From Shaman’s Rock
by Jim Poling Sr.
If you think this winter and last were strange, you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Our winters are going to get warmer and wetter, the wet becoming more rain as temperatures slip above the cold needed to make snow
Environment Canada, which has been collecting data from across the country for more than 50 years, has found that most of its weather stations have seen a decline of winter snow on the ground.
The agency took part in a major study that estimated Canada-U.S. snowfall declined by 4.6 billion tons a year between 1980 and 2020. The melt from that amount of annual snow would have filled two million Olympic-size swimming pools.
The rising world temperatures responsible for less snow are predicted to continue for many years. Environment Canada says our country is warming at roughly double the global rate, and even faster in the North.
Between 1948 and 2016 average temperatures in Canada increased roughly 1.7 degrees Celsius. Our national average temperature in 2022 was 1.2 Celsius above average.
“Whether you’re a farmer or whether you’re managing tourism assets, one of the things that we’ve said for quite some time is look, 500 km or 1000 km south.” Professor Daniel Scott, a climate change specialist at the University of Waterloo, has said. “That’s what your winter will look like in a couple of decades.”
Also, it’s becoming less likely that folks in some Canadian cities will wake up to a snowy Christmas morning.
For instance, the likelihood of a snowy Christmas holiday season in Toronto between 1960 and 1984 was 56 per cent. However, between 1997 and 2021 that likelihood fell to a startling 40 per cent.
Some good news does come with warmer, wetter winters. Although there will be less snow, the rain will bring more rainbows. Northern areas of Canada are expected to see the greatest increase in rainbows as warming temperatures bring rain showers that once would have been falling snow.
Rainbows are seen by many people as signs of hope, harmony and peace. During the COVID-19 pandemic households around the world displayed homemade rainbow images in their windows.
Christians and Jews find spiritual meaning in rainbows, reminding both religious groups that God promises to never again create an Earth-destroying flood.
In the biblical Noah’s Ark story God shows Noah a rainbow and says: “Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds I will remember my covenant.”
For many North American Indigenous Peoples the rainbow is a connection to the spirit world. The Anishinaabe who occupied areas north of the Great Lakes called the rainbow a rain snare that cut off rain from hitting the ground.
There probably is no place where rainbows are more revered than Ireland. They symbolize good fortune and each rainbow’s end is believed to hold a pot of gold guarded by a clever leprechaun.
An Irish legend tells of when Vikings occupied Ireland and looted many of the country’s treasures. When they eventually left the island they inadvertently left behind some of their booty, which was found by leprechauns.
The little people mistrusted all humans so buried any recovered booty as pots of gold, which could be found at the ends of rainbows. Anyone who dreamed of finding a pot of gold looked for a rainbow’s end.
No one has ever found one because rainbows have no ends.
Rainbows are really optical illusions. They are formed when raindrops act as little prisms that split light into bands of colour. Those colours come from millions of raindrops that sit in the sky at different angles.
If you walk toward a rainbow the raindrop angles change. The optical effect moves as you move so you never get to see the end of it. Also, rainbows are actually full circles so their bottom halves are obscured by the Earth’s surface.
Sometimes a full rainbow can be seen while flying in an airplane with the sun on one side and lots of rainfall in clouds on the other.
Although warmer winters are bringing more rain and the problems it creates, they are compensating us with the beauty of more rainbows, and the dream of someday finding gold at the end of one.