The saying was always – In Alberta, wait five minutes and the weather will change.
While the phrase has been used for as long as I can remember and wherever I have lived across the province, I’m not certain it continues to apply given the rapidly changing states of our weather patterns in recent years or the changes we see in how the climate seems to be moving.
Whether that is good or bad, I can’t say for certain since I’m not a scientist, a weather specialist, climatologist or even a farmer – since everyone knows they are just as good at predicting the weather as those ones on television.
What I do know is that the weather has been changing at a faster pace than what I was used to seeing growing up on a farm in northwestern Alberta three to four decades ago or in the intervening years from then to now.
I’m going to start with winter, since that is where the biggest difference is that I can quantify through words.
Anyone over the age of 40 – yes, I’ve just given away something about myself – can recall their parents or grandparents speaking to them about how long winter was “back in the day” along with walking uphill both ways in four feet snow drifts in temperatures of minus 30 or 40 that lasted for weeks or months at a time.
Growing up, sure there were times where the temperatures were that cold – I remember more than a few winters where it never rose higher than minus 32 for two to three weeks and that was before wind chill factors were invented.
However, as I got older, those cold bouts were fewer and fewer as well as they went from a few weeks to just several days in length to where there are now very seldom times the mercury even reaches into those depths – unless you count wind chill, which I don’t.
As for the amount of snow on the ground, it really depends on where you leave, but the trend I’ve seen is that there is less and less falling from the sky and it is starting later in the season then leaving earlier than normal.
I do grant you though, there are places – especially one place I lived that felt like the middle of nowhere – that see far more snow than back in the day, which also says something to me about the weather.
As winter goes, so goes spring, summer and fall since they all tie together.
With the snow coming later and leaving sooner, that translates into spring making its appearance early most of the time nowadays and fall extending itself a little more each year while summer fills the gap in between.
It used to be you could almost count the days until spring would arrive or see the signs that summer was coming to a close, though now its just about as hard to predict those occurrences as it is to guess how many jellybeans are in jar at the local fair – it’s literally a shot in the dark.
What’s really gotten to be more of a concern though, and has been for the past few years, is the number of more serious and severe nature of the storms that have been pounding the population.
Whether its the wicked winter snow squalls and freezing rain that is more prevalent that it was in the past, the seemingly constant barrage of severe thunderstorm or tornado watches and warnings that Albertans have seen recently or wild ranging levels of moisture – from the lack of it to the point that allows major forest fires to burn for weeks to the flooding of areas in the Peace region this year – there is something strange going on in the neighbourhood. (Note – if you picked up that, good for you old man.)
Okay, for all of you wondering if I’m advocating climate change or for those that say all of this can be explained by some phenomenon with ocean waters, I’m like the rest of the regular people.
I too am struggling to gather what information I can about it all, disseminate the goofy and the absurd, figure out what to make out of studies that conflict more often than those on which diets work or don’t, and make sense of what governments keep telling us about what we need to do to change what is happening or not happening depending on who is talking.
What I do know is the weather is getting less predictable, more intense and is changing the manner and places where certain plants used to grow well and for how long.
I also know there are no easy answers and there will never be consensus on what and why this is taking place as well as what to do about it. The only thing, us, regular people can do is whatever we think is necessary – from recycling to lobbying for change to doing nothing.
It’s a choice you can make. I, and my family, for one will do what we can for as long as we can and for what we can afford.
But that is…just an observation.