That's been a cold spell
FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, January 15, 2009

In the past few years I have plugged the van's block heater in a few times each winter. though it starts easily and has a good battery when it gets below -25ºC it just is quite a strain to come to life easily. This winter has been different. It began in mid December when I had to get the power steering fixed twice in one week and then added a battery charger and had the block heater's electrical plug replaced. It seems that since then the thing has been connect almost every night. For the first time in January I am not plugged in because Environment Canada is promising warmer temperatures tomorrow.

All I can say is that it is about time. It seems the Jet stream that brings us most of our weather is running a bit ahead of schedule this year. We often see this run down the rocky mountains into Nevada before it turns and heads toward Newfoundland. This pattern often occurs in late January but this year it set up this path in mid December and hence the establish pattern of high pressure arctic air over us since then. It is entirely possible that this warm period we are about to experience might give us a break for some time, time enough to get a little warmth from the sun and shake off the arctic air that is right now making life miserable in the American mid west.

A lot of people are smiling and poking fun at the "global warming" warning but they need to be reminded that as the arctic ice cap melts away and the glaciers disappear more radical weather is to be expected and severe arctic winters are part of that pattern. There are several reasons for this but the main one is the change in salt content of the oceans which changes the way they absorb and give off heat thus altering the temperatures above them more quickly. You can bet that next winter will have similar cold spells because a pattern like this does not come or go away in a single year.

It is interesting that we have been getting small amounts of snow almost all along and it is starting to build up. However in norther Saskatchewan there is less snow than usual at this time of the year. The gradual snowfall has meant that places like Chicken Delight, which is shown at the top of the page sheds its heat melts the snow and the result refreezes forming the condition we see now.

I really don't understand the odd situation were some chimneys ice up and others stay clear of ice. A natural by product of combustion is water vapour and this condenses rapidly in cold conditions when it exits the house. It must have something to do with air flow as to why these one are all froze up. I took all of these pictures this morning before 11:00. By the way build up of ice like this can produce some problems for occupants of these houses and buildings so it is a good idea to check your chimney and make sure the ice is not reducing the ability of the chimney to carry the exhaust fumes away. Fortunately, the coming warm temperatures will likely clean things up for everyone.

Kevin McIntyre passed along an interesting web site that might interest those of you who pay attention to the weather. He found an outstanding web site that shows Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as seen from a weather satellite in stationery orbit high above us. The images it produces show the cloud cover and the direction of the flow of this cloud cover as it moves over the prairies.

It is really hard for each of us to make generalisations about weather and climate change is completely beyond us as individuals simply because our life span is just to short. I find that even at my age as a person in my sixties I have very little perspective on the weather. Each new year is a surprise because we tend to forget or distort the weather as it affects us personally. Was it really colder when I was a kid or did I just go out more and freeze my ears more often.

You might find it interesting to check on the daily weather observations that are recorded on this web site each day I post. On the front page just under the daily weather is a link to the log for that day and you will discover that a lot of weather has been recorded over the years that Ensign has been posting. Below are links to the log pages so that you can go back and check over what has been observed year after year, day after day.


The problem with logs like this is that it is really such a short span of time, climatically speaking and yet it is interesting to discover that weather varies far less at some times during the year then we might think. Rain, fog and storms seem to often occur within a few days of one another each successive year. In the depth of winter and the middle of summer the weather is far less regular and seems to exhibit a good deal of variation so that at this time of the year the range of choices is extreme.

The long range predictions made by the Farmers Almanac for instance rely very heavily on records because the surest way of predicting what will be is looking back and seeing what has been. Remarkably successful predictions are possible just basing weather predictions on a long range of records. Environment Canada uses a similar method but includes other variables like recent trends and the use of computer models that can give insight into what might happen based on ocean conditions and the path of ocean currents.

One of the most interesting aspects to weather expectations comes from those people who for one reason or another depend upon the weather for their livelihood and they often pass along from generation to generation their observations and recollections including logs of the weather they have encounterred. Farmers, fishermen and aboriginal hunters seem almost to have a sense that tunes them to the weather and they develop a set of rules that put sense in to what appears random.

No matter, just as long as it warms up.

Timothy W. Shire

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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
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