GAIL LETHBRIDGE: The ups and downs of a Nova Scotia winter
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Another week, another spin around the winter weather wheel of snow, ice, rain and wind.
We’ve been hit by another rain event this week, this time accompanied by strong winds, falling branches and power outages.
Winter in this part of the world is not easy. If you love winter, you’ll love outdoor winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling.
You hope the weather cycle won’t ruin your plans, but often it will.
We can go from fluffy snow to ice, slush and mud and back to ice in 24 hours. I don’t know of many outdoor winter sports that lend themselves to this particular combination.
I sold my two sets of cross country skis last year. I had classic cross-country skis and skating skis.
As such a good Canadian, I love being in nature and doing these sports in the fresh cold air, but I was fed up with the rain ruining the party and always having to chase the snow. If you can’t hit the road right away and take advantage of a fresh snowfall, you’ll lose your ideal conditions with the weather cycle.
If you’re into cross-country skiing, spend your weekends heading north to New Brunswick in search of snow.
I sold my downhill skis a few years ago for similar reasons. Here in Nova Scotia, the ski slopes have adapted to the weather by investing in snowmaking equipment that provides a foundation for the slopes. Then rainstorms come and sabotage them. Even if the snow survives, who wants to ski in the rain?
And this isn’t just a Nova Scotia problem for the ski industry. Ski resorts in the European Alps are closing this year due to a lack of snow.
I gave up those sports and turned to a more reliable winter sport: curling. The ice rink always has the right temperature, whatever the weather.
It’s hard for someone like me to say if this is a weather or climate change issue.
Weather is defined as conditions occurring today or this month. It includes measurements like temperature, humidity, wind speed and barometric pressure.
In a place like Nova Scotia, all you have to do is wait a minute and all that will change.
This is especially true in winter, because our temperatures often hover around the freezing point. A degree up or down can mean the difference between rain, snow and ice.
Climate, on the other hand, is a long-term atmospheric state influenced by phenomena such as El Nino, the jet stream, and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.
As the international community struggles to stave off climate catastrophes such as extreme heat, fires and floods, I have to wonder if our inconsistent winters in Nova Scotia aren’t another consequence of climate change.
I grew up in Dartmouth and remember the Winter Carnival every February. Many of the events centered on frozen lakes and involved snow. Every year we enjoyed outdoor skating parties and building snow sculptures.
Now we have open water on the lakes and when there is ice it is dangerously thin.
I noticed this week that the doomsday clock is getting closer to midnight than ever before. It’s 90 seconds now.
The people behind this watch aren’t just a bunch of Debbie Downers. It is set by nuclear scientists and Nobel laureates tracking threats to humanity.
They say the war in Ukraine has increased the nuclear threat, but the clock has already been pushed by things like the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. They also identify cybersecurity and disinformation as major threats to democracy.
I guess we can focus on the positives of warm winters and be happy we’re shoveling less than we used to. But given the above, I’ll take the shoveling and the snowy, cold winters.