It’s hard for us to understand just what you’re going through because, well, we’re not. At the time of year when we’re usually bundled up in our Canada Goose parkas, plugging in our cars and wondering what we’re doing in this god-forsaken place, we are instead pondering whether it’s already time to think about taking off the snow tires.
Our ski hills are going through the worst winter in at least a decade. Some, including Mount Washington on Vancouver Island and Castle Mountain in southern Alberta, have actually given up the fight and closed for the season. Even some of those that have stayed open are full of slush and mud.
Then we talk to friends and relatives in Ontario and hear stories about -40 wind chills, snow storms and other frigid cruelties not normally visited on central Canada. And, how about that East Coast?
The world, quite simply, has turned upside down. Our backyard rinks are nothing but distant brown memories; our highways are eerily bare and frost-free.
Some people shake all this weirdness off as just one of those years, but you’ll forgive us westerners for wondering whether any of this has something to do with global warming. Officially, the diagnosis is that the weather is affected by unusual behaviour of the polar jet stream. A report by the U.K. Met Office called the behaviour a “persistent pattern of perturbations.”
This year, according to the Met Office, the jet has been unusually far north in the Pacific, bringing warm weather all the way up to Alaska. Across the Atlantic, it has been unusually far south, and about one-third faster than normal. Britain alone has experienced 30 intense storms in the past three months.
It’s happened before, but the big debate is over what’s causing the jet stream to act up. Climate scientists tell us it’s a sign of things to come. Climatologist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, for example, recently told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago that the changes in the jet stream have been caused by warming temperatures in the Arctic. Kinda like a more believable version of The Day After Tomorrow.
“Weather patterns are changing,” Francis said. “We can expect more of the same.”
I won’t kid you – there are people in the West who welcome this trend. A couple solid weeks of -30 will put you into that frame of mind. They’re the people who would normally be booking flights to Phoenix right about now. This year? Why bother?
But I’m not one of them. Cold, dark and snowy winters can try your spirit, for sure, but it’s a big part of what we think of when we think of western Canada. And there is absolutely nothing that can compare with a sunny, frosty cross-country ski trip through the dry, powdery snow in Rocky Mountain valleys.
Much as this balmy weather has been a welcome break, westerners miss their authentic winters. And Western Canadians want them back. If this is the face of real climate change, then we’re ready to trade in our 4X4s right now and start driving Nissan LEAFs.
And we hope for your sake, Ontario, that the planet gets back to normal soon. Bitter cold isn’t your thing. It’s ours.
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.