There is an old Swedish expression that needs to be explained, understood and receive corresponding expressions in other languages. In Swedish it consists of only one word, “årsmån” (pronounced almost like oarsmoan). If translated directly without respect to idioms or being linguistically correct, it could be year’s margin. Alternatively one could say year’s main, as in each year has a main character, different from other years.
What it describes is the phenomena that no two years are alike in terms of conditions, stress and opportunity for life on the planet. Just like no two snowflakes are alike. There are so many complex factors that govern what conditions may be each year, that everthying can not be exactly the same twice. In nature, change is the only constant (although the rate of change is not constant).
The margin for diverse and yet normal conditions during any one year, is very wide. It is as if nature intends for every species and every variety to have at least one perfect chance and one hard blow and a lot of near misses. This way the “year’s margin”, the change from last year and the one before that, helps to develop the natural selection of species. Just as Charels Darwin described it.
The expression årsmån is very old and an everyday reality among farmers. It is also well established and used among scholars of agriculture in Sweden. Yet, the word does not appear in any Swedish dictionaries. It’s like the urbanized modern people believe such an old farm word is of no relevance to the contemporary high-tech society.
In the present climate debate there is much focus on finding a number, a figure that represents an absolute mean value, which can be labeled “The Planet’s Normal Temperature”. With that established it is thought to be possible to measure any deviations from the normal, and consequently adjust our ways of living in order to maintain the planets normal temperature.
This figure of thought is an illusion. What the term årsmån or year’s margin, expresses or even explains, is that normal is what we get every day, even though it may not be what we expected or hoped for. The surprise of the unexpected is also an intricate part of life. We need it to keep our powers to adjust in working order.
We now live ten thousand years into an interglacial. Average temperatures have shifted slightly through the ages. It has all been part of what is normal, within year’s margin. The notion that we, with at best 150 years of reliable temperature records and at worst 30 years or even no reliable records, would in those few years have encountered the very most extremes that nature can present in it’s normal variation, is just plain wrong. The idea that we can establish a normal value and ourselves correct natures deviations from that value, is conceit to a fault.
The idea of year’s margin does in no way contradict Svensmark’s recently presented theory that climate on earth is affected by cosmic rays and stellar dust, and that this varies as our solar system passes through the Milky Ways spiral arms or in the cascades from Supernovas.
The english warning against putting all the eggs in the same basket can be seen as a reminder of the changes in Årsmån. It’s a simple safeguard. Traditionally farmfamillies around the world raised more than one crop, had more than one species of farmanimal. Grass, rye, barley, oat, wheat, potatoes, turnips, suedes, cows, pigs, sheep, chicken and ducks, all on the same farm, if possible. It gave strong risk reduction against variations that hit hard on one species. The diversification was a safer way to survive in the selfreliant days of farming. Specialization may pay off better, but it comes at a greater risk for the farmer. For the society that does not pay the full price of the specialized farmers risktaking, specializaton is a win. But now I’m straying from the subject and into politics.
The Chinese custom to characterize years with animal symbols is likely an understanding of this phenomena of year’s changes in character. Also in other cultures these observations of variations can be understood even though they do not have specific expressions for it. I would be glad if my readers can provide me with such expressions from various languages where they exist, and suggestions what to call it in the languages that do not already recognize this phenomena with a specific expression.
I believe such an understanding of climate’s and weather’s natural variaton would help in abandoning the most exaggerated claims in the climatedebate.
Update august 15th.
In a BBC article the word vagaries is used to describe the irregular and unpredictable changes (variations) in weather. This corresponds relatively well with årsmån when weather is concerned. Yet, årsmån also covers other variables.
Wiktionary gives these translations from Vagary to some languages:
Dutch – wispelturigheid
Finnish – päähänpisto
Greek – idiotropía
Spanish – extravagancia or rareza
I am not able to discern how these expressions corresponds to årsmån.
Update 2019: The expression Panta Rhei ascribed to the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, is a good proto-understanding of what is encompassed in Årsmån.