EDITORIAL: You can’t predict the weather

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Environment and Climate Change Canada released a report Monday and it was no April Fool’s joke. According to the report, Canada is heating up twice as fast as the world, causing irreversible changes to the climate.

After March’s heat wave, when record-smashing temperatures turned many of the territory’s winter roads to mud and melted Yellowknife’s precious snow castle, some people will jump to the conclusion that Northerners just witnessed climate change in action.

Others might point to the February cold snap, when the mercury dropped below -40 C, prompting Environment Canada to issue a number of extreme cold warnings, and say those people are full of baloney.

Welcome to the confusing climate debate where a bout of extreme weather is liable to give you a case of crippling eco-anxiety.

But it’s important not to confuse weather with climate. Weather is the day to day state of affairs. We talk about weather as it relates to humidity, precipitation, visibility and wind in the short term. It’s one of our favourite topics of conversation that bridges the gap between folks from all walks of life. You might say, “is it hot enough for ya?” to a potential mate at a social gathering by way of breaking the ice.

Climate on the other hand is weather averaged over many years, decades and even centuries. No single weather event, no matter how extreme, can be definitively linked to climate change.

And we’re not saying there’s no room for concern. We are living in a world that has warmed by an average of about 0.8 C since 1880, according to NASA. We are adding planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at an alarming rate.

Even if the world were to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, winter temperatures in the Arctic could still rise by up to 5 C by 2050, states a UN report released last month.

By 2050, about 70 per cent of our Arctic infrastructure will be threatened by thawing permafrost, it states.

These are weighty matters but it would be worthwhile not to get ahead of ourselves and take the time instead to thank all the builders, organizers and entertainers who made the 24th annual Snowking’s Winter Festival a success. Despite the fact that it ended a week early due to unseasonably warm weather, it was a smash.

And hats off to the organizers of the Long John Jamboree who had to change the location of the festival at the eleventh hour.

The jamboree has been held on Yellowknife Bay since its inception in 2012 but had to be relocated to the Fieldhouse parking lot at the last minute. This must have been a logistical nightmare but organizers and citizens stepped up their game and pulled off a successful event.

Also, kudos to De Beers Canada for offering the festival a last-minute cash injection.

Snowking organizers have considered holding the festival a few weeks earlier in an effort to avoid any more castle-melting warm spells.

This might be a good idea, or it might not. You can’t predict the weather.

Last year, it was not the heat, but rather the wind and – 30 C temperatures that caused the cancellation of a full day of Long John Jamboree events, plunging the festival into dire financial troubles.

Holding the Snowking’s Winter Festival or the Long John Jamboree in early March or late February could be a success, or festival goers might have to contend with terribly frigid temperatures, which would also be a problem.

The weather is unpredictable in Yellowknife, always has been.

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