by Paul Gregory
As a civilian meteorologist in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia I kept track of the weather from March 1986 until May 2009. I still live in the area. During all those years I stepped outside to check the clouds, winds, precipitation, and temperatures first thing in the morning, and recorded the weather in my journals. So, I have a record of local weather for the past 28 years, which is close to the period of 30 years used by Environment Canada for their long-term average climate data. I have also talked many times with local people who have lived here all their lives for anecdotal weather information.
My wife and I, and later our two children, once found the summers to be quite pleasant with lots of sunshine and just enough rain. We enjoyed temperatures of 24 to 29 degrees with little in the way of haze, smog, humidity or very hot temperatures. Then a drought hit in the early 1990s that lasted for about four years. It was hotter, there was little rain, and wells dried up. The Annapolis River was very low, almost like a large shallow ditch rather than a river. Once the drought ended, the weather was not the same as before. There was now more haze, more smog, more high humidity, and stronger south winds, along with more record-breaking hot temperatures. This new weather pattern has persisted.
Our first full winter in the Maritimes was 1986-1987, and we wondered what we had got ourselves into! Every five to seven days there was a “nor’easter” storm. These storms develop near Cape Cod and track just south of Nova Scotia over the Atlantic Ocean. Each time they drop 15-25 cm of snow. Between these storms it was generally cold with snow flurries off the Bay of Fundy. So, all winter there was plenty of snow around. Sometimes we did have some rain and a quick thaw (temperatures plus 6 to plus 8), and almost every year a “January thaw” of four or five days when almost all the snow would disappear. This was the winter weather pattern for the first seven years we lived here. The local people said this was the norm before we arrived in Nova Scotia.
However, since the mid-1990s, winters have been warmer with less snow, more liquid rain, plus freezing rain and ice pellets, as the storms track north of Nova Scotia. Often the only snow we receive is from the flurries off the Bay of Fundy. I have lost some tender plants due to lack of insulating snow cover that used to protect these plants all winter, and so have many other people. I now have to mulch a lot more then I once did.
Spring and autumn used to be pleasant also, not too cold or wet. In autumn the leaves changed colour and fell before Halloween, and the kids and I would fill leaf bags that had pumpkin designs on them to use as Halloween decorations. Since the mid-1990s summer lingers well into autumn and the leaves are not off the trees until the second or third week in November. On the other hand, spring has been quite late. Winter lingers into early May with cold east winds, cool to cold temperatures, and cold rains. It has been hard to get the garden beds ready for seeding, but I use cold frames and my greenhouse for early salad greens. I wait, sometimes impatiently, for warm spring weather to arrive so I can begin planting the outdoor beds. Humans are quite adaptable, and I have figured out how to work around the changes in the weather and climate.
As to what is causing this shift, I feel that humans are partly responsible. The whole planet itself seems to be in a state of change and evolution as well. Both of these factors are at play, but I do feel that our carbon-run society is speeding up the natural changes.
We need to consciously think about where we can all cut back on our energy use, which may help slow climate change.