Saturday, January 8, 2011

Climate Change...

From a purely local point of view, our local climate began to change somewhere around the end of the 1920s, becoming very much milder, both in terms of summer and winter weather. We’ve had some weather “anomalies” in recent years, that to someone born in the last 50 years feel extreme, but when viewed from the perspective of the last 100 years, is still not a return to pre 1930s patterns. I have less knowledge of history outside of the Pacific Northwest of North America, but the little I know about the American midwest tells me that they have a similar experience.

Here are two short bits that are from a book written in 1983, by some elementary students who, with the help of their teacher, interviewed some old timers and got or found pictures to go with it, about the Cedar Cottage area of Vancouver, BC, Canada. The book deals with a period from 1911 to 1963, and is representative of things I used to read in the 1970s about the Fraser Valley, when I was still a boy. Stories like this abound if you read historical books about our area!

First excerpt – note that Trout Lake is in the middle of Vancouver, BC:

“… We used to figure we could swim in Trout Lake March 21st. That was our first day of swimming. It was hotter then than it is now…” Quote from a George Forbes from the Cedar Cottage area of Vancouver.

Swimming in March these days would be terribly uncomfortable. Warm weather prior to May is a real abnormal treat! We often have our last snow fall in April!

This next quote by a Velma McKinnon is also about Trout Lake: “We’d have at least a month of skating down here. The entrepreneurs would put up tents around here and put little stoves in them, and you could rent skates from these tents…”

Trout Lake has never frozen over, in my entire life, with enough ice to hold a person safely, and it has only completely frozen over, always with what was called unsafe levels of ice, about 2 or 3 times, in my 51 years of living.

I know a local historian who tells that the year his mother immigrated here in 1929 was the last time that the Fraser River froze over completely. I know of old timers who used to tell me that EVERY YEAR it would freeze over and farmers would drive their carts over! It has never frozen over enough to let a human cross since I’ve been around (51 years now), let alone with enough ice for a horse and cart to cross!

I’m curious how these types of stories play out in other parts of the world. I’m in the North American north-west region. Ignoring this year’s anomalies, which may feel like they are of “biblical proportions”, when you read historical accounts about your area, do they indicate significant changes in general weather patterns prior to current times?

For instance, did weather in your region seem to change significantly between say 1910 and 1960? Or between 1930 and 2000? Did it get warmer in your summers, colder in your winters, both, or perhaps, as in our case, milder in both cases? Wetter or drier? Does the current shift feel like a partial correction back to previous patterns? Or perhaps an over correction?

I’m curious how this plays out where you live. I'm looking for anecdotal historical accounts, as I trust these the best.

Post your reply as a comment! Remember to indicate what location your response refers to.

[addendum] Please don't give me the usual "average temps rose 0.n degrees" stuff, as it is actually not very informative. The two simultaneous changes the above anecdotes indicate would have had a cancelling affect, and the averages would not have indicated as much as the anecdotes.