Don’t park your parka

Northern Pen - - Editorial -

It was a sur­real scene last week­end, which con­tin­ued into the week across At­lantic Canada. Peo­ple shopped at stores wear­ing parkas. The faith­ful at­tended church in heavy coats and gloves. Tourists scat­tered like quail from camp­grounds. Golfers fled for shel­ter when hail and snow made greens un­playable. Bon­fires were built to avoid hy­pother­mia, not to toast marsh­mal­lows. Fish­er­men as­sessed trap dam­age fol­low­ing gales and pound­ing waves.

Driv­ers scraped ice from car wind­shields. Mo­torists won­dered if they had their win­ter tires taken off too early. Week­end bar­be­cues were con­fined to garages as wind­chills were too se­vere for decks and bal­conies. Gar­den­ers looked on in de­spair as their bulbs and flow­ers were coated in frost.

Was it still April, or per­haps the start of May?

No. It was early June, a month which is sup­posed to be bust­ing out all over, with flow­ers bloom­ing and birds singing.

And the cruel irony? It some places it hap­pened af­ter a day of record-high temperatures. The heat set off a growth spurt among trees and crops.

Mi­ramichi, N.B. for ex­am­ple, went from break­ing a 140-year-old record high on June 1 of 32.7 C, to a 91-year-old record low on June 3 of -0.6.

Then a se­ries of heavy frosts struck, dev­as­tat­ing crops, de­spite farm­ers’ fran­tic ef­forts. The worst hit ar­eas were in Nova Sco­tia, es­pe­cially the An­napo­lis Val­ley, where temperatures dropped to -4. Half the prov­ince’s wine grapes were de­stroyed.

P.E.I.’s po­tato crop largely es­caped, while the im­pact on straw­berry, blue­berry and other crops is still be­ing as­sessed.

Many farm­ers haven’t seen such a dev­as­tat­ing pe­riod in more than 40 years. And it isn’t over. Wed­nes­day was frosty and a frost warn­ing was is­sued for last night across much of New­found­land and Labrador. At least two sig­nif­i­cant snow events struck N.L. in re­cent weeks.

Other parts of Canada are en­joy­ing sea­son­able temperatures, and our Amer­i­can neigh­bours en­joyed a record-break­ing May.

What is hap­pen­ing here?

Alas, we’ve been stuck in a rut with low­pres­sure troughs en­trenched from Hud­son Bay to­wards Labrador. The key to the puzzle is a warmer rib­bon of above-nor­mal sea temperatures which has sur­faced south of the Mar­itimes. This anom­aly needs an­other in­gre­di­ent — an am­ple sup­ply of cold air, and we have that aplenty. When cooler air pushes south to the At­lantic, then ro­bust, chilly, low­pres­sure sys­tems are created.

Me­te­o­rol­o­gists tell us we’re en­ter­ing a colder phase along the Eastern Seaboard, be­cause of At­lantic mul­ti­decadal os­cil­la­tion (AMO). Well, we’ve al­ready seen enough of AMO. The best ad­vice for At­lantic Cana­di­ans this June-uary is don’t put the win­ter coats at the back of the closet just yet.

And keep a scraper handy.

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