Winter Cold

Well it’s definitely been a traditional New England Winter with heavy snow and frigid temperatures. After several snow falls over a several week period of 8 inches of snow per storm an arctic blast came in immediately after Christmas plunging night temperatures down to 20 plus degrees below zero Fahrenheit followed by day temperatures making it up to a sullen 10 or so below zero with a brief spike up to zero.

It’s been a while since we have experienced such brutal temperatures here in Northern New England. Twenty below zero cold snaps were a frequent occurrence when I was a kid, usually about two or three times during the course of the winter, particularly in January and February. It was one of those things you just had to put up with. There’s the old joke about the Vermont farmer who lived right at the state border with New Hampshire. When told that surveyors had found his house was actually located on the New Hampshire side of the border, he exclaimed with relief:
“Thank God for that! I don’t think I could have survived another damned Vermont winter.”

The relentless rise of global temperatures has caused a moderation over the past twenty plus years here that makes the twenty below temperatures seem freakish now. It’s not unusual to hear the phrase “record lows” being tossed about over temperatures that once would have evoked an annoyed shrug. Now of course the newest name for what we always called a nor’easter is a bomb cyclone. Apparently nor’easter is too old fashioned now. Bomb cyclone better fits the histrionic climate reports breathlessly read to us by overwrought weathermen & women. But it’s really just the same old storm system, just glitzed up for a new audience.

But after years of living through the weather here in New Hampshire, the changes are unmistakable. Weather on the average is warmer than it has ever been. Storms either come rampaging one after the other or take a leave of absence for weeks at a time. Temperatures gyrate wildly from one extreme to the other. Today the temperature high was 39 above zero (Fahrenheit), compared with single digit below day time temperatures from just over a week ago. These wild oscillations indicate a system that has become destabilized and is trying to find a new equilibrium. Since we are still injecting quantities of carbon dioxide and methane (octane fuel for weather systems) into the atmosphere, there’s no way to know what the new normal will eventually become. There’s always the possibility this is the new normal. We will all have to make the adjustment somehow.

Still, if the surveyors come and tell me that due to an error in measurement, I am actually living in Vermont, I will sigh with relief because it means that I won’t have to go through another one of those damned New Hampshire winters.