Cabin Fever Notebook

04Feb11

Global Warming
You’ve probably heard that Mark Twain once observed, “Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” The quote was intended to humorously illustrate the obvious point that humans can’t control the weather – or at least they couldn’t in the time of Mark Twain.

Nowadays, scientists tell us that human activity not only can, but has, affected the average weather conditions over a period of years, resulting in climate change (formerly global warming). They further tell us that to save the planet we must institute sweeping changes in our behavior in order to reverse, or at least slow, the rise in global temperature that we have caused.
Blue Jay
I suspect that Mark Twain would have been amused to learn that humans believe that they have the power to control the weather. He probably would have been equally amused that he has been widely credited with that famous quote, which it turns out he never said. But that hasn’t stopped people from believing he said it – or from believing that humans can control the weather.

The weather has been much on people’s minds of late, with all the snow that’s fallen this winter. Climate change scientists tell us that an increase in the frequency, intensity and amount of snow can be attributable to global warming – more moisture in the air from melting glaciers, I suppose. Unfortunately, it’s still too cold to ride our bikes to work, so we can’t do much about it right now.
Snow Storm
We think the amount of snow that we’ve had this winter is a big deal, but we’re not even close to the record of 107.6 inches, set in the winter of 1995-96. That was only 16 years ago. How soon we forget.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has Boston seasonal snowfall statistics on its web site from 1920 to present, which you can Google during breaks from shoveling. Some of the statistics are surprising.

The earliest recorded trace of snow in Boston happened on July 10, 1955. And you have the nerve to complain? The latest date for the first trace of snow was Dec. 16, 1973. The earliest date that Boston has gotten as much as ½ inch of snow was Nov. 4, 1945.
Snow SpruceThe most snow to fall in Boston in one day was 21 inches on Jan. 20, 1978. The most to fall in two days? Some of us remember only too well – 27.1 inches during the Blizzard of ’78, Feb. 6-7.

The least seasonal snowfall in Boston? Only 8.2 inches fell in the winter of 1936-37. In more recent memory, 10.3 inches of the white stuff fell in the 1972-73 season, and only 12.7 inches in 1979-80. Ah, the Good Old Days.

If you’re longing for the end of the snow season, don’t even think about putting away that shovel just yet. The earliest date for the last trace of snowfall was March 25, 1981. The latest date for a trace of snowfall in Boston was June 17, 1952. (What was going on the 1950s for it to snow in June 1952 and July 1955?)

While we are a long way from the worst winter ever, this year’s volume of snow has proven to be a challenge. Part of the problem is a result of not having our usual “January thaw” this year to reduce the size of the snow piles. That has made snow management and storage a challenge and given rise to the oft-repeated lament, “There’s nowhere to put the stuff.”
Snow Pile
I’m proud to say that I have a Snow Management Plan and I know where to find it. Some people like to wait until the last flake has safely landed before venturing out to shovel. My own Snow Management Plan employs a phased approach to snow removal. I would prefer to move 6 inches of snow three times than 18 inches all at once.

Looking at the 12-foot high mountain of snow next to my driveway, it’s hard to believe that it will ever melt. But looking on the bright side, we haven’t had to listen to one news report this winter about how badly the ski resorts are hurting.

[This column originally appeared in the February 3, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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