Just too damn much beautiful weather

Losing our appetite for summer drought

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VANCOUVER, B.C. July 5, 2015/ Troy Media/ – May was hot and dry this year; June was hotter and drier. My weather app forecasts at least 10 more days of cloudless 28 to 30 degrees in July.

We are experiencing day after day what we grew up thinking of as “beautiful weather.” But there’s a catch this year – there seems to be too damn much of it.

At Skelhp, we’re talking about the weather in a different way down at the government wharf and at the Saturday Farmers’ Market. For the first time in these parts, people are starting to wonder if all of this good weather is really a basic local indicator of climate change.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and there’s never been a May and June like the ones we just had,” said one.

“Just look at the salaal right now – the leaves are drying up and falling off. Normally you don’t see this kind of leaf kill until late August,” said another.

“We just went up and checked the water level in the well yesterday. It is now where it was half- way through August last year. It’s just the beginning of July, for god’s sake!” said a third.

Don’t water the squash

The fellow who runs the vegetable stall at the Farmers’ Market is dispensing counter-intuitive advice about watering the crops.

“Go easy on the squash. Too much water in this kind of heat only causes them to bolt to seed. You’ll get damn few squash with too much water. And the same holds true for pumpkins, zucchini and broad beans. . . . I know it doesn’t make sense, but it does.”

We share our water source, a mountainside spring that emerges from a rock fissure surrounded by cooling Douglas firs and cedars, with two other neighbours. The oldest of us, and the longest resident, has never seen the spring go dry in 70 years of use.

We hope it stays that way, because his local campground business depends on it, along with our families.

We’ve only experienced a few waterless days in 12 years, and they were caused by freezing, uninsulated water pipes during a week-long February cold snap. We had guests and the fun went out of the party when toilettes stopped flushing and tea and coffee became impossible.

We made a quick trip to town for large plastic jugs to gather creek water and fibreglass strips of pipe insulation. We made do and basically toughed it out around a roaring fire in the granite fireplace.

Everyone was sure glad when the thaw happened and water reappeared at the taps.

Drought in summer seems to be psychologically different than winter freeze-up drought.

Everywhere you go now you are confronted with the consequences of heat. Our biggest local waterfall, Freil Falls (at 440 metres, the highest drop on the B.C. coast), is sourced in Freil Lake, located on a low peninsula in Hotham Sound.

Beautiful weather depletes Freil Falls

Because of the lake’s low elevation, it largely misses out on snowfall and relies on rainfall for replenishment. The falls were over by June 21 this year. Last year, they persisted until mid-summer. Their absence sends a signal.

Lang Creek, our major salmon stream, is running awfully low, just as the first spawners begin to hit the river. Chinooks, pinks and coho will soon be ponding up in the lower reaches, which are already warming up.

Last weekend, the open ocean at the Skelhp shoreline was 17 degrees; 20 degrees is basically a threshold for anadromous species, with pinks especially vulnerable to heat stress. Hopefully we’ll get some mountain rains soon to lower the freshwater temperatures and enable the spawning season to begin.

At Rene’s Pasta, Rene – the proprietor born in Tunisia of French parents – specializes in the Mediterranean diet with a West Coast flare. For years, he has tried to interest his patrons in his “cold soup,” featuring an ingenious blend of zucchini and basel.

Last week, when I had lunch at his place, he announced that, “Suddenly my cool soup is a success!”

When old coasters turn on to a new diet, it worth paying attention to our beautiful weather. Something is happening.

Troy Media syndicated columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum, and the Bill Reid Gallery.

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