Thursday, February 16, 2006

Damn Cold

Mainly clearMainly clearMainly sunnyMainly sunny
Mainly clearMainly clearMainly sunnyMainly sunny
NE 10 km/hS 5 km/hSW 5 km/hSW 5 km/h

Current Weather

Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy

WIND NW 11 km/h
PRESSURE 95.06 kPa
CEILING 2300 ft
Updated : Thursday February 16 2006, 13:00 MST - Edmonton Int'l Airport

Annual Average Temprature

Edmonton Mun., AB, Canada


Maximum -8 -4

Minimum -19 -16

Mean -13 -10

Well ok we have been spoiled. We have not had winter at all this past four months. Usually winter begins on Halloween, first snowfall even if it doesn't last, then slowly fall turns to brrr snowy winter. Well that didn't happen, we had only one week of real cold till now and that was in December for a few days, again mid way through the week. And again it was above zero centigrade then dropped to 20 below. And still no snow. We are as brown here as Lethbridge is which is semi-arid semi-desert.

This last weekend, was it only five days ago, I was wearing a spring coat and it sure as heck was warmer than -3 in fact it was a record 14 above. And now this....which is more like January norms than February. But this too shall pass and this weekend it will be warm again.

Which bodes ill for farmers and this province, which is part of the Palliser Plain, an area across the Canadian and American prairies that suffered from the great drought that coincided with the Great Depression .

In the years between 1857 and 1860, both the British and Canadian Governments sent expeditions across the Prairies to assess the suitability of the region for agricultural settlement. Capt. John Palliser's report and that of Henry Youle Hind both concluded that a portion of the southern prairie adjacent to the U.S. border, an area which became known as “Palliser's Triangle,” and less widely as “The Great North American Desert,” was too dry for successful agricultural settlement. These conclusions were later used by cattle interests to encourage the national government to sell or lease large tracks of land to them at very favourable prices, and to delay the incursion of farm settlement onto land in southern Alberta.

Already folks up north around Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray are reporting seeing more dirt drifts blowing across the roads which should have been snow drifts. Which means that if we have no ground water from snow, we will have parched drought conditions. Which brings with it the ravages of locusts in the south of the province and a plague of grasshoppers in the north. We have already had disasters grass fire conditions in the south of the province, fires normally found in further south climates like the hills of Orange County in LA.

Crews put out Alta grass fire
CARSELAND, Alta. -- A rare winter grass fire fuelled by gusty winds and tinder dry conditions in southern Alberta briefly forced 400 Carseland residents from their homes Thursday.

These may be good times for us urban dwellers so accustomed to frigid winters we plan our holidays to Hawaii around them, but to farmers, and to the ecology of the prairies this aspect of global warming and climate change is unwelcome and could portend a disaster in the making.

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Devastating Dry Spells: Drought on the Prairies

Blowing dust, swarms of grasshoppers, and not enough hay to feed the starving livestock. For Prairie farmers, drought can be disastrous. But it's not just the farmers who suffer — a severe drought in Western Canada can hurt the entire Canadian economy. From the devastating dustbowl years of the Great Depression to some of the more recent Prairie dry spells, CBC Archives explores the history of drought in Western Canada.

Climate Futures: A Buyer’s Guide

No…the title is not about “green tags” or stock picks. It’s about figuring out how the majority of US citizens who simply “don’t buy it”…”it” being the risk posed by climate change to personal health, to all of earth’s living systems, and to our children’s future…will sit up and pay attention to the management of climate risk.

What would it take to explode the opinion leader's heads enough to reveal the invisible to them? The Dustbowl years of the 1930’s provide a fair analogy. Just prior to when that historic drought set in, a very large segment of the US’ population lived on farms: at least 45%. Markets for agricultural products were booming, trees were removed from the most productive farmlands, slash-and-burn style, and prairie soils were ploughed from fence to fence. The most erodable hillsides were laid bare. Along came extended drought and the nation’s food basket crumbled. Farm losses were severe; and, unemployment, and population shifts amplified stock market volatility (a point often overlooked by economists who see the Great Depression solely in economic terms). Rural population loss from the Dust Bowl states continues to this day. An oversimplification, granted, but not a gross mischaracterization.

In the several decades following the Dust Bowl, huge Federal programs were established to make farming on the Great Plains and Midwest lands sustainable. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) participants helped reestablish “windbreaks” of trees and were responsible for the replanting of large tracts of forests. Just as important, the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service ASCS), and Soil Conservation Service (SCS) were established and funded by Congress. Because of these three government efforts, soil loss from wind erosion was gradually reduced. When the rains returned almost a decade after the start of the drought, modern industrialized farming practices were developed in lock step with conservation practices. The wind rows are still there. This process, come to think of it, is not that different that what is going on right now in China!

What sort of large scale changes could set off a similar reaction in US governance with regard to climate change? Is there really any chance of that happening soon, what with most climate change impact scenarios being on the scale of half to full century? Yes there is.

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