Last week I heard a climatologist proclaim that we’ve broken winter’s back! He explained that we are halfway through winter! Environment Canada says that mid January, known as the dead of winter, is the halfway point where more winter is behind us than ahead.
The astronomical calendar tells us that winter began on December 21, 2016. According to the astronomical calendar, we’re barely one month into winter. However, in the meteorological calendar, winter spans the three months of December, January, and February. In meteorology, spring begins on March 1. Meteorologists tell us that January 15 was the ‘dead’ of winter. Does this really mean winter is half over?
“H, ha, ha — not really!” say I! During the past two weeks, I’ve watched blinding snow, freezing rain, fog, and rain outside of my windows. As I write this post, it’s downright balmy outdoors. Except for bits of snow banked along the North side of the house, the lawn looks green. With a drink or two and my rose-coloured glasses, I might believe that winter is nearly over. Experience tells me to dismiss this thought as barely a week ago, eight inches of wet snow fell throughout the day!
In my new home in South West Ontario, there’s already been more snow than I’m used to seeing during a winter. We’re experienced lake effect snow storms, Colorado lows, and Nor’easters. These are the terms weather people use to describe what’s happening on days when leaving the house feels dangerous and unnecessary.
While the quality of light usually changes by March 1, the month of March in this part of the world can be the most severe winter month.Weather is unpredictable in March. Day after day, skies are an oppressive grey. How can meteorologists call March 1 the beginning of spring?
Canadians don’t think winter is over
Although some Canadians proclaim that they love winter, most simply tolerate the season. We use various diversions such as hibernation, denial, forced cheerfulness, and grim determination to get through the winter months. A January thaw fools nobody!
However, by mid-January Canadians are ready for winter’s end so many like the term ‘breaking winter’s back.’ The holidays are over. Friends have migrated to sunny Southern destinations; others are planning trips. Some aren’t sure whether to stick it out or make plans for a vacation.
Many, like me, count the days until spring. We’re encouraged, but not fooled, by bouts of mild weather. Environment Canada’s proclamations may be designed to keep alive our hopes for an early spring!
Discussions about weather
Weather, especially during summer and winter months is the most frequently used conversation starter among Canadians. There’s a saying in Canada, ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes’. Greetings to one another usually include a comment about the weather such as ‘nice day’, ‘ugly wind’, ‘good to see some sunshine’ or ‘that was some storm last night!’ Events and activities are often planned with a proviso for cancellation if the weather changes.
Weather is a topic we have in common. It allows us to share experiences. In bad weather, we feel that we’ve conquered mother nature; in good weather we delight in the beauty she offers.
Weather Can Affect Emotions
Researchers have found connections between mood and weather. Upbeat, positive moods are associated with sunshine. Low levels of sunshine and fewer daylight hours are usually associated with ‘winter blues’.
Mental health professionals have researched a condition known as ‘seasonal affective disorder’ (SAD) to describe depression that is often found in Northern climates during winter months. SAD is associated with low levels of bright sunshine; it is sometimes treated with special daylight lamps that emulate sunshine.
Smart marketers use weather analogies to show how using and/or owning certain products can change moods. Orange juice gets linked with sunshine and happiness in commercials. Pharmaceutical companies exploit experiences of low energy when selling pills, pep-up drinks, and vitamin supplements. Automobile commercials link positive driving experiences with conquering nasty environmental conditions such as driving rain, snow, or sleet.
When assuming power, Prime Minister Trudeau characterized his new government as one of ‘sunny ways’. Reaching back to the time of Prime Minister Laurier over 100 years ago, Trudeau used the expression ‘sunny ways’ to indicate that positive politics would be his government’s signature. Trudeau may not always be ‘Mr. Sunshine’ as was Laurier, but using this mantra to influence how he governs was a play on happy emotions associated with sunshine. Is our Prime Minister a marketer?
Perhaps climatologists are doing their own marketing when they declare that we’ve broken winter’s back. This declaration may be their attempt to provide hope that in just a few weeks winter will end. Perhaps climatologists use a form positive thinking or encouragement to bolster optimism for those of us who follow weather forecasts with diligence.
I know that winter is far from over so I don’t think much about breaking winter’s back. I listen to prognostications about the weather with skepticism preferring to take each day as it comes. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy precious moments of sunshine, cope with the grey skies, and dress for windy, cold weather. Winter is a wonderful excuse for spending time indoors and passing many hours with a good book, happy music, chocolate, and a warming drinks.