The Tropics of Canada

Heat Wave (comics)

Heat Wave (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One doesn’t normally associate the Great White North with wilting scorched-earth heatwaves, but it happens. Even the more northern edges of Canadian civilization experience sun blistering summer weather.

When I first moved to Alberta five years ago, my husband, Rob, assured me that summers were milder than the soggy aired Iowa sauna summers I was accustomed to hibernating out in my mostly climate controlled existence in Iowa.

Due to sinus issues and a hyper-active immune system, I hopped from one hermetically sealed zone to another from early April until sometime in October. My house, vehicle, the school I taught at, the grocery, the mall, Target – basically anywhere I frequented was chilled and dehumidified to a tolerable level.

But in this neck of Canada, things are different. Public spaces are likely to have a/c, but private homes aren’t. Our house, which was built over sixty years ago, is one such climate controlled free zone. After having a/c since 1997, I was unprepared for the transition back to the days of yore.

As a child, we had one window unit in our kitchen, which Dad only purchased the summer my younger sister DNOS suffered from some heat related malady that scared he and Mom enough to cave in on the a/c question a little bit. My family didn’t go the full central air route until I’d left home for university. So while my siblings began to lose their ability to tolerate heat, I was steadily building my heat tolerance muscles in the sweltering dorms of Iowa City. Though the apartments I would live in after had this or that wall unit, it was only enough to take the sweat off and not really enough to cool unless one was willing to remaining completely motionless.

It wasn’t until I bought my first home in 1997 that I had central air and I never looked back.

Perhaps because Rob promised me a cooler summer, the weather in 2007 was warmer and more humid than normal. In fact, July and August rolled one heat wave into another, pounding my sinuses and kicking up my faux asthma enough that my poor husband was apologizing to me almost daily for relocating me in the Canadian version of hell.

It was two summers later though that finally prompted him to invest in an air conditioner for the bedrooms, and a prolonged heat wave the summer after saw the purchase of two more window units and the trade up from unrefrigerated tent trailer to a/c equipped holiday trailer.

Still, no central air.

Our current ungodly hot wave of sun-baked oppression sent us packing to the holiday trailer to sleep and has spurred talk of “putting in central air when we replace the furnace next year”.

I have a love/hate thing with heat. My inner Iowa girl is offended by cool summers. If it’s July or August, it should be hot. There has to be something to differentiate summer from winter, spring and most of the fall up here. And I truly miss spring, which we don’t have despite what the calendar might say about it.

But, even though I don’t wilt like the native-born (and Dee, who has lost all tolerance for heat over the last five years), I react more vigorously to humidity than I used to. Something to do with the fact that for the most part, it is super dry here and I just am losing the little ability I had to cope in the first place. So, though I like warm and even very warm, the sinus swelling and pain that goes along with it, I can no longer deal with.

Which brings me back to conditioned air.

Rob spent all the last weekend plus foolishly risking heat stroke up on our roof. His sense of  reno timing is, as always, impeccably flawed. I don’t know how he does it, but he nearly always manages to pick the worst weather or time period for starting really big projects. It has to be a gift.

So there he was, roofing in 32C full on sunshine, which unbelievably was an improvement over the pouring rain of the weekend before which left our dining room and back porch drenched and dripping. Roofing meant no time to install the air conditioners and a retreat to the trailer each night because the upstairs was too hot to even draw a breath in let alone find a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday evening brought a bit of relief to the main floor when Rob designed a new window rig for the downstairs unit but even by Wednesday afternoon, it was still 24C on the main floor and stifling upstairs. Cooler temps are on next week’s horizon but the projection is for more heat and higher than normal temps as the summer wears on.

I don’t know that I am entirely sold on the reasons why the climates across the globe are shifting. A good explanation is likely still beyond our scientific capacity to explain and there is too much nonsense from either extreme end of the debate for anyone to be able to seriously assess the situation. Regardless, climate is changing and where it will finally settle is a question that is probably not knowable or even preventable at this point. The arguments are silly and pointless. It doesn’t matter why because we have no way to stop it anymore even if we understood the mechanisms causing it. Blame and denial aren’t helpful and anything that isn’t geared to preparing to adapt is a waste of time, money and effort.

Rob thinks that if we stay put we will eventually live in quite a moderate climate. And if by “moderate”, he means “like Iowa” then we might have to consider Nunavut someday.

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