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Canada is marking the winter that wasn’t. Today more temperature records are falling from Saskatchewan east. Temperatures in Ottawa and Toronto are expected to hit 30C. That’s a good 20 degrees hotter than normal. This heat wave has persisted for about a week now. Temperature records that date back almost 150 years have been demolished.
Unusually hot air from the Gulf of Mexico has been pushing up the American plains into Canada. At the same time the hot system has pushed the cooler Arctic air westward, giving Alberta and British Columbia cooler than normal temperatures.
While the TV weather prognosticators talk about people getting June weather in July and are giving humidex readings months early it makes me wonder about the effects of this topsy turvy winter.
Cold temperatures in the Great White North serve to kill many insects and their larvae. When we fail to get the deep freeze temperatures that have been normal for many years, these pests overwinter and come back in greater numbers in the spring. In our gardens we might deal with them by picking them off our food and flowers by hand but when they hit our vast forests the situation is quite different. Mild winters have contributed to the devastating spread of the pine beetle infestation. The beetle would normally be killed in great numbers when a quick deep freeze catches them in the autumn. The past decade has seen a slow, much more gentle slide into winter allowing the beetle to survive. They carry a fungus on their bodies which kills the trees. Hugh swaths of forest stand dead and create a massive fire hazard.
Plants get confused when temperatures heat up. They go into growth gear and then get zapped by the cold as it settles back over the country.
Of course one anomalous winter does not prove that our climate is changing. It does alert us to the possibility that it is occurring when we string together several years of odd weather. Climate scientists have told us that we can expect more extreme weather events as more energy(heat) is pumped into the atmosphere. Some areas will be warmer, some cooler, some will have more rainfall, others less.
According to NOAA, February is the 324th consecutive month of temperatures above global average. That is not the whole story of course. February was also cooler in some areas.
“Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across nearly all of Canada and Alaska, the eastern half of the United States, southern Greenland, and north central Russia. Cooler-than-average regions included northeastern Africa, most of Europe and central Asia, and much of Australia.” NOAA
We saw extremely cold weather this winter across much of Europe that resulted in the deaths of at least 650 people. Drought in western Europe marked much of February. In the southern hemisphere torrential rains hit Australia. Tunisia in North Africa experienced flooding from rapid melting of snow pack.
Tornados hit the American mid-west early this year. February 28 and 29th killer tornados struck, killing and injuring people. A category 4 cyclone hit Madagascar on Valentine’s Day.
Last year saw Texas limp through the driest July on record. Massive fires devastated the state and reserves of water for electrical production and consumption fell to dangerous levels. Crop and livestock losses were in the billions of dollars. Heat waves in late summer struck much of Europe.
The back of the heat wave was broken around the globe when torrential rains fell, flooding land and displacing people.
There is an old folk saying, “One swallow does not a summer make”. One anomalous season does not ‘prove’ that our climate is changing. On the other hand it would be folly to ignore the evidence of emerging patterns.