Elise Patkotak: Tropical heat in Anchorage? This isn't right

By ELISE PATKOTAKJune 18, 2013 

OK, let's get one thing straight. If I'd wanted to have bright, hot sunshine for weeks in a row I'd have moved to Fairbanks or Hawaii or Mexico or, if I was really desperate, Florida. If I wanted to devote an hour every morning killing mosquitoes in my office before I could work, I'd have moved to a tropical forest. If I wanted to spend my time outdoors batting wildly at my head while screaming, "Get away from me, you beasts from hell" I'd have done a remake of "Bedlam."

And I know I'm not alone. There are a lot of us out there in the Anchorage bowl, hiding in our own special closets with netting covering our entire bodies and fans blowing cold air from ice cubes to help us maintain our sanity.

My dogs scurry through the door to go into the yard at top speed because they fear that their tails will be slammed into the door I'm shutting as quickly as possible to keep the next horde of blood suckers out. They eye me fearfully as I stalk through the rooms of my house, bloody magazine in hand, inspecting walls and ceilings for another evil biter to squash beneath my avenging hand.

One of the many reasons I loved living in Barrow was the three months without even the possibility of sunlight. Three months of quiet darkness, soothing to the soul, conducive to silent meditation in front of an iced up window staring at frozen tundra. Life simply doesn't get much better than that. Darkness is good.

Sure, the sun was up 24 hours a day for three months in the summer. But the Arctic sun has the good sense to be really hot only on very occasional days and the cool breeze blowing in from an icy sea always kept the days bearable. As for the mosquitoes - well, quite honestly, Arctic mosquitoes are rather lazy critters. Maybe it's the general coolness. Maybe it's that they see no reason to fight the wind that blows along the Arctic coast almost constantly. For whatever reason, instead of flying at you, most self-respecting Arctic mosquitoes would rather just hang in the air and hope you'll walk into them. If memory serves me correctly, this method was more successful than you might imagine given they were so thick in the air that it was hard to dodge them.

The Arctic is respectful enough of its place in the universe that it never has three weeks of sunny seventy-degree weather in a row. It almost always finds a day or two to snow or rain and many days to be foggy and cloudy and wet. Golly, just writing that makes me homesick. I am sad that global warming will probably change Arctic weather. I'm glad I lived there before that happened.

But enough nostalgia, let's get back to the real issue. My normally even-tempered and contented disposition is being sorely tried by our current weather. I check the seven-day forecast every day looking for a break in the sunshine and heat, looking for one day of clouds, rain and sixty-degree weather, looking - for goodness sake - for a real Anchorage summer day. Have they finally been lost to climate change?

I realize that there is still a lot of debate over who or what is causing global warming. I realize that a May in which we got a weekend snowfall that actually stuck on the ground is hardly an endorsement for the whole global warming theory. But given that I've had to interrupt writing this column four times to get up and kill a mosquito, I think that no matter what the cause, we need to deal with it and deal with it now. Anchorage is not supposed to consistently beat the Lower 48 in the heat index. Anchorage is not supposed to have sunshine that won't quit.

Quite simply, it is just wrong. So whoever is in charge, do something about this untenable situation. I'm not sure if it's the mayor or the governor in charge of the weather but would whoever turned on the bright sunlight please flip the switch to dim for just a few days.

Now please excuse me while I kill the thing buzzing in my ear. I'm going to gleefully squash it flatter than a pancake.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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