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Will this winter ever end?

If you’re like me, you probably feel that winter has become interminable.
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If you’re like me, you probably feel that winter has become interminable. It seems as though it has been winter for so long that I can only faintly recall what the landscape looked like without its snow covering, and that we may never see green grass and flowers again.

The thing is, it happens every year. And every year we gripe about how long wittier is, and wish that it would end, and voice our fears — as unrealistic as they may be — that it won’t.

I am beside myself with something approaching ecstasy, however, over the lengthening of the days. It seems that each passing day is noticeably longer than the one before.

Of course, with the tinkering of the beginning point of “Daylight Savings Time” that has taken place, just as mornings are getting to the point where the sun will be rising above the horizon as I get out of bed, the clocks will ‘spring forward’ and we’ll spend another few weeks waking up to a dull, grey, pre-dawn. 

I hear and read a lot of comments about how cold it has been lately. people have short memories.

A quick scan through the Environment Canada climate data archives shows that the temperatures we are currently experiencing are within the average range for this time of year.

We have had a few warmer (by only about 5-10 degrees) winters, and we have had some that have been much colder. 

I recall one winter, shortly after I returned to the Sault, where for a period of 30 days the temperature hovered around −30°C. Brr-r-r-r.

Of course, the cold temperatures evoke the “What ever happened to ‘Global Warming?” comments from people who are either firm deniers of climate change, or just haven’t informed themselves as to what climate change entails.

Weather is the day-to-day, hour-by-hour, in-the-moment state of the atmosphere in a given region. 

The weather, today as I write this, according to Environment Canada, is: Mainly cloudy with 40 percent chance of flurries. Local blowing snow. Wind north 30 km/h gusting to 50. High minus 20. Wind chill minus 33.

This has nothing to do with climate, or climate change.

Climate is, “the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.”

“Climate” is what tells us that the average daytime temperature in the Sault in August 2009 was 22°C, and that 27°C would be an extreme high.

“Climate change” is recognizing that, over a decade or more, that average temperature has risen to 24°C, and that 30°C is now considered an extreme high.

The term “Global Warming” is less accurate. Not completely inaccurate, but it can be confusing to some who rely on less reliable sources for their information — ie: All Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, or any of hundreds of “denier” websites.

Yes, some summer will be warmer, on average, than others; some will be cooler.

But climate researchers are concerned with the overall trend over a longer period of time than what the average person recalls.

For example, let’s look at Envirnoment Canada historical data: 

 

February 1965 Averages

Temperature (°C)

Minimum −16.9 Extreme −30.6

Maximum −6.1 Extreme +5.0

Precipitation 13.2 mm

Snow 84.3 cm

 

February 2012* Averages

Temperature (°C)

Minimum −7.1 Extreme −26.5

Maximum +0.2 Extreme +5.1

Precipitation

Rain Trace

Snow 99.1 cm

 

*Note: 2012 is the last year that complete data exists in the archives.

 

As we can see, the extreme highs and lows are close for the two years shown, but the average temperature has risen by 2012. This suggests a trend toward global warming.

This does not mean we will no longer experience winter, but that the conditions we experience will change somewhat, although the predictions are that if the trend continues unchecked winter may indeed be significantly changed at some point in the future.

Warmer winter temperature mean that the Great Lakes may not freeze over as soon nor to the same extent as they have in the past. Open water means that cold Arctic winds will pick up more moisture which will fall in the region as “lake-effect snow”.

Of course, some will argue — correctly — that there are fluctuations in weather patterns from year to year, and even decade to decade. The data does show this, with some periods between 1965 and now experiencing colder, less snowy winters, and others milder, snowier ones.

Climate change, as previously mentioned, is concerned with observing the longer-term patterns.

Meanwhile, we need to concern ourselves primarily with the day-to-day conditions. It doesn’t matter whether the average temperature in February 2065 might be +3°C; today it is −22°C, with a −30°C windchill, and we need to bundle up if we’re going outside.

Will this winter ever end? Of course it will, and most likely right on schedule.

Never mind the prognostications of a overweight, hibernating rodent dragged out of its burrow for a foolish ceremony. Spring “officially” occurs on Friday 20 March 2015, as the sun crosses the Equator.

Although... did you see the video of the Groundhog that bit the ear of the Mayor of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin? If not -- or if you just want another chance to laugh at it -- here it is...
http://youtu.be/WhnUC4bQd8I

In some regions, “Spring” will well and truly begin on that day, while in others — such as here — we will likely still be shovelling out driveways.

I recall seeing pictures of a friend’s wedding in London, Ontario, on March 17th in the mid-1990s. Daffodils, tulips, and other spring flowers were blooming in gardens and grass was already green.

It may not seem fair, but there’s precious little we can do about it… except, perhaps, move.

Maybe my winter SAD-influenced doldrums have me being a bit more hopeful, but I thought I noticed some early harbingers of spring driving back from Desbarats earlier this week.

As I was driving across the flats approaching the back side of Laird Hill, it seemed to me that the branches of the trees on the surrounding hills had a bit of a reddish-gold glow to them, as if they were starting to emerge from their dormancy.

Or, as I said, perhaps I was just being a bit too hopeful.

But Spring is coming. Not as quickly as we might wish — although skiers, snowmobilers, and other winter enthusiasts may not share in this wish.

Speaking of driving to Desbarats and back…

On my way to CASS one day last week, just after the four-lane merged back into two and I was approaching Smith Road, I spotted a herd of animals in a field next to the road.

My first thought was “those are odd-looking cattle.” I took another look and realized that they weren’t cattle; they were Elk.

There was about 12-15, mostly does, with one buck proudly standing guard over the herd.

Impressive animal, the Elk. Bigger than a Deer, but not quite the size of a Moose, with a shaggy, brown ‘bib’. 

A few other staff had noticed and commented on the herd. One saw them lining the roadside preparing to cross to the other side.

Over the next few days there were signs of the herd wandering in the same area — tracks in the fresh-fallen snow, but no one spotted the animals themselves.

Hopefully this herd will thrive. It is, as I say, an impressive sight to see a herd of Elk in the wild.

But I digress.

I did, at one time, enjoy winter activities. Ice fishing was never really my thing, but I did enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing at one time. 

Now, however… I don’t mind being outside on a nice, sunny winter’s day. But I find myself less tolerant of the cold as I once was.

I know that nothing I can do will hasten Spring’s arrival. So, I will endure what’s left of the winter, with as much patience as I can muster. 

 

But… that’s just my opinion.