i've spent some time over the past day or so flipping through the "suggested post topics" over on the blog action day site. quite honestly, i really don't know enough about many of them to put together some kind of coherent post that wouldn't simply be me skimming from about 25 other things that are better researched and written to put together something of my own that isn't half as good. while i realise this is essentially what much of humanities research is (the "skimming from other people" bit, not the "not being half as good" bit), i'm reluctant to do that much speed research and then pass it off as something deep and meaningful! honestly, i think the wires would show a bit.
so instead of doing that, i decided to do this instead.
i grew up in central maine -- where exactly isn't particularly important since no-one ever knows where my home town is anyway. if you know where augusta is and you know where bangor is (stephen king lives there? see, now you know where it is!), i lived somewhere in between. mainers love to talk about the weather. actually, i can enlarge that statement: new englanders love to talk about the weather. i've only ever lived in new england and california and californians didn't have the same deep and abiding desire to discuss the details of what was plainly going on outside their windows that new englanders do. i don't understand it; i just state it.
growing up, i heard lots of stories about "the snow we used to get when i was a kid...," "the nor'easters when i was in school---," and "...uphill both ways in a blizzard" and so on. neither of my parents were mainers -- my mom is from new england, but my father is from england -- so they had to be told all the horror stories of blizzards of way back when and ice storms of year such-and-such and floods of so-and-so. i remember a couple of the more recent ones: the flood of 1989, for example, and the ice storm of '98. (anyone can see the aftermath of the flood of '89 without bothering to come to maine, by the way; just watch the miniseries empire falls -- the restaurant outside of which paul newman is repairing his car has a sign on the wall which reads "i survived the flood of '89." it did, too, despite being perched on the riverbank well below flood level!)
that aside, i listened to the stories of the awful blizzards and snow and ice and cold of previous years with the general sort of "yeah, right" attitude these kind of stories usually attract. i only realised there might be something to them when i was in college, commuting regularly between southern vermont and central maine, and it seemed to me that snow was coming later and later. when i moved back to new england from california it seemed even more obvious. and there were fewer what you might call "serious" storms. and the pine trees were starting to show more yellow and brown than they used to. and spruce trees in my parent's woodlot weren't looking as perky as they used to. and the ski areas started making snow earlier and earlier -- and then making more and more of it as the season went on when there should have been more than enough regular fall and pack to keep the slopes going.
yes, we still get snow and plenty of it, even in boston. yes, weather patterns that bring lighter winters and heavier winters have been going for centuries. (students in a class i helped student-teach a year or so ago were really taken with the idea that there had been a "little ice age" in the 14th/15th century.) and, no, none of what i've adduced above is hard scientific data; i can only say it's what i've observed, but even i can recognize a trend when i see it. winter cold comes later; goes earlier; yes, it's sharp and chilly from the end of september through april -- but it's chilly not cold. perhaps what i've seen are only personal observations of freak years -- but there have been a lot of freak years lately. from what i've seen of projections of climate change, some of what is happening has already gone too far to be turned back; what happens from here, however, is up to us -- as the dominant species on the planet, it has been for a long time and we haven't done anything to control our own actions. it may be time to reconsider this as a way of doing things.