Friday, February 13, 2015

We're seeing red when we see white

I know it's been awhile since I posted, but a lot's been going on here in Maine.  The legislature has been debating the pros and cons of naming the Labrador Retriever as our state dog breed.  They've also been working on legislation that require a pint to actually be a pint

And oh, yeah, we have over six feet of snow on the ground, and more to come tomorrow.

Dory peeking out the window at the winter wonderland.  She is not amused.
We keep a path to the gas tanks cleared.  The snow banks are about 4 feet high.

We won't be using that wood anytime soon.
Six feet of snow is not a trivial amount.  Mainers are struggling to keep up.  We rise early to clear the driveway before heading off to work.  We strap on snow shoes to walk around the house and rake the roof.  We wade in over our waists to dig out the furnace outlet, lest we die of carbon monoxide poisoning.  We walk to work in blizzard conditions to avoid driving.  We drag the Florida-born dog out into the cold and force her to walk around the block, even as she shivers and complains that her feet hurt.

The brave and hard working facilities crew at Bowdoin shoveling the roof of the gym.  That pile is over 20 feet high.

Students practicing mountaineering skills on the big snow pile.
They've pretty much given up on clearing the side roads in our town.  No place is left to put it.
All the while, we look around with a combination of awe and disgust.  Some of us revel in it; strapping on skies and snowshoes (like my crazy husband, who currently leads the Master's division in Granite State Snowshoe Series).  Our southern relations send us taunts via Facebook ("it's a sunny 70 degrees here!" or "It's cold here too -- I had to wear a long sleeve shirt today!").  We start to wonder just what's going on in the Pinetree state.  The more cynical amongst us snark about climate change.  But in reality, climate change is exactly what we should be talking about as we stumble around with our snow shovels as the wind sends yet another drift into the driveway.

Damon doing something he kicks butt at.
When I was younger, I thought about climate change as just a series of warmer and warmer years.  That seemed logical; if we're trapping more of the sun's energy in our atmosphere by producing more carbon dioxide, then shouldn't it just get warmer?  Overall, that's right; we can expect average global temperatures to rise, and that's just what's happened (courtesy NASA):

The data look like this:

But it's important to remember that the world is an amazingly complex, and the reaction of the Earth to increased temperature isn't straightforward.

Which brings us back to our very snowy winter.  It might not sound logical, but the amount of snow we get here in New England might actually increase as temperatures rise.  Think about it.  The low-pressure centers that are currently barreling across the country aren't dropping ridiculous amounts of snow anywhere but here, are they?  Why the target on New England?  Why the coast in particular?

This year, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are high.  Way high.  Like, this map should be on the front page of every newspaper in the region high:

 Red is hot.  Red is bad. (Climate Change Institute, U Maine)
All this heat doesn't just affect the ocean.  It affects the land, too.  All this snow?  It's a good chance we're seeing it because of sea surface temps.  In other words, we're seeing red.

As ocean temperatures rise, there is more moisture in the air -- and this moisture is ending up on my driveway.  Storms roll out over the Gulf of Maine, suddenly cool all that moist air, and convert it to snow.  And because the ocean is warm, storms can grow in magnitude; warmer oceans increase temperature contrasts on the East coast, strengthening storms.  Because low pressure causes winds to spin counter-clockwise around the center, all that ocean-based snow is being driven right into the coast of Maine.

Now, I'd better get going.  We've got another big storm on the way, and I've got to get to the store to stock up on milk, bread, and of course beer.  This time, when I don my snow pants to dig us out of the snow, I'll be thinking of the ocean.  And eventually, maybe I'll even get there.  One can only hope.

Yup, that says 18-24 inches for us.  Sigh.  (Weather Channel)

1 comment :

  1. This winter is so much like a regular Maine winter Janet..the kind I remember as a's really awesome when you stop and think about it..GAWD I LOVE MAINE!