World of Thermo Story 1 From An Unfortunate Release


Ever since Dr. James Hanson’s testimony before Congress in 1988, I have been an observer of the struggle that experts have endured in convincing politicians and the general public of the urgency of the global warming/climate Issue. I recognize that it is hard for many people to imagine that a part of the air we breathe actually threatens our habitat. One reason why it is so hard to make a convincing argument about climate change is because carbon dioxide is a faceless, odorless, colorless gas. But science has shown that faceless gas to be increasing in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels, affecting day-to-day weather events. Average temperatures have risen dramatically since the beginning of the 21st century. However, there are still enough cold weather events every winter to cause even the most intelligent people to believe that climate change is either not occurring, or is of minor importance.

What if we had a young hero who, as he learns more about climate change, begins to educate others in the science? Thermo is that hero. In this book, Thermo interacts with clouds, storms and humans to help save humanity from a terrible plight of its own making. His enemy, Carbo, is a twisted carbon dioxide molecule who tries to persuade humans that global warming is not a problem, so that he can release his trapped friends, namely other carbon molecules.  As is so often the case with human “villains,” Carbo at first intends no harm, but simply wants to help his friends who turn out to be more dangerous than anyone knows. In time though, Carbo’s good intentions vanish. He is the “face of evil” of the climate change issue. Unfortunately, I believe that Carbo has much in common with those who are delaying any mitigation efforts to thwart climate change. The fight between Thermo and Carbo represents the struggle of science and reason to overcome shortsighted apathy and greed.

The stories in this collection chronicle some of the major climate and weather-related events in the history of climate change from the Industrial Revolution to the present time.  In my alternative universe, it is very easy for inanimate objects to come to life in amusing and sometimes frightening ways. The stories become deeper and darker as Thermo and Carbo mature and the global warming problem worsens.  After each fictional story, I present an educational post, documenting what happened, or is happening, in the “real world.”  I have presented climatologists and meteorologists as heroes, particularly those whom I have personally known in my thirty-plus year career at The Weather Channel. I hope you enjoy the stories and will be enlightened.

Guy Walton

The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.

To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click:

Book One:                    World Of Thermo:                An Unfortunate Release

           Story 1.          Thermo Becomes Dynamic

Story 1                                Thermo Becomes Dynamic

In an alternate universe, not so very different from our own, Dr. Emanuel Key worked in his laboratory at the base of Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii. A climate scientist, he had been collecting samples of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere since 1958. Carbon dioxide, commonly called CO2 is a gas with no smell and no color that naturally exists in our air.

Mauna Loa was the perfect location for Dr. Key’s research. Far away from factories and automobiles, the good doctor could get reliable readings in the pristine air. It also allowed him to build living quarters inside a deep cave within the volcano. Dr. Key, having some quirks that some scientists and people of high intelligence often do, furnished the cave with 19th century Edwardian décor, with colorful Persian rugs on the floors and beautiful old paintings on the walls.

Dr. Key did not live there alone. “Joshua, please come here,” the doctor called to his butler. Dr. Key didn’t officially have a butler, but one of the technicians he employed had, over time, become his assistant with household chores and errands.

“Yes, Dr. Key?” Joshua answered as he sprinted into the room.

“I have an idea, Joshua,” began the doctor. “I have been collecting carbon dioxide samples for three years and now it’s time for my next move. I’d like to build my own personal reconnaissance flying machine that can measure the Earth’s temperature.”

“Why is that important?” asked Joshua.

“That would tell me if the environment is beginning to warm up. It would tell me if the jet stream patterns are changing.”

“What kind of stream?” the butler asked.

“The jet stream,” replied Dr. Key, “is the river of air that moves storms over the Earth. If I could build a flying machine to take atmospheric readings I could determine if the rising levels of CO2 are affecting temperatures and air pressure around the Earth. I’ll need two jet engines, a large thermometer, a couple of electronic cameras and various other spare parts. Can you find them for me?”

Joshua looked worried. “This is 1961, doctor. I can find the thermometer for you,” he said. “But jet engines are pretty hard to get, and most cameras still use film instead of electronics. I’ll check with my friends at the Air Force.” And with that, he dashed out of the lab.

Dr. Key walked through a passageway to the outside and took in the view. He loved the tall mountains on the island of Hawaii and the blue ocean that surrounded it. In fact, he loved all nature and wanted to protect it. The doctor had studied the work of other scientists from as far back as the 19th century who believed that too much CO2 in the atmosphere could actually change the climate of Earth. Dr. Key suspected that CO2 from factories, power plants, trucks and cars might be polluting the atmosphere and could someday cause temperatures around the world to gradually warm. He knew that’s what greenhouse gases did, holding heat close to the Earth instead of allowing it to escape into space. The doctor’s theory was a fairly new one at the time, but his findings told him that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was rising, and could eventually make life extremely difficult for people, animals and plants throughout the world.

A few days later, Joshua returned with a load of Air Force surplus parts and spread them out before Dr. Key.

“Ah, these will do nicely, Joshua. Very good!” As Dr. Key sorted through the heap of components and wires, he picked up a large block of metal with scores of other metal pieces clinging to it.

“What’s this, Joshua?” Dr. Key demanded.

“Oh, that’s a very powerful magnet,” explained Joshua. “I thought it might come in handy.”

“Nonsense,” scoffed Dr. Key. “It will just get in the way and everything else will cling to it.” Dr. Key peeled off a few smaller pieces of metal from the magnet and then tossed it into a corner of the lab where it landed with a thud.

Dr. Key glanced at his watch. “It’s late,” he observed. “I’ll continue this tomorrow. Good night, Joshua.”

“Good night, Sir,” replied the butler, and made his exit from the lab.

Dr. Key’s eyes were heavy. As he sat down in his comfy desk chair, he admitted to himself that this job was going to be more work than he had planned. He closed his weary eyes and was soon fast asleep.

While Dr. Key dreamed of building his flying machine, other forces were at work. Magnetic forces. The hefty magnet the doctor had carelessly tossed into the corner began to exert an irresistible pull on everything in the room around it. Various metal pieces in Joshua’s stack of materials began to slowly twist and move. Suddenly, the oversized thermometer in the stack flew across the room to the powerful magnet and held fast to it. Next, the magnet’s forceful attraction gradually pulled the two jet engines toward it until they attached themselves to the magnet’s back. Moments later, four long pieces of metal tubing sailed toward the magnet, two becoming affixed to either side like arms, and the other two drawn to the magnet’s underside like legs. The electronic cameras flew from the pile, each landing near the top of the thermometer, looking like eyes staring silently at the sleeping doctor.  Then all became still.

At daybreak, Joshua awakened Dr. Key with a cup of steaming hot tea. “Oh, thank you, Joshua,” said the doctor, putting the cup to his lips and taking a sip. But suddenly a noise in the corner of the room made the doctor spill some of his tea into its saucer. He and Joshua turned to look, and gasped at what they saw.

“What is it?” asked Joshua, his voice shaking.

It appeared to be a metal creature sitting up and blinking at them with curiosity. Instantly Dr. Key recognized the thermometer, the jet engines and the cameras from the Air Force surplus that Joshua had collected. He and Joshua stared in disbelief at the living machine created by the magnet’s powerful attraction.

“It’s alive!” whooped Dr. Key with glee. Joshua nearly fainted. Holding onto Dr. Key for support, he and the doctor tiptoed over to the curious creature and stretched out a hand to it. The creature, cooing softly like an infant, lifted its hand to meet the doctor’s.

“I must be dreaming,” said Joshua, having difficulty with his words. “It’s… it’s a living baby thermo…thermometer!”

“That’s it!” said Dr. Key with a wink. “Thermo! We’ll call him Thermo!”

Thermo was indeed a baby. His first year of life was marked by sleepless nights and tantrums. The baby often spit up oil and jet fuel, which Dr. Key discovered Thermo required for food. Gradually, Thermo learned to crawl, and then to walk, and Dr. Key soon discovered he could program English into the little machine’s memory banks.

One day Thermo looked at Dr. Key, pointed upwards, and said his first word. “Sky,” he murmured.

“Did you hear that, Joshua?” marveled Dr. Key. “It’s time to teach Thermo to fly!”

Dr. Key took Thermo outside to a platform he had built about ten feet off the ground with a safety net Joshua had added under it. Thermo seemed to know what it all meant, and gave a quick blast of delight from his jet engines, lifting the young thermometer a few feet off the platform. Dr. Key and Joshua clapped their hands. “That’s it, Thermo! That’s how you fly!”

Thermo giggled as he let loose a few more jet blasts, lifting him higher, and then moving him from side to side. But suddenly the jets went cold, and Thermo plunged to the ground, landing with a crash. That’s when Thermo uttered his second word.

“Ouch!” he moaned.

“That’s enough for one day,” laughed Dr. Key. “We’ll try again tomorrow.”

As the days went by, it didn’t take long for Thermo to master the art of flying, and soon he was not only shooting up to higher altitudes, he was turning somersaults and cartwheels in the air over Mauna Loa and the other Hawaiian Islands. As Dr. Key watched Thermo playing in the sky, he said to himself, “It won’t be long before that little thermometer will be able to start gathering valuable temperature data for me.”

The doctor smiled when he imagined Thermo exploring the skies over the Arctic and Antarctic, and flying above the tropical oceans and glaciers of the world.

“Someday,” whispered Dr. Key, “this little thermometer is going to help save the world.”


In the real world, Dr. Emanuel Key was Dr. Charles David Keeling, who established his laboratory on Mauna Loa, Hawaii in 1958 and was the renowned climatologist who came up with the “Keeling Curve,” showing that levels of carbon dioxide are rising due to the burning of fossil fuels. CO2 measurements continued to be taken long after the good doctor’s death in 2005 at the observatory on Mauna Loa. Of course, thermometers cannot fly, but recently scientists have proposed that drones be built to take weather readings inside hurricanes, tropical storms and even tornadoes. The creation of Thermo by magnetism is pure fiction. No magnetic force is capable of bringing inanimate objects to life. But wouldn’t it be fun if it could?”

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