Snow business

I used to get irritated over snow. I even have a tag for this blog called damn snow. But now I just don’t care much about it and I have climate change to thank for it.

Let me explain.

The area around southwestern BC is temperate rain forest. This means it rarely gets too hot or too cold. But it does rain a lot. Like, for half the year a lot.

Except it doesn’t do that much anymore.

It used to be that winters were pretty mild—temperatures consistently above freezing—and we got lots of rain, days and weeks of unrelenting rain. You could almost smell the SAD coming off people as they glumly trudged around through one downpour after another, batting their umbrellas against one another on crowded sidewalks.

When we got snow, it was usually because it just got cold enough for it, meaning it was a heavy, wet snow. The cold wouldn’t last long. Sometimes it felt like minutes. And as the temperature rose, the snow would change to rain.

The rain would relentlessly pound away at the accumulated snow, making it into a slush sea and turning intersections into lakes, with the melting snow jamming up all the sewer drains. It made crossing the street a bit of an adventure. Not the good kind of adventure, though, the “Hey, my pants are soaked up to my knees” kind of adventure.

But for some time that hasn’t really happened. Now it’s more typical for snowfall to occur when it’s too cold to change to rain, and when the weather clears, it stays cold, so the snow melts slowly, instead of turning into vast oceans of slush under ceaseless sheets of rain. This is generally a nice change, because it is more pleasant to deal with slowly melting snow than slush rivers that swallow vehicles whole.

The downside is the snow can hang around a lot longer. I think back two years ago, to our last great snowpocalypse. I ran in the first week of December 2016. It snowed a few days later. No biggie, I think, I’ll miss a week while the snow melts away.

It did not melt. It snowed again. It snowed some more and we had a rare white Christmas. We had a white New Year’s Eve. A white Valentine’s Day. Every time the snow started to melt, another system would sweep in, and because it remained cold, it just piled on more snow.

It finally seemed that by early March the snow was going away for good—then it snowed yet again, making it three months where I could not run outside at my preferred locations because they were never not covered in hard-packed, icy snow.

That was a bit of a bummer. I adapted by running on treadmills instead. It hardly ever snows inside.

All of this is likely due to climate change. The winters here, usually mild and wet, are trending toward dry, with snow taking the place of rain. It’s not consistent, of course. This past December was wet and mild, but January was cooler and dry. Not cold—not until this past week, anyway— just dry instead of wet.

I can live with that. In fact, I like it. But I know it’s because the climate is changing and this is the new normal and the new normal is generally going to be Very Bad for humans and so I feel guilty for enjoying it.

But I still enjoy it.

So I no longer curse the damn snow, because while it can be more persistent than before, winters are overall a lot nicer than they used to be, even if it means we as a species are probably doomed. You take the good with the bad.

Photo of the Day, February 10, 2019

A few hours into the first big snow of the winter, as seen from the entrance to the condo building mid-Sunday afternoon.

Snowflakes: Beautiful under the microscope

How can something so stunningly elegant and pretty be such a pain to shovel?

New Scientist magazine has about a dozen images of snowflakes captured using a unique snowflake photomicroscope. The images can be viewed here. The symmetry and grace of these tiny things helps remind me that sometimes the earth is a pretty cool place (no pun intended).