Erratic Winters? ó Worse to Come

Andrew Dwornik

Early last year a notable Canadian climatologist expressed surprise at how warm the winter of 2001/2 was, especially when compared with the previous winter that he described as the longest on record. According to his definition, "Winter is snow on the ground: and during that winter 2000/1 we had snow for 104 continuous days. He went on to say that "Global warming had nothing to do with whatís going on." Again late last fall, after a colder than normal October, our climatologists were projecting a warmer than usual December and January because of the pending El Nino effect. Well, itís obvious now how appropriate that forecast was.

However, these winters are not unusual and not surprising if we admit that the greenhouse effect and global warming do have an impact on our weather. When global warming started to creep into planet earthís climate, our climatologists had a rather long period of stable weather patterns and reasonable success with weather predictions. The our atmospheric pollution began causing increases in the greenhouse effect and global warming. This in turn caused the weather patterns to change to where our climatologists, using the old patterns, are increasingly in error, especially in long-term forecasting. The weather patterns will continue to change; the distortions will continue to increase.

Weather patterns are changing because global temperature rise is not even. Generally, the temperature rise is greater in the hot parts of the planet than in the cold parts. And, as we all know, winds are created by the difference between hot and cold air masses. So, since the difference between hot and cold has increased, the resulting winds have to increase in both strength and duration. This includes the jet stream whose path is also subject to the position and size of the warm and cold air masses. These changes will continue for a long time, after all, it takes up to 50 years and more for some of our pollutants to get up into that part of the atmosphere where they do their damage, deteriorating the climate.

Here are some examples of what is happening:

1. In 1999 PEI had its normal amount of summer rainfall but considerably below their average potato crop. This was because the changing wind patterns produced a very dry spring and a very wet fall. Farmers had difficulty harvesting the poor crop in very muddy fields.

2. The current prolonged drought in Alberta and Saskatchewan is the result of a stronger than "normal" wind blowing the moisture clouds across Alberta and Saskatchewan into Manitoba. So Alberta and Saskatchewan lack enough rain and Manitoba is getting too much for their normal crops. Farmers are suffering in all three Prairie Provinces.

3. Watching the weather channel, it is obvious that both high and low temperatures are being exceeded almost every year. The old, long-standing records were mostly exceeded in the last 10 to 15 years. This is more evidence of the greenhouse effect, advancing global warming and changing weather patterns.

4. Recently in Southern Louisiana rain fell at the rate of 3 inches per hour for six hours continuously, for an accumulated total of 18 inches of water. The forecasters admitted that this tremendously exceeded their forecast of a "a strong storm with heavy rain expected" as it broke all non-hurricane records.

5. The massive 1993 Mississippi flood resulted in a lot of crop and property damage. So wisely some towns were moved out of the flood plain. That same spring, Ontario was blessed with 90 degree F plus for a high temperature all 15 days during the first half of April.

6. Last year one southern state had 50 recorded tornadoes in one 24 hour period. And about 10 years earlier a neighbouring state had a 71-tornado night. This is topped by a meteorologist comment "and the tornadoes are getting bigger."

7. In 1997 Chileís northern desert received 30 cm. of rain. Thatís more than the previous 30 years combined.

Admittedly, a pointed narrow view of each of these events individually can easily lead to attaching a label like "unusual," "once-in-a-lifetime," etc., event. However, taking these events as a broad comprehensive trend we must admit the impact of the greenhouse effect and global warming is real.

Climatologists! Good luck with your prognostications, especially if you stick to the old, long-standing weather patterns. In the meanwhile, weather distortions will continue to change in both frequency and strength. You think this is the worst? A lot worse is coming!

Andrew Dwornik

Andrew Dwornik is a high-school teacher in Welland, Ontario.

ó from Economic Reform, August 2003