Bill Daniel­son bids adieu to win­ter but has he called time-of-death too soon?

The Victoria Standard - - Front Page - BILL DANIEL­SON

At 1:15 pm on March 20, Earth’s north­ern hemi­sphere skid­ded from win­ter into spring. And, amaz­ingly, the south­ern hemi­sphere swam from sum­mer into au­tumn at the very same in­stant! We had reached the ver­nal equinox, that point where the axis of our Space­ship Earth was aimed nei­ther to­wards nor away from the sun. At that mo­ment, six months of so­lar de­pri­va­tion ended for us, and six months of so­lar ex­cess set in. Yes, for the next six months, ev­ery day will grace us with more sun­light (ig­nor­ing clouds) than any day over the past half year.

Of course, we all know that late March and even April can pro­duce win­try weather. In fact, aver­age snow­fall for In­go­nish in April is about 35cm. But I have a col­umn to write, so I’m say­ing that win­ter ended on its ap­pointed date, and here is its obit­u­ary (if I’ve ex­ag­ger­ated its demise, I’ll is­sue a retraction next month):

It is with a feel­ing of deep in­dif­fer­ence that we an­nounce the pass­ing of the win­ter of 2017-2018 in Cape Bre­ton. The sea­son be­gan with promise, and did pro­duce one or two spec­tac­u­lar mo­ments, but it frit­tered away most of its time and en­ergy on un-win­try en­ter­prises. A last-minute at­tempt to as­sert it­self came too late to re­cover op­por­tu­ni­ties lost in mid­dle age.

The late win­ter’s por­trait, shown here for In­go­nish, il­lus­trates a great deal about its char­ac­ter. Note its ragged pro­file. The tem­per­a­ture (jagged blue line) tracked an er­ratic path, zig­ging up and zag­ging down in great jumps. This in­de­ci­sion typ­i­fied the win­ter’s over­all per­son­al­ity.

Com­par­ing the 2017-2018 tem­per­a­tures (blue line) with long-term mean val­ues (shown by the black curve), it’s ev­i­dent that the past win­ter ran a slight fever through­out much of its 90-day ex­is­tence. Only the first two weeks or so were colder than nor­mal, and even that stretch was in­ter­rupted twice, on Christ­mas Eve and Jan. 5, by leaps far above the norm.

The win­ter’s most no­table and most warmly re­mem­bered achieve­ment oc­curred on Jan. 12 and 13, when tem­per­a­tures soared to sum­mer­time val­ues. At Bay St. Lawrence, the mer­cury peaked at 20.1C, ap­par­ently set­ting an un­of­fi­cial all-time Jan­uary tem­per­a­ture record for the Prov­ince of Nova Sco­tia. Other Vic­to­ria County sites were close be­hind: 18.4 at Cape North and Smelt Brook, and 17.0 at In­go­nish, whose min­i­mum tem­per­a­ture on the 12th was +8.6, more than nine de­grees warmer than its nor­mal daily Jan­uary high!

The graph of snow depth for In­go­nish (or­ange line) fur­ther de­picts the win­ter’s in­de­ci­sive tem­per­a­ment. A slow, but steady build-up ended abruptly with the Jan­uary “heat wave”, but quickly re­cov­ered to 31cm on Jan­uary 18. There­after, snow cover mainly de­clined due to re­cur­rent rain events (shown as green “R”s on the por­trait). Fe­bru­ary ac­tu­ally re­ceived more pre­cip­i­ta­tion than the norm, over 100mm in the first week, but most of it came as rain. In­go­nish had no snow cover for nearly three weeks in Fe­bru­ary and early March.

The past win­ter will also be re­mem­bered un­fondly for its winds. Days when Cape Bre­ton’s winds gusted over 80km/h are marked with “W”s on the por­trait. That’s a lot of days! On March 13, gusts reached 150 at Henry Is­land, 146 at Grand Etang, and 122 at Bay St. Lawrence. (Thanks, Jonathan Buf­fet.) On many other days, the winds, if lighter, seemed re­lent­less. For the first two weeks of March, raw east­erly winds gusted to 60km/h or more nearly ev­ery day.

A proper obit­u­ary men­tions the fam­ily of the de­ceased. Un­for­tu­nately, I can’t do that be­cause I don’t know their names, but they are out there. We might see one of them next win­ter, or the one af­ter that. I know this be­cause rapid warm­ing in the Arc­tic is pro­duc­ing weaker and loop­ier jet streams, which steer weather sys­tems in quirky ways. This past win­ter, sev­eral north­bound storms passed just to our west, while oth­ers crossed the Great Lakes bound for Que­bec, in both cases pulling warm air and rain across Cape Bre­ton. These are quite un­usual pat­terns for win­ter! But I sus­pect they may be typ­i­cal of other win­ters to come.

The win­ter of 2017-2018 in one com­pact di­a­gram! Daily mean tem­per­a­tures (jagged blue line), snow depth, rainy days (R) and windy days (w) at In­go­nish. The smooth grey curve shows long-term mean daily tem­per­a­tures. Data from En­vi­ron­ment Canada.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.