Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Autumn approaches

"It's the end of august, and the birches are still all green," the information officer of HumLab bemoaned, as she showed me the campus. "It's not supposed to be like this. They are supposed to start turning gold now. It's so beautiful." I had to confess that I was quite comfortable with green birches until far into september, and I was in no hurry to see the weather turn. Two days later I noticed the gold touches in the birches outside the building I live in. It seems like global warming hasn't quite turned Umeå into an all-year summer estate just yet.

"The mean temperature in winter used to be minus 9 degrees celsius," my lunch date echoed the worry. "Now it's minus 5 degrees."

Biking home through the freezing rain, I didn't quite manage to share these concerns. I am here for the people, the University and the chance to hang out with others who are specialising along the same lines as me, I really don't mind if the temperature drops only to minus 10 and not minus 30. But of course, if in the last 20 years winters have been 4 degrees above the common mean temperature, that is not just a temporary change, at least not in human years. Personally, I am more concerned with getting wet, and the darkness even of daylight setting in. I am two degrees further north than Volda. For comparison: Oslo and Helsinki are at (about) 60 degrees north, Volda at 62, Umeå at 64. The arctic circle is at 66.33. For those who want to keep updated on the campus, to see if I am justified when grumping about weather and light, check the campus webcam. It's 8 degrees today, and while that is acceptable summer temperature even in Volda..., well, it's going to be an adventure.

Update: According to the locals this weather is highly unusual, and the pond that can be seen from the webcam is just a few centimeters from running over and potentially flooding the basements of the nearby buildings.

PS: Do anybody somewhat closer to equator need a guest speaker/researcher in January or February? Just checking...

4 comments:

M-H said...

I watched a short doco last night about the effects of the warmer global temps on South Greenland - their agriculture has completely changed and they are growing fresh vegetables and farming cattle for the first time since the Vikings 'disappeared' from there around 500 years ago.

Torill said...

That is an important point which we also should not forget, before panicking: it was a lot warmer in Scandinavia during the Viking era. They grew plants which it is very hard to grow here now, and yes, they farmed on Greenland. It's not unnatural for the planet to go through different temperature cycles, and hard to know what's caused by us, and what's just happening anyway.

And my lunch date corrected me - not everybody are worried about warming, some quite appreciate not seeing 30 below zero.

montchan (MJ Bliss) said...

really? Minus 5 in the winter? Only minues 5?
We've been here for 3 winters now, and let me tell you, we're happy when it gets UP to minus 5...

But yeah, this summer has been weird...

Torill said...

The way I understood it, it was the main temperature over the winter half of the year. For instance, we can have pretty cold months in Volda, easily down to minus 10 for weeks, but the main temperature is not below zero.

Main temperatures are tricky, it's all about the period of time you pick.

And yes, I understand that I'll be lucky if it gets up to a balmy minus 10 when the winter really gets on with it...