People will remember the winter of 2020-21 for many years to come. Not only did it mark the peak of the Coronavirus spread and the emergence of numerous variants (further confirming that its genome is unstable), it also gave us one of the more severe outbreaks of bitterly cold and snowy weather we have known. Frequent severe winter storms battered the Midwest and eastern states, resulting in snowfall totals well above the thirty-year average and record rates of snowfall in many areas. The winter deep-freeze penetrated into Texas, resulting in widespread power outages, frozen water lines, and record monthly power bills (which for many wholesale power customers skyrocketed from $200 to well over $5,000), despite all the outages. These electrical reliability and cost impacts can be attributed (in large part) to the inherent instability of industrial wind energy on the Texas grid, which I explained in my first book, Lifestyle lost (2011), and its proponents refuse to discuss.
Even our own state has been hard hit. A major ice storm struck the Ohio River Valley in mid-February and cut power service to many homes for more than a week. I have recorded a total of 49 days of snowfall at our farm as of February 20, even though the average total snowfall days for an entire season is about 50. We have also received a total of 30 inches of accumulated snowfall, as compared with a seasonal average of 25 inches. We have seen at least some large patches of snow cover on our farm every day since January 31. That streak may last another several days before the weather warms enough to melt away the last lingering residue of snow cover.
Although we have been spared from temperatures below zero degrees thus far, my records show that we have received only five days with high temperatures of 50 degrees or more (and none above 56 degrees) since January 1, only one of which occurred thus far in February. We have also experienced extended periods of strong winds that have suppressed our high temperatures during the day, but shielded us from bitter cold below-zero temperatures at night. We have had very few sunny days because of a persistent hoary-white fog that hangs in our valleys and obscures the nearest hills and mountains from view. The most brutal weather we have received in February can be attributed to a “polar vortex” (once known more commonly as a polar air mass) that settled in over the Midwest and Northeastern states.
I guess the biggest concern I have about our weather conditions this season is the fact that such severe outbreaks were more common when I was growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s than they are today. I can recall winters with very deep snowfalls. Snow often covered the ground in early December and didn’t finally melt away until sometime in late March or early April. I also remember mid-winter ice storms that left an icy crust on top of the snow that was so thick not even the weight of our tractors could break through it. As kids, we would ice skate on our snow-covered fields after such storms. Winter frost often drilled so deep into the ground that it produced a one-foot-deep layer of mud (from snowmelt saturation) that would remain for several weeks until the deepest layers of frost would finally thaw sometime in April. I also remember big blizzards and record-cold temperatures falling below minus-twenty degrees. These extreme conditions helped make the record lows from that period difficult to break, but my adoptive parents would assert that winters were a lot more severe during that period than they had been during many of their own childhood years (especially during the 1950’s).
So, why does that concern me? My concern is that people today—including many who live in constant fear of climate change—are not accustomed to the cooler climate conditions that they believe they can restore. When I was a child, we took all the cold and severe winter weather in stride. We were fully acclimated to it because it was so common during the winter months. The only time I remember our schools being closed for an extended period of time due to winter cold was the year that a force of angry residents smashed over 90 windows at Fall Mountain Regional High School. We went to school during the great Blizzard of 1978 (which dumped 36 inches on my area) and did not return home until after lunch. One of my local hometown friends (Celeste Manning) was not able to get home from a girls’ basketball game in Peterborough, NH until 2:00 AM the next morning. However, the parents and children of today are so accustomed to warmer winters that our local schools are typically closed when snow is forecasted (whether it actually occurs or not) and also when “cold” temperatures occur, even though those temperatures are much warmer than what we often had to persevere when I attended school.
I wonder how happy many of these people will be if the winter conditions I took for granted were to become common again in the future and how many businesses will close simply because of “cold temperatures.” After all, the school children of today will conduct their adult lives based on the patterns of accepted behavior they learned during their school years, regardless of what any generation perceives to be “normal.” Where do you think the age-old tale about how earlier generations had to “walk fifteen miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways” comes from? What conditions will the children of today accept as normal, and how will they judge future winter conditions if they become more severe than they are accustomed to today? I guess the answers to those questions will affect how we view climate change and what conditions we accept as “normal” in future generations.
Always remember the limitations our perceptual time frame imposes on how we think. That thought brings to my mind the old story of the man and the butterfly. A man stands next to a tree in his yard talking to a butterfly that landed on its trunk. He confides to the butterfly his dismay at all the changes that have occurred in the neighborhood during his life. The butterfly responds that he has lived his entire life on this tree, and he hasn’t noticed any changes. A butterfly lives for only three or four days before dying. How long has the Earth been around relative to our brief human lifespans? Remember what I was told that Albert Einstein once said about relativity. Everything’s relative and relatives can be a real pain to endure.