Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Virtual Geography Convention 2012: Snowstorms from Canada and other Popular Weather Labels

Welcome to the 2012 Virtual Geography Convention!  Guest contributor "Canada" gives a post on snowstorms and her home and native land.

Guest Contributor "Canada" lives near the Great Lakes and doesn't quite understand her American friends' longing for snow, or some of the popular weather labels out there.

It's the end of February and we hear forecasts of much snow. It has been a mild winter in Southern Ontario. Most of the snow that has fallen has melted within a day or two and the roads have been cleared quickly. Rarely did the defroster or a squirt of washer fluid not take care of the frost on the windshield. It has been a relatively winter-less winter with the main signs of cold weather being leafless tress and people some people
wearing hats and gloves. People were outside walking around rather than shoveling snow or helping cars that were stuck or had slid off the road.
People wondered where winter was and blamed "global warming" as a reason.  According to National Geographic global warming should produce an increase in precipitation.
With very little ice on the lakes, wouldn't the winds pick up moisture and turn on the 'lake effect snow'  that is characteristic of winter in Southern Ontario. It was a winter no one expected. Where was winter ?

However newscasts this past week warned of inevitable problems and cautioned everyone to leave extra time for travel.  Even The Weather Network had "storm warnings" on. All the satellite and radar maps showed a strong system coming and a somewhat significant snowfall would be inevitable. Even the feeds from American television in the surrounding states had snowfall warnings.

I could hear the wind howling and soon the large flakes of snow were practically blowing sideways. I really should have taken photos or video of it. I have met many people living further south, who truly honestly believe I live in a land that is covered with ice and snow most of the year. Politically north, a higher latitude, a reputation for cold arctic air and the North Pole, well why wouldn't snow come from Canada?
The winds and air masses in North American move from west to east and generally on a slightly north east trajectory. If the system floats a little further south than initial projections, I am happy. Less systems over the Great Lakes means less snow.
So why then, when a large system brings the cold air and precipitation do we think of it as 'Canadian'?   Many times the system dumping the white flakes on me and my neighbours didn't come from the great white north  or even our Prairie provinces.  It came from our neighbours to the west and south... likely from one of those states known for mountains and skiing.  We do define areas by their weather and climate characteristics sometimes.
Do we think of the tornadoes and summer thunderstorms as originating from the American south or the Gulf of Mexico ?  Do we just accept the convectional precipitation as normal to threaten an hour of a July or August picnic with all traces of it to disappear soon thereafter as normal Canadian summer? Does weather have a nationality then?
I long for those days, where again people may fuss about the heat, global warming and rush to those lakes for a cooling breeze and we Canadians say it would be way too hot to travel south at this time to visit American friends.

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