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Will climate change effect our winter?

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Climate change – Many people have become obsessed with the weather – and with good reason. ‘Climate Change’ often has us checking the forecast several times a day, just to decide what to wear and how to plan our activities. We have become couch-potato meteorologists, familiar with the meanings of Low Pressure and High Pressure systems or Cold Fronts and Warm Fronts. Barometric Pressure, Cloudburst and Microburst are now part of our vocabulary – along with El Niño, La Niña, Polar Vortex and Jet Stream.

Ice Storm January 1998

We take heed of Severe Thunderstorm Warnings and Special Weather Statements – and never leave the house until we take into consideration the Humidex Level or Wind Chill Factor. We know our weather forecasters names by heart and watch them as they diligently guide us through moving maps filled with every colour of the rainbow, indicating the severity and movement of weather patterns. And with all that, things can change in a ‘micro-blast’.

Ice Storm January 1998

This past year, eastern Canada saw record breaking floods during spring, followed by a wet, humid yet cool summer and record breaking heat waves in the fall. Out west, wildfires in BC burned all summer long, destroying hectares upon hectares of forest – the province’s largest total area burnt in a fire season in recorded history. Down south in the United States, monster hurricanes followed one after another causing unprecedented devastation. Around the globe, weather patterns were just as bizarre.

Ice Storm January 1998

So what does that mean for the 2017-18 winter season? Anyone who lived through the Ice Storm of 1998 might have tingles run up and down their back by now. It was an unprecedented combination of five storms creating a massive mess. Between January 4th and 10th of that year, ice basically poured down on an area from eastern Ontario to southern Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, and from northern New York to central Maine in the United States. Trees broke under the weight of the ice and the electrical infrastructure came down, leading to widespread long-term power outages with millions left in the dark for a period of several days to weeks – and in some areas for months.

Ice Storm January 1998

Montreal was basically shut down, roads were impassable as scores of workers slowly rebuilt the power grid. During that time, the city received the largest deployment of Canadian military personnel since the Korean War, with over 12,000 Canadian Forces personnel on the ground, while people struggled just for their basic needs.

Could that be in the forecast for this winter again? An ice storm of that magnitude does not seem likely, but for the southern Quebec area, climate change could be a factor. Meteorologists are forecasting a stormy winter, the likes of one we have not seen in many years.

Ice Storm January 1998

The good old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been accurate up to 80% of the time, says that ‘winter will be snowier than normal, with above-normal precipitation and near-to above-normal temperatures’. The coldest periods will be from late December into early January and late January into early to mid-February, with the snowiest periods in mid-December, early and late February, and early April.
The Weather Network’s chief meteorologist Chris Scott warned Canadians to ‘brace for a whole lot of snow this winter’ and to be prepared for a ‘stormy’ season. According to Scott, our winter weather will be impacted by a La Niña weather system, coming from the cooler waters off the coast of South America, and we can expect a ‘classic Canadian winter’ and also anticipate being ‘pounded by numerous snowstorms’ – followed by ‘sustained periods of milder weather’. But that’s where climate change and the unforeseen variables come in. Nobody predicted the extent of the 1998 ice storm.

My ‘go to’ weather forecast is on Mark Sirois’ Facebook page, the ‘Southern Quebec Severe Weather Network’. He has been the most accurate and reliable meteorologist since the words ‘Climate Change’ became a regular part of our vocabulary. Not only has he been right on when others were way off, but many professional meteorologists look to him for their forecasts. His winter forecast is in line with the others, but he also studies other weather indicators and includes potential variables and regular updates on the forecast, long and short range. He is also one to admit that weather forecasting is not an exact science, as too many factors are involved which can change the pattern in a short period of time.

Are you ready for a blast of whatever Mother Nature throws at us this season, ready to face it ‘hood’ on… like a true Canuck? Let’s hope for the best, while keeping our boots and ice-scrapers close at hand.

Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca

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