EDITORIAL: Observing weather

A heavy snowfall, a cold spell or a heat wave do not prove or disprove climate change

Summerland and the rest of the Okanagan and Similkameen was blanketed by a heavy snowfall last week.

Then after some foggy days, followed by a warm, sunny Sunday, temperatures fell to below freezing.

And somewhere between the snow shovelling and the cooler temperatures, some have asked, “Where did global warming go?”

It’s a short-sighted question, especially since this winter has, for the most part, been incredibly mild.

Temperatures at Summerland’s Festival of Lights in late November were far less cold than in some past years.

Christmas Day was pleasant, with no snow on the ground, and while it snowed on Boxing Day, the snow was gone within the next couple of weeks.

However, the mild winter temperatures did not prove global warming or climate change, just as the heavy snowfall last week did not disprove it.

Climate, which is about long-term patterns, is not the same as weather, which is about conditions during a specific moment.

And climate change, according to the scientific model, does not happen overnight. Our climate will not instantly become hotter than that of the Sahara Desert.

Instead, the climate change model calls for a smaller temperature change and more unpredictable weather events.

Weather patterns in the Okanagan Valley have changed from past years.

In earlier decades, Okanagan Lake would freeze over from time to time, and there are historical photos showing people driving cars across the frozen surface of the lake.

But the last time the lake froze over was at the end of the 1960s, and in recent years, there has seldom been ice on the surface of the lake.

Over the past two years, British Columbia has experienced devastating spring floods, followed by record-breaking summer wildfire seasons.

These weather patterns need to be viewed in the context of historical averages and changing trends.

To use a heavy snowfall, a cool week in winter or a heat wave in summer to prove or disprove climate change is to misunderstand what climate change means.

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