It has been snowing. A lot. February is over and March started with cold, rain and snow. Spring welcomes us with colder weather. In the bar of the square someone says aloud that at last we are having a winter like before. He rejoices in the comment and minimises the problem of global warming. There are still winters like before, there is not so much greenhouse effect. “No summer, but has its winter.”
Yes, we have had good snowfalls such as we had not seen in years. At most one or two in the last decade. But in 2018, these have come a little late. Nothing serious. We have known late snowfalls before. Even in May. Or in June, on someone’s wedding day, I know not whose.
But the explanation for the cold in our latitudes lies in the arctic heat. “Crazy”, in the words of Mark Serreze, Director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. He has been studying the Arctic since 1982, and as he says in The Guardian about the temperature in the Arctic, “These heat waves – I’ve never seen anything like this.”
We like to go back a few decades, to recall that one-off hailstorm in the middle of summer. But we forget that last year, 2017 was news because of the heat. A summer that broke heat wave records. During the autumn we coined the portmanteau sumtumn. Drought and new records of the highest temperatures measured at this time of year. The cold and the rain arrived at the end of February, when the almond trees were starting to bloom.
Experts warn that the cold weather we are experiencing this spring, with lower temperatures than usual, snow and hail, is the result of the displacement of masses of air that the winter heat has displaced. These should be cooling the Arctic to maintain the large reserves of ice that maintain the climate as we know it. They are now over Europe, while the North Pole is experiencing abnormally high temperatures and more and more ice is being lost. Likewise, we are discovering new processes in the Antarctic ice that alert us to an acceleration in the thaw.
The cause of what we have experienced in the first quarter of 2018 seems to be the consequence of the heat we experienced at the end of 2017. Prudence tells us not to over-dramatise, but there is a certain likelihood that we will have to get used to a new pattern. Summer that will get longer and drier. Unpredictable winters with extreme cold. With autumn and spring blurring, practically non-existent. One day we’ll need our coats and the next they’ll be overmuch.
Or maybe he’s right, maybe it is a winter like before. Hopefully, we will return to those bygone winters, followed by their springs, their summers, autumns and real winters. Let’s hope for April showers, rather than the sudden flooding of rivers, as over-exposed in the media. We will see if “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.” Or if we have to start inventing new adages with which to teach future generations what they might expect from the climate in the environment in which they will live.