Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter is changing

I still have that childlike delight at the thought of snow falling from the sky. Maybe it's because we are lucky if we get snow twice a year at my house these days.

Early photographic records of this city show that people use to go skating on the Gorge Inlet almost every winter. This is amazing because it's a briny (semi-salt water) bit of tidal water and if I remember what they taught me about ice and snow back in my elementary school days in Ontario, water with salt in it doesn't freeze all that well. They also taught me not to touch metal objects with my tongue when it's cold.

Not too far from here, maybe a five minute drive, tops, if you get every single red light and stop to check your oil en route, in the winter of 1881, the Royal Navy squadron was visiting our city, celebrating BC joining Canada, became ice-locked in James Bay. Now that's practically ocean water (yes, it's a strait not an ocean, I think, and that part of it is even more sheltered, but that just makes it more impressive).

Several of the local lakes use to have skating pavilions set up on the thick ice that use to form there during the winter, every winter, and hold skating parties. The ice was THAT thick. I know several people who are old enough to remember these.

I wonder what happened in the last few decades (what?, fifty, sixty, seventy years?) to change from almost-eastern-Canada-winters to city where all season tires is an exceptional luxury (we usually just have rain tires, or let them go bald, that's popular too) and snow tires, snow shovels and snow boots are unheard of outside that select circle that goes skiing on the weekends. I love the blank looks you get sometimes when mentioning snow chains to a resident of Victoria.

Within living memory we have gone from a city with real winter - ice, snow, mittens, and toques - to a city where all season tires are as common as all season footwear (sandals in the summer, socks and sandals in the winter). That is to say, I just saw a fellow walking past my house in shorts and 'winter footwear'. It's below zero out there! Wind chill of something like minus three. That's MINUS three! Actually, it's shocking that we have a windchill report. that in itself is an oddity.

Winter in this city is not Rick Mercer's winter. Yes, we have the fender benders, but not quite so many because once we have more than five centimeters on the ground, everyone but the foolish or the extremely dedicated stays home until it melts and lives off of canned beans or whatever they have hanging around the house until the shops open up again.

I remember reading 12 or 13 years ago that one of the local municipalities sold their two snow ploughs. I find that incredible. The fact that they only had two ploughs and that the very next winter we had a monstrous amount of snow. Some had told me at the time, and I don't know if this is true or not, that the city counsel wanted the money to spend on year round outdoor flower arrangements. Knowing this city, I can believe that.

I think that this is convincing evidence that climate change is happening and has been happening for some time now. It's curious how the weather change correlates to the beginning of the industrial revolution, but whether that is just a correlation or an actual causal link, I'm not able to say. But I think, from the little I know about the world, that climate change happens whether we want it too or not; however, we have major influence as to just how bad things get.

I think I'll layer up, put on my 'winter footwear' and go take some photos.

1 comment:

Josiane said...

That's interesting! Having heard a little about how winters are in your area nowadays, I never would have guessed there were "real" winters there not that long ago. The change seems to be quite radical.