Worth every inch?

March 11th, 2008
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By now, many of you will have heard, or experienced the fact that central Canada has been inundated by a late winter snow storm. Ottawa alone had 53 cm of snow over the weekend and the long-range forecast shows little, if any temperatures above zero Celsius for the next two weeks.


Apparently, the city is only 33 cm short of the all-time snow record, set in 1971. It’s been painful for me to admit, but I remember the winter of 1971 very well. And I have vivid recollections of the March blizzard that capped it off.

What characterized that storm, at least on the South Shore of Montreal, was not just upwards of 2 feet (60 cm) of precipitation but some very strong winds. These caused massive drifts, paralyzing roadways, and closed our school for two days. Unbeknownst to my mother, I went out in the middle of the storm to check it out. Under the guise of “shoveling” I donned my “skidoo suit” and walked past two rows of houses to what was then still a large farmer’s field (which we called, originally enough, “Farmer’s Field”).

That’s where I could “test” the force of the wind. Leaning sharply into the blast, I was literally suspended with only the tips of my toes on the ground. It was all I could do to avoid being flipped backward.

But this was in the days when a blizzard was just a blizzard. Little did I as an 11 year-old know that we were entering a period of climatic chaos and unrelenting warming. That is, at least until we got out of the “global cooling” panic of the seventies.

This year’s brutal winter has been, I think, attributed to La Nina. It is depressing, in the second week of March, to be contemplating cold weather, likely until the end of the month. But there is one significant side benefit – a marked decrease in climate change stories.

The record breaking snowfalls have almost silenced the roar of climate change coverage. Even the hardiest activists have postponed outdoor demonstrations; the number of lamppost placards is also down. Complaints about the “global” aspect of the weather have been replaced by more mundane concerns about traffic safety, roofs collapsing and the like.

But as spring surely follows winter – at least for now – the first signs of another season of amateur climatology are appearing, ahead of the migrating geese and the crocuses. Yesterday, two stories focused on religion and the environment. One was about the Southern Baptists becoming concerned about climate; the other about the Vatican defining modern sins to include damaging the environment.

Regarding the former, it’s worth noting it was the southern, not the northern Baptists that were concerned. On the other, two things. First, proper stewardship of the environment is a serious matter, and something the Church might want to take a position on. Secondly however, the story didn’t mention how these “environmental sins” might rank against those garden variety transgressions like sloth, gluttony etc. More investigative reporting needed there I guess.

All in though, I would personally trade about one week of spring for one week of climate silence. Or maybe if I were smarter I’d take my extra week of spring, stop paying attention to climate reports, and go out to admire the flowers.

P.S. Apparently, one negative side effect of the harder winter has been “snow rage“. Take heart though, this may be something that is actually mitigated by the warmer climate-to-come.

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