Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The Winter That Wasn't
I put a stand of firewood in my garage this year figuring it would spare me having to go out to the woodshed in back on cold winter nights. I figured it would hold enough firewood to get through maybe six weeks of winter heating. As things are looking now, the modest cache in the garage won't even need refilling this winter.
Crocuses and daffs are coming up. Trees are budding. The herbs are re-awakening. Before long it'll be time to fire up the lawnmower.
I never did get to dig out my snow shovel from the dark recesses of the garden shed. We had a sprinkling of snow, maybe half an inch, one morning but it was gone as fast as it had arrived.
My daughter has noticed it too. She figures we've entered a "sweater" climate. Her fireplace now turns her home into an oven so it's easier and more pleasant for all concerned just to throw on a sweater.
It's something of an annual rite of passage out here to needle our Eastern kin with accounts of early spring sprouting while they're still digging out from the latest blizzard. It used to be good fun. It's not funny any more.
What does this warming mean? For urban dwellers it brings some obvious benefits in even lower heating costs and driveways that go from one year to the next without need of clearing. But we share this big, sparsely populated, island with a great variety of wildlife for which this change may hold ominous consequences.
Warm winters mean reduced mountain snowpack. That snowpack plays a vital role, especially during our summer "drought" months. It's essential for salmon to spawn. Not enough fresh water to dilute the seawater at the mouths of spawning rivers and the salmon will simply not head upstream. If they do go up and spawn it takes a steady flow of cooling meltwater to keep their eggs from overheating and dying. And, of course, the salmon spawn is critical for the survival of bears, wolves, eagles and scavengers of all sorts.
Those of us who live along the coasts - Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic - tend to see the changing climate perhaps a little more clearly than the inland population. From early-onset sea level rise to marine species migration there is a range of changes showing up at our doorsteps. And just noticing it makes you wonder, okay, what's coming next?