11 December 2012

All I Want For Christmas....

...is Winter...Snow shovelling, sledding with the kids, no school today, hot cocoa, two pairs of socks, honest to god old fashioned New England Winter...
This photo was taken in my pantry at 11:30 pm, Monday 10 December, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Please note that the window is not only open, but fully wide open. What happened to Winter? Have we killed it?

Before one of you pounces on me for this, I am fully aware that I have mentioned many times my utter distaste for the particularly Boston habit of complaining about the weather, no matter what it may be. But this is not a complaint. It's more of a lament. You see, I actually enjoy a good proper Winter.

When I was a kid, the snow set in before Thanksgiving and was on the ground until April. It was beautiful to see it and fun to play in it. Despite what many people would see as discomfort, I learned to find a particular quiet beauty in it, a great comfort in piling into my layers of wool, stuffing two pairs of socks into Maine Hunting Shoes, everyone pitching in to clear the way, then coming in to a warm house and fresh cocoa. By this time of year, I'd have had that experience a few times. Lately, it never comes.

Sure, it's nice to have balmy weather, but all the time? I'm the kind of guy who believes that you can't have Yin without Yang, that the beauty of a hot Summer day is pointless without an equally beautiful foot of snow in December. For the last few years, not a day goes by that I don't see someone in shorts, and I'm usually a bit damp with sweat in all the tweed and flannel I still insist on wearing. True, I do love the clothes, and I miss being able to wear them so much, but this isn't really about that. It's about balance, and the new lack of it. 

I don't want to start a political or scientific debate over global warming and climate change. Frankly, I wouldn't be able to keep up. Maybe we've just had some mild Winters. Maybe the climate is just changing. Maybe years from now the concept of a snowy Winter in Boston will be an old time novelty, and there will be fewer of us who remember the good-old-tough-old-days. Should that be the case, i will accept it. After all, we can't really change the weather. But it won't stop me from fondly remembering and silently hoping for a good old two foot snow fall.

All I want for Christmas is my Winter back. 

29 comments:

mistermidwester said...

I feel the same exact way. We don't have a garage and I haven't even had to scrape the car once yet this year. Last winter, we got a single, solitary snow that lasted for two days before it turned to discolored slush and disappeared.

I miss the days of piling on layered woolens and bracing myself against the wind, then peeling off a couple layers because I've worked up a sweat shoveling.

I also remember spending hours and hours outside as a kid in the snow, only coming inside to rehydrate and warm the fingers and toes. I hope my daughter can experience that at some point as well.

Sigh.

FLW said...

I 100% agree. I don't care WHY winter is gone, just that it is gone. I live in Colorado and it has snowed perhaps six inches all season. Snow lengthens the commute, is a pain to shovel, and causes all the transplanted Californians to wet themselves with fear of driving over 13 mph. That said, it is a part of who we are as a state. Living with only two seasons: warm summer and hot summer is not enjoyable. Variety is why I loved my state. Now it just feels bland.

Young Fogey said...

Total agreement here. I miss the proper winters of where I grew up—well, I miss all the seasons. Here, it's mainly cool and foggy (and for most of the summer!), with the occasional stretch of cold and wet, interspersed with brief spells of warm and sunny.

I hate it. Give me hot, dry summers; cool, crisp autumns with falling leaves; cold winters with snow; and boisterous springs with rain and storms and hail and—in the midst of all that—beautiful balmy days.

As it is, I have a great job here, and it's very difficult to relocate in my field at this stage of the game. Climate is not a good enough reason to start over.

AEH said...

I know what you mean. I read somewhere recently that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, if you are 27 (as of October '12) or younger, you have never had a colder than average month in your entire life.

Anonymous said...

Im pretty sure its not global warming. Down here in new orleans it didnt snow my entire life until Christmas 2005. I was 17. Since then it has snowed 3 more times. Weather is wierd, but i can understand your sentiment.

randall said...

Well. I hate winter. Having lived in Northern, Middle and Southern New England for pretty much my entire life, except for a 5 year stint in San Diego, I feel I've earned the right to safely say that. I do, however, understand and appreciate the balance that I think has been severely upset. Summer just isn't as sweet without a beastly winter.

Ulrich von Boffke said...

I agree emphatically. Bring on some winter snow and cold! We had hard winters in SE Pennsylvania when I was young up through my early 20s. And later in Minnesota, during the early 2000s when I lived in the Twin Cities. It kills me as a cross-country skiing enthusiast that these days the nearest dependable snow is eight-nine hours north of Central Illinois, which is out of the question with a three-year old. Sigh.

Best Regards,

Ulrich von B.

BlueTrain said...

My daughter is in Germany where they've already had six inches of snow where she lives. I hope she likes it. Me, I'm glad when we have a mild winter. I work for a living and it makes it so much easier to commute. You in New England are welcome to all the snow we might be getting, if there's a way to arrange it.

Anonymous said...

Winter used to mean snow. Now, it seems to mean chilly rain. Last year's ski season was almost non-existent in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

As a child, I remember playing outside in the snow until well after dark. My mother would call my siblings and I to come into the house only to have us beg for "just a little longer". We didn't build snow forts, we built snow communities.

And, has anyone noticed the over-reaction to the small amounts of snow we DO get? This seems paradoxically related to the diminishing amounts: smaller amounts = more panic. I blame the newscasters for this. Rain, snow and sleet used to be called weather. Now its called "news".

Mr. Sidetable said...

It's terrible. I have significant capital tied up in sweaters that are just sitting idle. After getting married last year I brought my life-long Southerner wife to live in New England. Now she thinks that Northern winters are these balmy affairs where maybe you need to brush off your car every once in a while and can't understand what all the fuss is about.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

About this time of year here it was possible to skate on the old canal in the centre of the city (almost 1000 years old and part of the original river Rhine), now that is only a maybe in January. I think we all share a generational shift in the weather.

There's no maybe about why. I don't care what the uninformed nay-sayers opine (or the informed people with a political agenda) this is a human industrial-induced and accelerated global warming issue. There should be no debating the 'if' of it with dunces.

Mr. Sean said...

This mild winter bothers me, too. Mostly cause I just bought that KILLER tweed suit you had on Ebay.

Bring the cold, I say (after the mailman brings the suit and the tailor tweeks it for me)

David said...

And here I thought I was excited to move to the East Coast for the winters! I guess I no longer have that to look forward to. In all honesty though, it's really weird. Here in the southwest our winters have become almost nonexistent, it will get cold enough for me to wear tweed for a couple of weeks then it will get warm again and all of my great winter clothing just sits unused.

Matt said...

I hear you. I think the worst effect is the fact that the mountains I go to have had to use WAY too much artificial snow just to keep the trails open. Man-made snow is the pits.

Unknown said...

I completely understand your sentiments but in an "opposite" way.
I grew up in South Africa, now in New Zealand, and find myself missing the sweltering heat that we often had over Christmas/New Year.
A solemn decision would be made every Christmas eve whether the Christmas meal would be served hot or cold - it seemed that cut off point was 40 deg C. Our meals were always the expected roast meat and veg - it was just the serving temperature that changed. But the best, for us kids, was the massive ice cream cake usually festooned with Santa and elves made from marzipan.

Just not the same when Christmas is in the mid twenties...

Young Fogey said...

To Roger and everyone else,

The most significant fact about The Issue We Shall Not Talk About In This Post is that everything changes.

When it comes to weather, an examination of the historical charts over various timescales shows that 1, while some periods in the past were much, much warmer than now, most of the past was significantly colder; 2, most of human civilization has developed during a period of comparative warmth; and 3, the periods in human history associated with even higher average temps than ours now were periods of prosperity.

Here again, a certain famous saying of uncertain origin is apropos: "everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."

Raf said...

From what I gather our climate is experiencing a warming that began thousands of years ago and continues on that trend today. The current "global warming" phenomenon is certainly a departure from "normal" and it should ultimately result in more extreme weather and seasons (hence all the crazy storms happening lately). Maybe we'll have a few really wintery months soon.. On the other hand, there's definitely something to be said for unseasonal weather around Christmas. Growing up I remember listening to "White Christmas" and earnestly hoping for one, yet I've yet to experience one in my life. Worst of all, I have this incredibly ugly sweater I'm dying to wear but the warmth will probably force me to leave it in the drawer this year.

Some Assembly Required said...

I used to enjoy winter a bit more; I think some of it has to do with simply getting older. It's not a ton of fun when your dog needs to go out at 6:30 am and there's eight inches of snow and no one has shoveled yet.

One thing about last year's non-winter: it was possible to enjoy being outside in January and February, when it can be so cold you have to rush from house to bus stop to office to avoid dangerous conditions.

And I remember pretty clearly the massive storm we had five years ago this week.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

To Young Fogey,

I have no time for the human-induced climate change deniers. On the one hand they cite the history of weather data, and on the other claim that the people studying climate change hide all the data so no-one else can assess it. Contradictory nonsense.

It is in the interests of the global captains of industry and capital to make sure uncertainty and disinformation is rife among the general public on this. Among scientists (real ones, not cranks) the uncertainty is nowhere.

End of political digression.

JKG said...

@Roger

Beyond clothing we likely disagree about much, but I concur with you here: there are no scientific debates about climate change; only political ones.

Gordo said...

Having being born and raised in Southern California, seasonal change means going from 100° in late October to 50° today. Hence, we miss most of fall/winter's heavier offerings. The use of color and texture is critical with an average temperature of 70°.

The town next to me is Pasadena and as my Ohio born and raised mom would say "It needs to rain on the Rose Parade so people see something other than a warm, sunny winter day and move here."

On the other hand, I wear Reyn Spooner Hawaiian Christmas shirts and cruise wear in January.

The cold, white, wet stuff sends a chill to me.

Young Fogey said...

Roger,

I have followed this issue for quite some time, and came to be convinced of the falsity of the Al Gore position a few years ago. The reasons are too many to fully list here, so here are a few highlights of the fraud that is the global warming hoax.

First, it is possible for the data to be available, but manipulated or obfuscated by the AGW side.

The program that produced the "hockey stick" graph will produce that shape regardless of the data fed into it.

Funding and publication have consistently been denied to those scientists whose conclusions do not support AGW.

The "scientists" at the East Anglia Climate Research Unit—the heart of Climategate—cherry-picked data, and destroyed data not consistent with their desired conclusions. Phil Jones, the disgraced former head of the CRU, admitted that there had been no statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present.

Changes in solar activity correlate to changes in planetary temperatures, not only here, but also on Mars.

I agree that it is in our own best interest to reduce emissions and otherwise be good stewards of the planet. It's good to see that we have addressed many of these issues, like acid rain and heavy metal poisoning. But to paraphrase JKG, global warming is political: it was made by those who benefit from receiving government grants for misrepresenting the data.

Giuseppe said...

I'm dreaming of a white Cristmas....

Young Fogey said...

...just like the ones I used to know.

We just did our annual White Christmas watching this weekend. What a wonderful movie! Turns out that an unusually warm winter was a plot device in that 1954 flick. And who knew that Rosemary Clooney (George's aunt) was so gorgeous when she was young?

JKG said...

@YF: You misunderstand me. The scientific community has unambiguously arrived at a consensus, with a vanishingly small number of vocal outliers. There is no credible scientific debate on this matter.

And this government grants argument that contrarians tirelessly tote around holds no water. There is much greater profit to be made accepting fee-for-service payments from the private sector than wrestling over the last french-fry in the government's lunch pail.

The final word on the political (or should we say the "lay") debate has been uttered by the world's insurance companies who have much to lose if they fail to anticipate dramatic climatological changes. When the money boys move, the play is over.

Young Fogey said...

JKG,

No. The scientific community has most assuredly not "unambiguously arrived at a consensus." That statement is a political, not a scientific, one.

Science is a process, not a fixed position. Hypotheses and even theories are supposed to be rigorously tested and tweaked, even discarded, when found wanting.

As for the climate, it is far, far too complex a system for us to have more than an inkling of how it works. Consider the weather forecast. The further from "now" it is, the less accurate it is, and forecasts more than ten days in the future are worthless.

Global temperature trends are not the same as daily weather, true, but the Butterfly Effect makes all models of future climate trends horribly inaccurate. Also, it is a sad fact that few people recognize that trends are not permanent, but that they, too, change.

The fact that one side wishes to end all discussion and declare it a settled matter—doesn't that bother you in the least? That is a totalitarian position, not a scientific one.

You should really look into Climategate and the discrediting of Phil Jones. If AGW were real, if the facts were on their side, why would the CRU lie about it? Why would they engage in a massive cover-up?

AEV said...

Young Fogey - a simple Google search of recent information on Phil Jones refutes a number of your basic assumptions about him, his previous statements, and his research. E.g. this BBC piece from last year, titled, "Global Warming Since 1995 Now Significant" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13719510)

There is no meaningful or credible scientific debate about the reality and causes of global warming. Debating these points is like debating the wetness of water.

A meaningful analysis doesn't lie in the comparison of historical trends or amateur analysis of ancient, cyclical patterns. Why? Well, for one, the planet's population has exploded exponentially across the last 100 years, as has the refinement and burning of fossil fuels. How anyone can believe that the industrial revolutions that have transpired across the globe across the last 100 years - continuing in developing nations now - have had no impact on our climate and atmospheric temperatures is beyond comprehension. I'm guessing such disbelief is rooted in the wacky fables and mistruths of the New Testament and conservative political disdain for facts and intellectual rigor. Regardless, such silly, half-baked, "I sound smart and can argue anything by regurgitating what I hear on Fox News and read by Michael Crichton" chatter must be kicked back into the hole it occasionally emerges from.

Reggie Darling said...

And how! Not too long ago it would snow -- like clockwork -- the first week of December and would stay around until late March. This year I'm even considering not wrapping our boxwoods in burlap, as last winter it was a waste of time, effort and funds (I pay someone else to do it). Hopefully this isn't the beginning of the end, but rather an interlude... Reggie

Young Fogey said...

AEV,

Your superior attitude is unflattering. Your personal attacks are inappropriate. Are you really incapable of debating ideas without insulting those you disagree with?

Are you trying to say that Phil Jones didn't admit that there was no statistical difference amongst three different warming periods (1860-1880, 1910-1940, and 1975-1998)? Are you trying to say he didn't answer "yes" to the question, "do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?" Are you trying to say that he didn't manipulate and withhold data and otherwise engage in chicanery and deception?

When Jones was asked, "When scientists say "the debate on climate change is over", what exactly do they mean - and what don't they mean?" he responded with, "I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this."

Do you understand what his answer means? It means that most scientists do not think that the debate is over!

The assertion that the burning of fossil fuels and the population explosion have lead to "global warming"—which has been renamed, in case you hadn't noticed, as "climate change," precisely because the climate is not warming—ignores the fact that four of the warmest years on record were in the 1930s, before the population or the effects of industrialization could have had anything near the effect they might have now.

Your jab at Christianity as "wacky fables and mistruths" is offensive and without justification. The Bible is single most read and studied book in history, and while many parts lack external verification, not one part of its 66 books, written over 1600 years by at least 40 authors in three languages, has been shown wrong. In fact, archaeological evidence (when present) verifies what the Bible says about locations and events.

Incidentally, you'd better tell Bacon, Boyle, Copernicus, da Vinci, Descartes, Faraday, Galileo, Heisenberg, Kelvin, Kepler, Leibniz, Marconi, Maxwell, Mendel, Millikan, Newton, Pascal, Pasteur, Planck, Schrodinger, and hundreds of less-famous scientists that their belief in God is incompatible with your belief in science.