A return to 'normal' winter?
By Jim Poling
Published Jan. 26, 2017
So, winter returns to normal this weekend. Sort of.
Daytime temperatures are forecast to be below the “normal” of minus five starting this weekend. Overnight lows will drop into the minus 10 to 15 “normal” range.
Those forecast temperatures, although freezing and much more wintery than the past two weeks, will not a normal winter make.
The normals used by weather reporting agencies are deceiving because they are based on only the last 30 years of data. Thirty years takes us back to the later 1980s, when global warming began to become significantly noticeable. Before the 1980s, Haliburton County had harsher, more traditional winters.
Climate change still is denied, or explained away, by too many people including The Trumpeter, now Narcissist-in-Chief of the United States. He says climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China to make the U.S. less competitive.
However, the changeable winters we have seen in recent years are increasingly explained by scientific data. Of the 17 hottest years in earth’s recorded history, 16 have occurred since 2000. Last year was our planet’s third consecutive warmest year in recorded history.
There is more warmth and more change to come and we should be prepared for it.
There seems to be pattern developing in our part of world. Cool air moving over warm open waters, bringing heavy snowfalls at the start of winter. Then January thaws increasingly warmer and longer than in the past.
February and March winter conditions seem to have been less severe in recent times. Again, there is some scientific study to explain that and to indicate that even milder late winters are coming.
A new study by Princeton University researchers says that northern latitudes can expect more mild weather days. And, areas in the more southern latitudes can expect fewer mild weather days, which are defined as pleasant outdoor days with fewer heat extremes and less precipitation.
All this is tied to dramatic changes in the Arctic where temperatures are said to be rising more quickly than other parts of the planet.
Temperatures last autumn were 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in parts of the Arctic waters.
“What’s going on in the Arctic is really very impressive; this year was ridiculously off the chart,” Gavin A. Schmidt, head of a unit of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that tracks global temperatures, said in the New York Times recently.
These wild changes in the Arctic climate will continue to impact us, notably in late winter. Forecasts done in the U.S. call for warmer than usual weather this coming February and March.
Our local 14-day forecast calls for highs and lows in the minus six to minus 15 range. So far, no bursts of huge cold or heavy snowfalls are forecast.
That doesn’t mean that we should expect a balmy ride into spring. Arctic cold fronts will continue to appear, bringing those bitter cold February and March days that were so common in the past. However, predictions are that we will see more milder days than usual in the coming weeks.
So far the changing climate in our part of the world has not been devastating. This winter’s snowmobile season has not been the best, but it has not been a washout. This weekend’s return to colder temperatures should help to improve trails.
Also, the ski season has had a good start with plenty of early snow.
Weather forecasting has become progressively more accurate. The same cannot be said for weather recording.
Environment Canada continues to cut back its historical weather record keeping. That’s the info that tells you the temperatures and precipitation amounts on each day of the month.
Up in this part of the country the only place they now record that information is at Muskoka airport and Bancroft. At Muskoka, the record keeping is hit and miss. In December, Muskoka missed recording its weather on 12 days. So far in January, it has missed four days.
Bancroft has done much better, not missing any days.
Trying to figure out snowfall amounts has been almost impossible since Environment Canada stopped reporting snow depth on the ground. It now simply records daily total precipitation, rain or snow, in millimetres.