It’s not you, it’s the yo-yo style weather

Freeze-thaw days and mild temps? You can’t tell if win­ter is com­ing or go­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local - JON WELLS [email protected]­pec.com 905-526-3515 | @jon­jwells

Re­ally, is this what win­ter has come to?

The once re­li­ably beastly sea­son now as fleet­ing and fickle as the here-to­day-gone-to­mor­row dig­i­tal age we surf in?

Yes, it’s cold and snowy again. For a lit­tle while.

Dave Phillips, En­vi­ron­ment Canada guru, please ex­plain this yo-yo win­ter and tell us what the dart­board — er, long-range fore­cast — says.

“I think the per­cep­tion is cor­rect that it has been quite vari­able, al­most as if win­ter has not got a foothold,” he said.

De­spite win­ter’s lit­tle kick in our shins on the week­end, the num­bers back him. It’s been a mild one. Typ­i­cally, be­tween Nov. 1 and Jan. 10, the Hamil­ton area would have 30 “freeze-thaw” days, where the tem­per­a­ture drops below freez­ing and rises into plus-ter­ri­tory in a 24-hour pe­riod.

This win­ter, says the se­nior cli­ma­tol­o­gist, there have been 47 freeze-thaw days dur­ing that stretch, which is why you can’t tell if win­ter is com­ing or go­ing.

There have been only 11 days with freez­ing tem­per­a­tures around the clock. Nor­mally, there’d be dou­ble that by now.

Also, so far the cold­est mo­ment has been Nov. 22, when the tem­per­a­ture dropped to -15 C, but by this time last year there had been 14 days colder than that.

And the area has had less than 30 cen­time­tres of snow, about half of what is nor­mal.

This, even though it seemed like our hot sum­mer would be a pre­lude to a nasty win­ter.

Phillips says the rea­son for the tepid sea­son has been southerly air that keeps be­ing pushed north: “The phrase po­lar-vor­tex has not been ut­tered yet.”

Does any­one lament it? “I don’t think many are com­plain­ing; maybe skiers, ice fish­ers.”

A few icewine mak­ers have re­port­edly ex­pressed con­cern about the grow­ing con­di­tions, al­though at least one of them, John Koc­sis, of At­lantis Ni­a­gara Wines in Beamsville, says it’s what he ex­pects.

“Truth­fully, swings in tem­per­a­ture cre­ate bet­ter qual­ity icewine. Freezes and thaws get rid of ex­cess wa­ter in the berry, the flavours be­come much more con­cen­trated.”

As for the rest of the sea­son, Phillips sug­gests that old man win­ter might still show his blush­ing face.

He says the dead of win­ter, the point at which we reach the cold­est mo­ment, is typ­i­cally around Jan. 23. “At that point we can say more win­ter is be­hind us than in front of us.”

His model for the rest of win­ter? “Ei­ther warmer than nor­mal, or un­cer­tain.”

Re­call the wis­dom of co­me­dian Ge­orge Car­lin, in his role as Al Sleet the Hippy Dippy Weath­er­man, in 1966: “Weather tonight: Dark. Turn­ing light by morn­ing.”

JOHN RENNISON THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Judy Pierce does dou­ble duty as she tries to clear snow in front of her Strath­cona Av­enue apart­ment build­ing while hold­ing onto puppy Bent­ley Cooper.

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