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Nature and Environment

News about the health and beauty of the natural world that sustains us.

Winter Weather Time Warp

snow on ground.jpg

Climate change seems to impact many of us, but for those who live remotely at a higher altitude, it is very obvious. I feel certain that a climatologist could explain in detail what is happening in our area, but all I can determine is that this year we are a long way from experiencing a normal winter.

Our winter season started out normally with average temperatures and snowfall, but starting in February, everything changed dramatically. The 112 inches of snow that we had already received suddenly stopped and our temperatures rose to the point that we did not have to keep our wood stove going to stay warm. For three weeks, we did not receive any additional snow and it would only go down to the low 30s at night and warm up to the 50s during the day.

In the nineteen winters we have lived here, we have not had anything like this ever occur before.

Normally, we experience more snow than we have received this year. It is like we are in some winter weather time warp with nothing but pleasant weather occurring. Most people would like the type of weather we are currently having, but we need the moisture to supply us water for the rest of the year.

Last year, we had roughly 90 inches of snow in February, according to my rough calculations. This year, we have not had any snow during the month of February. The snow on our driveway has melted leaving our driveway dry and snow free. The snowpack that had  accumulated has compacted and melted down to less than two feet. Where it has melted in many places, it has become ice which makes walking hazardous.

The above photo reveals our outdoor cooking stove which is now above the snow and we usually don’t see it until spring unless we shovel it out to use for cooking a cowboy breakfast.

While this weather is delightful, it is also troublesome inasmuch as I’m used to being outside clearing snow, chopping ice and all the other aspects of winter we are faced with every year. Finding myself in a weather vacuum and not being able to do the chores I need to do because of either the snow remaining on the ground coupled with the nice weather is uncomfortable for me.

What snow that hasn’t melted has now become ice, crusted or is granular and footing is treacherous in those areas. Somehow, it seems ridiculous to put sealer on the woodshed wearing snow shoes plus shoveling it away is far too labor intensive. While the temperature would allow application of sealer the footing and remaining snow does not make it practical. It is easy to become bored with the inability to do needed tasks like gathering firewood, staining or sealing buildings or performing other repairs with the nice change of weather.

While this would not seem to be a problem for many, it is for us, because when living in a semi arid state where our moisture suddenly stops we become concerned. We need moisture for our streams, lakes, wells and reservoirs. We also need it for the necessary moisture to keep our wildfire hazard down.

Last year in February, we received according to my rough calculation 90 inches of snowfall during the month of February, and this year we have had zero inches. Being able to sit outside in our lawn chairs enjoying the warmer temperatures and sunshine just seems abnormal in February.

I hear some very intelligent people say that there is no climate change problem, and yet when I am sitting in the sun in my lawn chair in the middle of winter, I wonder how they can conclude that it does not exist. California is still in the middle of a drought and the East Coast and Midwest are experiencing radical and different weather patterns.

It seems to me that we only have to look around us to see that something is clearly happening. Every day when I turn on the weather news, it seems that we have set a new record for temperature. Here in the mountains, I notice that the songbirds are coming  back and some of our trees are starting to make leaves and it is only February. It has been so warm that I have observed some flies buzzing around outside.

It appears to me that there are some pretty obvious signs that something has or is changing and the normal is now different. I’m not able to predict how this will affect us in the future but clearly we are going to have to plan and change with the different weather pattern if we want to maintain our current lifestyle.

The National Weather Service is predicting snow for us tomorrow, and I can only hope they are right this time because we clearly need the moisture. From everything I have observed occurring around us it seems to me that to deny climate change is very much like sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich. If you don’t see it, then it is not there, but from our perspective this time it is there and it is troublesome and something to be concerned about.

Like most people, we will enjoy this weather while we can. But really, sitting out in our lawn chairs in shirt sleeves during February? This may be one of the strangest of winters we have yet to experience at our elevation. It seems to me that we need to pay very close attention to the scientific reports on climate change.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and living at high altitude go to their personal blog. Read all of Bruce's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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