Snappledagain's Blog

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Blizzard? Pfffllltp!

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For the first time in my life a blizzard warning has been issued for the area around Calgary. Now I was hardly born yesterday so this might be more surprising than one might first think.

Apparently, the definition of a blizzard has recently changed. Environment Canada began reviewing the criteria for what constitutes a blizzard in June 2010 and created a new official definition. The main idea was to harmonize the warnings and criteria across the country so that a consistent warning would be delivered to Canadians.

Now my impression of what a blizzard was had me believe that it was such a severe event as to be quite rare, even in the context of weather a century ago. This is also what the discussion about the definition of a blizzard is really about.

As I sit at my desk looking out at the “blizzard” it is currently only minus eleven degrees Celsius, the wind is only averaging 17 kilometres per hour over the last fifteen minutes, and there has been merely an inch of snowfall all night (it is now noon). A blizzard? Hardly. In fact it is not even all that bad of a winter storm. The temperature is comparatively mild given it is the first week of December, a period during which historically the mercury has been known to fall to below minus forty. The wind is nothing compared to what it can be, and the snowfall is not even enough to have to go outside to shovel the sidewalk.

Under the old definition, a storm would have to pack winds of 50 kilometers per hour or more, visibility of one kilometer or less, and wind-chill values of -25°C or lower to be considered a blizzard.

Today, Blizzards are characterized mainly by strong winds,  — specifically, winds that are expected to reduce visibility to 400 meters or less in combination with falling snow for at least four hours. Environment Canada currently applies these criteria to storms anywhere in Canada south of the tree line. North of the tree line (the northernmost portion of the territories, northern Quebec and Labrador), the criteria is the same, but the conditions have to be expected to last for at least six hours.

This is completely lame. This is not a blizzard, and as it has turned out today would not even qualify as a severe winter storm, in the view of most Canadians. The fact is Blizzards should be such severe events, and occur so rarely, that Environment Canada should seldom ever have the opportunity to apply the term anymore. This likely thanks to climate change, supposedly. But this new definition actually makes it easier for a storm to be classified as a blizzard. This very nicely frames the entire discussion about climate change, because the fact is that for most of the world’s population the climate is actually becoming milder! This is not a blizzard; ‘they’ have changed he definition just so they can still use the term for events that quite frankly never or at the most seldom occur anymore.

Under this new definition it should now be possible for us all to complain about three or four blizzards per season! Environment Canada’s inflated and somewhat panicked application of the word blizzard these days is lame, and discredits the entire warning system. A potentially greater problem when, one day, these (always rare, always were) type of events are sure to occur again.

Written by snappledagain

12/04/2013 at 11:43

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