It’s quite pleasant in Ottawa today, especially if you like snow. Admittedly, if you have to drive in the stuff you might be less than thrilled at the white stuff falling from the sky, causing problems for your morning commute.
Overnight low was minus three (all temperatures in this post are Celsius. For Fahrenheit conversion please click here), with the temperature supposed to hover around that all day. Not bad when you consider that is three degrees warmer than the average high at this time of year.
Canadians are weather obsessed. That’s understandable given our harsh climate. We need to know what the weather is and what is coming so that we can be prepared for it and not freeze to death. Weather is the default topic of conversation when you meet someone new, or someone you have known for decades. We all have to suffer through it, and we all have an opinion about it.
Our weather obsession may be why the federal government bought a weather-prediction computer last year. Government overspending is legendary, but there hasn’t been much squawking about this one. I hope it does a good job – they paid $430 million for it. And no, that is not a typo. If it works, it may even be worth it.
Weather is on my mind this week because Ottawa winters tend to follow set patterns. There are times with a lot of snow, times of thaw, and times of deep freeze – cold so intense you think you are going to die. When the daytime high is minus 30 and the wind chill is minus 50, there are few adjectives that can adequately describe the cold. To say that exposed skin can freeze in less than a minute is only words on paper; unless you have experienced it.
According to my memory, this should be the coldest week of the year. The deep freeze usually hits around the 20th of the month and lifts as February rolls in. I looked it up. For example, it was minus 28 on this date in 2013, minus 27 in 2014 (with a wind chill both days of minus 46), so I guess my memory is working fine.
Last week was warmer than usual, but not unexpectedly. A January thaw is the norm, and temperatures hovered just above freezing. About half the snow on my lawn evaporated. After the thaw it usually gets really cold, but the forecast for the next week again calls for higher than normal temperatures.
Does this just mean our annual freeze is delayed a week? Or are we going to miss it this year? The long-range forecast would indicate that. Perhaps climate change is happening and we will never see extreme cold again.
I can argue both sides of the climate change debate, using science to support whatever claims I make. I am not emotionally invested in either argument. However, popular sentiment is that climate change is real, and a bad thing for the planet, therefore we need to do what we can to mitigate it. That’s the official Canadian position.
I’ll let you in on a secret though. Deep down inside, Canadians aren’t sure we are opposed to the concept of climate change, or, as they used to call it, global warming. We acknowledge that it would be too bad if some Pacific island nations were wiped off the map by rising water levels. But if that meant we would never face minus fifty again, I think most of us would take the climate change. Those islanders can move here – we have lots of room.
That’s our dirty little national secret. Don’t tell anyone.