Snow on front garden shrubs February 2021

Climate Anxiety

As I write this, on November 7th, it’s snowing. Real snow, that’s sticking. A couple of inches have accumulated already, and will probably persist into tomorrow, as the temperature is near the freezing mark. A brisk northeast wind is adding to the feeling that winter has arrived early.

Let me just remind readers that I live in Victoria, British Columbia, where snow is rare most winters. Green Christmases are normal here. I don’t know if this is the earliest snowfall ever, but it’s the earliest I’ve experienced in my 30 years here. I haven’t really started on fall garden tasks. I haven’t even raked leaves, as many are still on the trees, and still green.

I haven’t done much of this yet!

A freak early snowfall is one thing, but this is the fifth in a series of weather extremes in the last two years. The first was the “heat dome” of June 2021, during which many high temperature records were shattered. On June 28th, my max/min thermometer recorded the unheard of high of 37C. In the BC interior, a small town was destroyed by fire on a day that saw temps near 50C. Exactly one year ago, torrential rain (287 mm. or 11 in. recorded here in November 2021) caused major damage in several communities and minor to moderate flooding all over southern BC. Right after Christmas 2021, came a week of extreme cold. That max/min thermometer recorded a low of -10C on December 27th, something I had never experienced here.

The next extreme was a three-month drought last summer. Almost no rain fell between July 7th and October 21st. Summer lingered endlessly. When rain finally started, it was pretty much at normal levels into November, but after the most recent system exited the region, seriously cold air moved onto the south coast from the now chilly interior of the province. According to meteorologists in Washington State, a “backdoor cold front” is pulling this cold air onto the coast and turning any precipitation that occurs to snow.

After all this, I’m apprehensive about what might come next. Blizzards, heat waves, tornadoes, hurricanes? The dynamics of weather have changed. Prediction models aren’t working any more. Everything’s unprecedented.

Weird light at sunset. Orange light due to wildfire smoke.
Orange sunset caused by wildfire smoke.

This makes me realize how much I’ve taken weather patterns for granted, and how disturbing it is to realize that weather is no longer predictable, that extremes may occur at any time. I can no longer tell myself that such events are freakish and rare, and once they’re over it’s back to normal. I’m not sure what normal looks like any more. Add to this similar extreme weather events in other parts of the world (terrible floods in Pakistan, destructive hurricanes in Canada’s Atlantic provinces and in Florida, heat waves and fires in Europe and California), and I feel a constant buzz of anxiety in the background of my days, even when nothing is happening.

We’re told to adapt and prepare, to assemble emergency supplies and “grab and go” bags in case we have to evacuate. (Of course we should already have done that, since we live in a place where a major earthquake may happen any time.) I can’t argue with that, but there’s a difference, I’ve realized, between knowing something unwelcome and accepting it. Acceptance is necessary before action is possible. In between these two states is a period of creeping unease and unfocussed anxiety.

Is any one else feeling climate anxiety? How do you deal with it?

Update: Most of the snow melted the next day, but temperatures are still several degrees below normal. The next week is supposed to be mostly sunny and dry. No floods expected, at least in the short term!

53 comments

  1. We are in for interesting times. Six months ago I moved from the built up midlands of England to rural mid – Wales. Lovely small town pop just shy of 3,000. Surrounded by tree covered hills. November the 13th and it is an ‘unusually’ balmy sunny day with expected temperature of around 17 C expected. Should be about 10 C this time of year. In summer we hit a record 44 C and wild fires were raging over the rest of Europe. I’ve no idea what to expect for the winter and indeed next summer. I’ve fitted a water butt to collect the rain water Wales is famous for to cover further dry spells and top up the little goldfish pond. As a pensioner I live as green a life as possible, using public transport to get around in. I sow wildflower seeds on my tiny garden to help the pollinators like bees and get some fascinating flowers popping up. I also compost any peelings.
    It still staggers me the number of people I see parked up in their 4 x 4’s outside stores, windows down, engines running. Go figure. There are also projects for wind power generation near the town which should generate enough energy for 450,000 homes but our Tory government have blocked such initiatives. Go figure.
    We can do more on a global scale, national scale and as individuals. I’m old so it doesn’t matter for me. I worry for the young ones.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am inspired by your comment, Gary. I, too, live as simple a life as possible in hopes that the future will be slightly less gruesome for the young ones who are inheriting all of these challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to get my head around global warming when I have to break the ice on my goldfish pond. Trying to snow at the moment. Fish seem to be coping but I’ll be glad when we are into spring again. As a dreamer, I have to side with John Lennon as I wonder why mankind can’t ditch all war and spend the time, money energy and effort on on making a fantastic world for all of us. I’ll not live long enough to see that happen. Oh, well. Back to watching the world cup matches.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Deeply worrying, Audrey. As Gary was saying, it’s unseasonably warm here – seventeen degrees today, and though I keep thinking autumn has arrived, it’s only certain trees that are shedding, with the rest hanging on. It’s all very odd. I’m bracing for heavy rain and gales, and each year seeming more violent than the last. Interesting to see how our gardens adapt, or otherwise.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have been amazed at how mild it has been in London when I look in every morning on the Abbey Road web cam. Hopefully it last for another couple of weeks since my daughter’s family will be in London a week from today for a long covid delayed holiday.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. We have our evac plan posted on the pantry door (most likely wildfire). We’re in a l-o-n-g drought and have learned to use 1/4 the water of typical customers, and that has given us confidence to know we could use even less if needed. We know where the nearest tornado shelter is. We don’t have a lot in terms of a house and personal items, but they are insured in case we lose everything, and that helps us sleep easier. And we pray daily for people suffering and world leaders and God’s watch and care over us.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Audrey you sum it up very well as a long time resident and gardener. There should now be enough world wide evidence to show that climate change is not a fluke or a doomsday prophesy. On one hand the world’s climate has been changing for eons. I think that mankind has accelerated it this time around, but the Sahara used to be woodlands and North America was covered with glaciers.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. We also have an evac plan, Audrey. Mostly in case of fire. Because I live at an elevation, I’ve avoided some of the heat, but I worry about the global impact of climate change – famine, mass migration, and war. I hope your early snow is just a blip at this point.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Colorado Springs (elevation around 6000 ft.) is experiencing some of that. We had an unusually warm fall, and it’s been very dry. We basically have fire weather days all year ’round. And we didn’t get any snow (here in the city) till a couple of days ago; usually we get the first snow around Halloween. The temps seem to fluctuate between record cold (yesterday it was 12 degrees F, when I got up, and today it’s 28) and record highs (a couple of 100 degree days last summer). We had that enormous wind storm (100 mph) last December. But I’m still maintaining that the front range of Colorado has one of the best climates in the USA. Tornados are rare, we’re too far inland to experience hurricanes, and the humidity is always low (something I like).

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Very uneasy, since I live in a wildfire zone. It does feel like we’ve passed the point where we could have avoided calamity, and now we find ourselves scrambling to minimize the damage. COP27 says we have 9 years. That’s the blink of an eye! 😬

    Liked by 2 people

      1. No. Ironically I was looking through my poetry to see if I had a climate change poem to submit to a contest. I only have 2. One was published in Extinction Rebellion and the other is on my blog from last year.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Praying to the gods might help as much as anything (which is nothing).
    If you’re feeling anxious now — just you wait — that’s not a threat, that’s a promise. Case in point: https://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/ Hover over the [800k years] button.
    Are we changing the planet? Damn straight. And there’s no hope in sight. Humanity has induced a baked-in (ha) massive alteration to climate. This escalation cannot be stopped. I’m sure that in five years you’ll be posting another astonishing list of anomalous weather events.
    But I say, so what?
    We’re all gonna die. Dat’s a fact, Jack. Why should I care about a world that will eventually be consumed by the Sun’s red giant phase in a billion or so years? All this hand-wringing is just DNA whispering in our ears, “save the planet, save your species…“.
    Bah!
    Do what you can to enjoy your geologically-fractional time alive. Don’t step on too many toes—as we must all live with our own choices, and the more ethnically divergent one’s behavior the more internal angst one must endure. (I should know.)
    Build a snowman. Sprinkle sugar and vanilla on a bowl of powdery ice crystals. Burn your deckchairs as you try and stay warm during the deep freeze of a four month Polar Vortex. Clear a fire line around your home. Save your rain in barrels or a secretly dug cistern. Or not. In the end…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too late for a snowman now, but I’m sure I’ll have another chance. Definitely need to adjust expectations. Sometimes I tell myself we (Homo whatever) are analogous to that asteroid that finished the dinos–just another force, no moral qualities whatever. But somehow I can’t hold that thought.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. History has proven that weather patterns change over time. I guess we get too complacent and think things won’t change. But the only thing consistent is change! (snow on Vancouver Island in October is strange)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Weather patterns do change; now that I’ve been around for more than a few decades, I have personally experienced that. But I’ve never felt the degree of change that’s happening now. Thanks for your thoughts on this, Darlene!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. No question that climate change is upon the world – and, inevitably, that’s going to mean climate chaos as one meta-stable system switches to another meta-stable point. Ouch. Where I am in NZ we’ve had the wettest winter on record, with long-range weather forecasts projecting the hottest and driest summer. Same kind of general issues as Canada, I guess. I keep thinking it’s a fairly big ‘own goal’ by humanity – I mean, as a species we’ve been pouring waste products of various kinds into the atmosphere for centuries – arguably, millennia, if you count wood smoke – all at rates that exploded exponentially with industrialisation. Something was bound to happen, sooner or later.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. We’re most definitely feeling the differences of climate change, too. Like you, we’ve experienced drought-like conditions. (Not only this year but five of the last six years.) In addition, the fog, which used to be quite prevalent two decades ago, has suddenly reappeared. We used to go five years or more without snow, and now we seemingly get some each year. The most significant consequence of climate change for most of California has been wildfires that burn precious acres yearly.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve heard news reports about the fires down there, Pete, as well as from here in BC. The “Sunshine Coast” here has had too much sunshine this year, to the point that many businesses and others are forbidden to use water (breweries, cement producers, etc.) There was a fair bit of rain recently, but the reservoirs for those communities are at a high elevation and the precip fell as snow, which has kept them dry. It’s hard to know what to expect.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Oh yeah.. we’re feeling it big time here. You can’t sneeze anymore without feeling one extreme or another. Take yesterday for example. Yesterday we were enjoying some beautiful 80° temperatures. Today? 50s and 60s. The weather patterns we’ve grown accustomed to are changing more drastically every year. How can we not be anxious?

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Weather has gone crazy everywhere..I used to worry about spring storms and tornados, now I worry about them in the fall and winter on top of cold and snow. One day its 60 next day its 20 degrees. We have done alot to damage our planet and mother nature is not happy..

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Climate change is definitely unsettling, isn’t it? I think about it and worry more for my grandkids than myself. What they will have endured once they reach my age could be truly horrific in different parts of the world. I’m an optimist by nature, but there are days when I just shake my head.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Hi Audrey. I share your climate anxiety. I live in Colorado and last December we suffered the worst wildfire in the state’s history. In December. I cope with my anxiety by joining forces with others to push for no more fossil fuel extraction and a just transition to renewable energy. Each Monday I post a quick action (phone call or email, etc.). I’m not getting much traction on it yet but it still makes me feel better to do something.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thank you for writing and shareing this important blog post, Audrey! I am somehow comforted that you — and all of the folks who left a comment — care about this enormous challenge we have created here on planet earth. We haven’t had any snow yet in the Boston (USA) area, but as I shared in a recent blog post, our November rains have almost brought us out of official drought status. My neighborhood experienced a “micro-burst” a decade ago during which a LOT of mature trees fell down on each and every street in a 20 block area. But other than that, we have — so far — been spared from much calamitous weather. And I helped get a lovely tree planted on our street which is flourishing despite having many limbs torn off by delivery/moving trucks. I recently skimmed an article which noted that the horrible war in Ukraine has accelerated the use of renewable energy in many countries which formerly depended upon oil and gas from Russia. The world is linked together in all sorts of extraordinarily complicated ways — most of which (like somewhat predictable weather patterns) we take for granted until they change or end. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I share your sense of an omnipresent buzz of anxiety in my daily life. Let’s keep writing about it, talking about it, singing about it, and making changes in our own lives to respond respectfully to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When thinking our way out of the problems we (collectively) have created no longer works, singing and writing poetry may be our only hope. It might inspire a collective inspiration.
      Thanks for reading this post, Will, and for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post. Indeed it’s a weird time and it’s the path that climate appears to be taking! Unfortunately many are still in denial, “head in the sand” situation! I’m not anxious about climate change but rather cross at all those “powers that be” doing nothing to help. I try my best at my individual level by the choices I make. Here in Ireland, over the past decade or so, we’ve been getting storms that are more frequent and more intense. We can only try our best… Thanks you for sharing your feelings Audrey

    Liked by 2 people

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