘Act of God,’ a legal term for events over which we have no control. Legally, however, humans may bear some responsibility. Unfortunately, some may use this as an opportunity to blame God as unjust. Wrath in such a case may be more aptly translated as God’s justice

In terms of effective agricultural distribution of water for our population, summer storms are a necessity. A few weeks ago, raging floods in Texas and Oklahoma brought an end to a widespread regional drought. Such meteorological events “come with the territory.” Without a robust seasonal circulation and recirculation of water vapor, including flood-producing heavy rains, thunderstorms, hurricanes, including heavy snowstorms in winter, our population would ultimately suffer hunger. Unpleasant and periodically damaging windstorms are part of atmospheric circulatory activity. Like them or not, these events sustain agriculture, industry, and ultimately even recreational enjoyment.

Droughts do not generate the same negative emotional reaction as do sudden and destructive windstorms and accompanying events. Media consumers and producers demand news of spectacular and tragic weather events. The reality of weather and climate as a beautiful natural system authored by the Creator to distribute Earth’s water, our planet’s key resource, does not command the same interest level from the public. We acknowledge that extreme events on the weather and climate spectrum may be more noteworthy for consumers and publicists. Our leaders in schools and churches bear some responsibility for helping the public acquire a balanced picture of weather and climate—yes, even the more extreme events.    

Our blog has dealt with the above questions in past posts. We suggest you study this link from 3/10/12 to gain a more positive perspective on startling and sometimes inconvenient weather events:

Before we leave our brief discussions of 2015 flooding and excess rainfall events in the midwest region of our country, we enlarge on the opposite extreme of the weather spectrum. In the summer of 2012, a large swath of the midwest was in the grip of an unusual drought. Some speculated we were at the beginning of a long term drought such as had occurred in the US throughout the 1930s. It was termed the Dust Bowl. That drought was made more severe from extensive deep plowing of prairie grassland. In semi-arid conditions, much of the soil blew away due to excess heat and the rainfall deficit. In contrast, the 2012 drought extended only over several months. Even as a short-term event, however, there was much concern. Most of the area received relief as 2013 approached. This short-term but severe drought inspired your blogger to submit three posts in 2012 on topics which had been one of the mainstays of my teaching preference as an earth science educator—weather. Here are links to my 2012 commentaries on the midwest drought:

Let us rejoice together in David’s message of Psalm 24:1: “The Earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”