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.
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.
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!