Wednesday, January 10, 2007

New Normal: Winter Arrives Three Weeks Late

Well, there's finally some snow on the ground. It came as somewhat of a surprise to the roses and other small flowers that began to bloom in the past three weeks. And it's not likely to last long either. I have decided not to shovel any of it, figuring that most of it will have melted by tomorrow.

My trusty snow shovel has now not seen action since late February of 2005 and I'm pushing for 2 full years of non-shoveling bliss. I doubt that I'll make it, despite the outright manifestation of Global Warming we've witnessed recently. NOAA reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record, by a blistering 2.2 degrees over the averages from the 20th century.

Also of interest is that five states (New York, Minnesota, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire) set records for warmth in December 2006. The implications for the future are manifold. In Minnesota, ice-fishing tournaments have been canceled because many of the lakes haven't frozen over. Utility bills have been slashed from previous years (a welcome relief for many) and how would you like to be the proud owner of a ski resort? Or a fleet of snow plows? Word has it either are available at bargain prices.

The weather has been the story thus far this winter (beyond the lost but not forgotten Fast Ferry). If you have any doubts about the effects of Global Warming, you can check out this exceptional study by the Union of Concerned Scientists titled Climate Change in the U.S. Northeast.

Among their interesting findings:
Since 1970, the region has been warming at a rate of nearly 0.5oF per decade. Winter temperatures have risen even faster, at a rate of 1.3oF per decade from 1970 to 2000.

Since 1850, for example, the date of spring ice-out on lakes in the Northeast has shifted earlier in the year by nine days in the northern states and 16 days in the southern part of the region.

First-leaf dates have advanced two days per decade from 1960 to 2001, while first-bloom dates have moved more than a day earlier each decade.

What these and other findings mean, in human terms, is that when Scott Hetsko or Glenn Johnson report that our high was X degrees above normal, they're actually off by roughly five degrees in the winter (and 2-3 in the summer), as the "new normal" - using figures from 1970 to 2005 - are significantly higher than the overall average.

The science also posits that spring now arrives on average 8-10 days earlier than the usual March 21. Winter is becoming a very short season, generally commencing early in January and ending early March. Instead of the brutal long winters many of us became accustomed to in the 1950s and 60s, the winters of the future may be milder and only two months long.

Here's a link to the overview page. The actual report is available for free download as a PDF. Must reading if you plan to live anywhere in the Northeast for an extended period of time.

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At 7:32 AM, Blogger Donni said...

Rick, think you have an interesting blog, nice light-hearted fluent style there (no doubt lubricated by beers on the deck enjoying global warming...)... Donni


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