At last the weather forecast shows multiple days of blue temperatures. From last week new snow and minus degrees descended upon us, hopefully for a while to stay.
When I came home after Christmas in Belgium it was like driving into a postcard. The forest around the house was so incredibly beautiful it made me do a little dance of joy every time I passed it. The trees were hanging low under the weight of the snow clinging to their branches. The sun turned it gold on the midday hour. In the evening purple sunsets colored the sky. Conditions for sledding were excellent. I couldn’t wait to pick up training and get back out.
But then suddenly it got warm. The snow fell from the trees and turned to ice on the ground. Everyone was sure it would just be a short warm-spell that would pass soon. But it didn’t. We had 12 degrees positive in the valley this week, 7 up here. We live at almost 700 meters above sea level and at our latitude it should not be plus degrees at this time of the year. Where did the winter go?
Currently it really looks like spring outside. The pines are green and gleaming in the sun. The forest is filled with birdsong and patches of bare soil start to peep through under the trees. Blueberry bushes start showing their leaves through the snowcover. In the valley one doesn’t need to bring a jacket anymore, a sweater and a beanie will suffice. It would be great, really, if only we were in the month of April.
As the climate changes winters will become shorter, more volatile and more unreliable. Much of southern Norway hasn’t seen snow yet, while the north is battered by one storm after another, just as it was last year. Unstable weather makes for unstable snow packs and increased avalanche danger. Unstable weather makes for dangerous road conditions and closed passes. It’s bad news for everyone, whether you like winter or not.
For people like me who love winter and depend on its snow to do what they love it’s a worrying thing. Nature sets the premises on which we go out, whether we go as mushers, skiers or mountaineers. We have to bow to the conditions prevailing in the mountains. We have to tread with care, prepare well and come with good knowledge. Only it gets much harder to gain that knowledge and prepare well when it becomes unsure what one must prepare for.
The changing weather patterns present a challenge for a lot of people. Up north, traditional winter traveling routes become increasingly risky. Ice in the snow pack is bad news for many animals when it comes to finding food during winter. Down here many small ski resorts might have to close their doors if the situation continues. And well, let’s be honest, it doesn’t look like enough is being done to turn the tide.
Our daily lives are not disrupted yet by it, but we too see the consequences. The little road up to our house has been a bit of a challenge. Our neighbor stood frowning at the ice the other day, not having seen anything like it in the decades he’s spent up here. Lucky for us we have a good little company up here and people help each other out, when the ice puts a car in the ditch for example. The warm weeks have also interfered a lot with how much we could run the dogs. Sometimes we couldn’t get to the start of the trail because it was impossible to get up the road. Sometimes it was too icy and the risk for injuries too great.
I wish for a cold and snow-filled February. But ultimately I wish for more acknowledgement of the situation we are putting the planet into. The Amazon is burning. Australia is burning. Norway and its glaciers are melting. We all have our little part to play to protect our winters.