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Winter weeds and evergreens at Kedys Inlet, Mahone Harbour, northeast. Winter is not without subtle colours.
N.C. Wyeth's map of the "New World". The orange dot on the northeastern coast of North America is where we are at.
Originally, Mahone, now termed Mahone Bay, this village is located in Lunenburg County. It was established by a part of the resettlement of 1,400 "Foreign Protestants" at Lunenburg Old Town. German-speaking for the most part they were largely from the Upper Rhine. The first settlers arrived in1753 at the command of King George II of England. Lunenburg honoured the German-speaking king who was also the Duke of Brunschweig-Lüneburg. The coin seen above is a thaler (dollar) minted at about the time of settlement.
As for weather, it is any local short-term manifestation of climate, a seasonal matter. Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term average of factors which comprise weather in a given region. In the past it took a long time for climate to alter. These days, it seems that climate change has been accelerated by humans and it is questionable whether the trend can be reversed. Weather is only partially defined by air and water temperature. There is also the matter of air movements and velocities, humidity, air pressure and other meteorological considerations. Because Mahone Bay is inland on an embayment it sees little fog and is warmer in summer and winter than places on peninsulas.
Both places are in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter is defined by meteorologists as the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. These corresponds with the months of December, January and February in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.
There is a bit of a lag in Nova Scotia due to the influence of the Labrador Current with sweeps the south shore before curving into the Gulf of Maine and Bay of Fundy. This means that the deepest cold of winter is in February with the other two cold months being January and March. The Mediterranean winter water temperatures mean that Milan has a much less severe winter. Even so, Mahone Harbour has been partially ice free for much of the past few winters.
However, we have just passed through an anomalous winter, when the Labrador Current was less influential for reasons that may relate to global warming. It has been theorized that the Gulf Stream, which circulates in the North Atlantic, has slowed allowing warmer waters to more thoroughly mix with, and moderate, the Labrador Current, Water temperatures were about 3ēC above unusual in the winter of 2016-2017.
Ice packs were consequently not fully in charge of waters between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, and for much of the winter Mahone Bay Harbour, on which the Town of Mahone Bay is situated, was almost ice-free in the depths of winter. There were only three major snowstorms here. Halifax is less than a hour distant by car but when they got snow we usually had rain. Micro-climates are strange beasts?
Although the snow was deep when winter storms did blow in, a three-day wait usually saw thawing negating the need for heavy shovelling.
Here's the forecast for the current winter. Most of Canada has been promised lots of snow now that a cold La Niņa event is in progress of the west coast. "In a La Niņa winter, the Canadian air temperature (especially west of Quebec) tends to be below normal, while the precipitation in southern Canada tends to be above normal. Southern British Columbia tends to receive more snow. Poor Canadian prairie wheat harvests often follow La Niņa events." The Nova Scotian winter is obviously tied to the continuing higher than normal salt water temperatures.
Hurricane season is from August to November. Summer water temperatures can rise to 20°C/68°F but they typically average a frigid 4°C/39°F or less in winter. North-westerly winds are common in winter and turn south-west in summer. All of south western Nova Scotia air temperatures can feel cooler than the thermometer suggests.
Note that wind speeds are highest in the late Fall and Winter seasons. We really do have "March winds" as that old ditty says.
Winter storms sweep into the area as counter-clockwise rotating air masses with a front that touches land as a nor'easterly, shifting to the north west as it develops.
This was a Category 1 Hurricane whose eye is seen directly over Lunenburg County. A couple of very large trees were felled endangering power lines, otherwise Mahone Bay escaped relatively unscathed. This was not a winter storm but does show that usual nor'-east counter-clockwise rotation at landfall. Winds were not average, but died out as the eye passed elsewhere!
In Mahone Bay snow has more nuisance value than impact on trade and commerce as it does in my home province of New Brunswick. The probability of snow on Christmas Day was about 45%.
Here is what fell last winter. You will note that November and December, 2016 were not active in terms of snow days.
In terms of weather, a fully-fused snow bomb or blizzard is unlikely. In fact, average snowfall comes in slightly below 150 centimtres per year.
The first snow fell December 12 back in 2016, and after that there was light snow swept off periodically by warm daytime temperatures.
Forecast vary, but are often encouraging when it comes to the possibility of a White Christmas. This forecast was taken with "a grain of salt" as suggested!
While there was a light snowfall on Christmas Eve, snow cover was gone by noon hour the following day, which was grey, overcast and spitting a bit of light rain.
The greatest accumulation came on March 17, during the winter of 2017. On the following day we went out for lunch on Orchard Street. Although this collection of snow might appear impressive, the depth was exaggerated by drifting and snow-blowing activities.
Temperatures of air and water have a great deal to due with that lack of persistent snow cover. We are in Zone 6a where the maximum winter temperature can be expected to range between -23.3ēC to -20.6ēC. The average temperature on a given winter day can be expected to range around the freezing mark. The growing season is long and growing lengthier over time.
Norms for the three winter months are -4.6ēC for January; -4.8ēC for February and -1ēC for March. December can vie for winter placement, but the remaining eight months average above freezing.
Rod's photo from Kedys Inlet in early January 2018, when shell ice covered most areas of Mahone Harbour north west of the Civic Marina, whose wharfage is seen in the distance beyond the leafless tree at right.
... and one on every ski slope irrespective of wind chill and low air temperatures.
Peninsular Lunenburg, on which the Town of Lunenburg sits, is exposed on two sides to storm surge and winter winds and does have lowland flood plains. Mahone Bay is a little better placed to ward off wind, since it is on the south side of an inland embayment. However, the business district is located on a flood plane and is not immune to damage, since the harbour is funnel shaped and amplifies storm surge.
The harbour has not spilled over in recent years, but here is proof that it has in the past, and can again. Further, we do get a lot of wind and storm surge in winter and more rain than other parts of Nova Scotia, typically an overnight happening.
The Mahone Bay Father Christmas Festival takes place at the end of November and first days of December, since weather is fickle after that. The oversize figurines usually come down before snow flies, but this pair got caught out in the cold back in 2016. It does snow in Mahone Bay but it is rarely more than this. This is now ancient history, as is our residence on Main Street, a block away from this pair.
In terms of history repeating itself, the first snow fell on "The Meadows" which are not actually "meadows", overnight on December 15, 2017. This photo was taken the following morning through the patio door. This house, to the south, has an elevated view of the harbour rather than one of mundane Pleasant Street.
This December was not as depressing as usual as there was more sunshine than forecast, and minuscule amounts of snow were a no-show. To this date, another month of above average temperatures.
When that month had run its course an historical profile of temperatures was possible, and as usual temperatures were higher overall for almost every date in December. The low temperatures were recorded at night, and the highs, in daylight, You can see why overnight snow cover was often wiped out during the days.
While snowfall for all of December is now coming in at a miserly mean of 7 cm, it is a relatively wet month getting more than 150 mm of rain, only surpassed in January and June.
December 3: Mahone Bay's Yuletide Express takes off with wind screens emplaced against a Scot's mist. At the time of this Father Christmas Festival, the place was alive with visitors.
As mentioned it did snow on December 15 and flurries followed the next day. Cloud cover is heavier in November than December.
By noon on December 16, the sun was shining and the grass green, although covered with a light snow. We took lunch at Rebeccas.
This was the view from the restaurant looking southward over the harbour. The sun was just deciding to break cloud cover.
December 18. Too much warmth for snow to persists. In spite of storm warnings the weather from then on to Christmas Eve was largely clear and sunny, hovering near 0ēC.
At Chester Basin and in shallower covers there was full ice cover, but again in 2017 this was not quite managed, the ice falling short of the entrance at Strums Island. Not those new rock barriers in this view from Mahone Bay looking across at Oakland to the east.
This was the Winter Solstice as seen on our back hill. Thursday December 21 found the sun at its southernmost position relative for Mahone Bay at about 12:30 pm. This hill is a part of the Great Ridge which stretched from here south to Maders Cove. Because it forms a steep hill it is shaded at this time of year and one of the few laces where snow did not entirely melt.
Decidedly one of the days of the "Weak Sun" as the Celts used to say. Late in the day we made a quick foray to Chester to purchase items not available elsewhere. This is balsam Christmas tree country, and a lot of tree trunks can be scavenged by those who burn wood. This was on the shore road outward bound.
This was homeward bound on the inland highway. At solstice, the height of the sun above the horizon at noon is st its lowest point in the sky and we will have the smallest number of hours of daylight, a little more than 6 hours in total.
For those of us with a view of the eastern or western horizon (above) this annual motion is very obvious. After the winter solstice we see the sunrise and sunset points on the horizon moving northwards each day, imperceptibly at first and then faster and faster, and then slowing until around 21 June we reach the northernmost points of sunrise and sunset the Summer Solstice after which the sunrise and sunset points start moving southward again.
We arrived home precisely at sunset on the shortest day of our year. Peaceful, eh!
Three days later this warning was posted, but we had escaped storms which had impacted other parts of the North American north eastern coast, and for a few years we have been dreaming of a White Christmas which never materialized.
Nevertheless, that first snow storm had been a windy affair so we decided to stock up against the possibility of a power failure. Pharmacy, beer store, post office...
And groceries. We found that not many citizens had decided to take the warning seriously.
Considering maps like this, one can guess that a lot of folk were betting on rain. And some areas did get rain but everyone seems to have missed that "wind gusts up to 120 km/hr" warning.
And Calvin was not the only one living for a bit of snow.
The grocery store shelves remained fully stocked. While taking pics outside I saw one customer purchasing bags of ice. It was a warm afternoon.
No wind, no cold, bright sunshine and no crowds. Ruth checked to see if the winter boots she coveted had come up on sale.
Ruth sallied forth without a hat in a light mid-season leather coat. Note the hue of that grass!
People were not inconvenienced in losing a mitten.
So it was heigh-ho, one at the pub, on the other side of Main Street.
They closed for a private party at the end of one Goose Island toast!
Home again at 4 pm.
Our $10 tree was decorated that afternoon.
With no visitors, friends or relatives promised for Christmas day and a wind rising, we closed the patio door curtains and opened the presents, and drank beer. A power failure at 5 pm ended our plans to vary the Christmas diet with roast lamb. Like many meals, it ended up half cooked.
Wind made Christmas Eve an unpleasant occasion but a bit of snow fell and was washed away by rain before noon hour. With transcription work diminished by the Christmas break, Ruth was fully employed on Christmas Day.
It is hard to sleep when there are power outages possibly, and a 6-hour hiatus had taken place, but the condo is well insulated, heat was up, and outside temperatures were not low. A lot of folk coming home for Christmas could not make travel connections. Further, low temperatures were forecast and no drop in wind velocities.
For most of Christmas Day sparse reporting made it unclear what kind of weather had occurred and what its impact had been, but the weather map had changed for the worse. What was known was that gusts of 110 km/hr had been measured in our region and outages had grown to 79,000 residents, most in the southwest, by this time.
Milton is near Liverpool about an hour distant from Mahone Bay further southwest along the coast.
Nova Scotia power was admitting that the majority of homes would not have power restored before Wednesday. Tancook Island in Mahone Bay was the last to be connected but not when promised.
Suddenly, December 26, a somewhat public holiday: As a new morning dawned 57,000 homes and businesses were without power in spite of the gains made by 500 dedicated workers.
By 11 am, crews had brought the number of disconnected customers down to 42,000.
Those really disturbing winds had moved offshore into the marine jurisdiction.
Here is what was promised back then, but it did not quite work out that way.
The worst effects of Winter Storm Ethan were felt in New England which received snow at a rate of 3 to 5 inches per hour in some places. Thunderstorms added to the strangeness Christmas afternoon. Speed limits were reduced on the Maine Turnpike to 45 miles per hour on Boxing Day. Comparatively, Maritime Canada escaped a bit easier, but harsh cold was predicted.
It was a bit colder than promised when we cast off for nearby Peggys Cove on December 29, butte roads were completely cleared and snow cover was light in neighbouring Halifax County.
But Rod was there for lobster and Ruth for baked beans at the Sou'Wester Restaurant.
No bus tours at this time of year but that afternoon the parking lot was half full. Vehicles began to drain off as our leaving time of 4 pm approached. Farewell 2017!
Looking back toward Peggys Point and that lighthouse. There was a still wind and high chill factor, but this was hard to capture in a still photo where trees are absent.
The head of St. Margarets Bay and shallow water coves were all iced-over. Here we see one possible effect of ice-wedging against wharf crib work. Trees do better where there is soil!
In exposed situations like this they tend to struggle against wind and salt spray. There is wind here as evidenced by the fact that floats are tied to trees.
Although air temperatures cooled in this area through December, final analysis of the stats shows that it was still a warmer period than would have been anticipated when I was a toddler.
The last day of the year ended on sunny a cooler day. Lunenburg and Halifax Counties were, however, hot spots as the year closed. While melting temperatures at Christmas and after had cleared snow from some locations, not every jurisdiction was lucky. Following some web cam stills from 1. Milford House lodge on the road north to Annapolis Royal; 2. Liverpool, less than an hour distant; 3. Mahone Bay (no cams currently available), 4. Chester, in Lunenburg County; 5. Peggys Cove; 6. City of Halifax, a little more than an hour east.
Milford House is situated in the village of South Milford, in the heart and at the height of the western region of Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. Once it commences to snow in this jurisdiction one can enjoy a traditional Canadian winter.
This was Liverpool west of the bridge over the Mersey River and no distance from Mahone Bay as the crow flies. The river is broad and deep in this area and was largely ice free. The presence of snow on the ground does say that it did not moderate as much here as at coastal communities further east.
Downtown Chester about 20 minutes away to the east of Mahone Bay had few suggestions of that Christmas morning snowfall. Note the offshore islands which buffer the village against wind. That wharf serves the Tancook Island ferry.
Closer Peggys Cove than Chester, here is the other terminus for that ferry. Surrounded by relatively warmer salt water, this somewhat isolated place, showed not a smidgen of snow.
Peggys, December 31, with drumlin islands in the distance. All web cams taken at about 12 pm.
Halifax had a less comfortable December in terms of wind and storms but ended the year without a need for skis or snowshoes.
Tradewinds Realty web cameras no longer serve Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, so this on site photo will have to do. The presence of asphalt has some influence when it comes to removing snow.
While the grass remains somewhat green in Mahone Bay, a circular pass around the village shows yellow ochre fields and a dusting of snow. Relatively speaking these are all high land situations. Here we were on the Fauxburg Road.
An here on the Northwest Road travelling north toward Blockhouse. There are a couple of secondary roads, like this, leading into the village.
We drove through Blockhouse and followed the Cornwall Road across the main highway to gas up at that station with the red roof.
Afterwards, Ruth drove back to Blockhouse and took the left turn, following the Blockhouse/Bridgewater Road into Mahone Bay.
On Main Street.
This has been a problem area for school children attempting to get safely across West Main Street. Crossing signs, flags and an amber warning light have been recently added.
As the year ended statistics were still coming in and it took a few days before comparisons with earlier years could be made. In terms of climate, and climate change, individual weather events are never conclusive as Donald Trump's tribe has concluded.
In a preliminary report Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. declared "2017 Third Warmest in the 39-Year Satellite Record." He produced this chart noting that the 2017globally-averaged lower troposphere temperature was recorded at "+0.38 deg. C above the 1981-2010 average, behind 1st place 2016 with +0.51 deg. C, and 2nd place 1998 at +0.48 deg. C."
Naturally, SkepticGoneWild responded: "January 2, 2018 at 8:11 AM. Warm is good: let the alarmist wailing and gnashing of teeth begin."
The rebuttal belongs under a "Climatology" heading. As the World and the New Year turned another dire Weather warning was issued.
High winds can have fearful fleeting implications, but Halifax is on the fringe of a bad weather part of Nova Scotia.
We were slightly spooked by the December winds, but then Mahone Bay is Teutonic territory in terms of myth and legend, and parts of it are unnerving even before a storm. We were determined to meet the next potential disaster fully armed. One flashlight is not enough! As the cartoonist Michael de Adler has said "You might be a Nova Scotian if..."
De Adler was born in Moncton, New Brunswick and educated at Mount Allison University. He started life as a Herringchoker rather than a Bluenoser. A Canadian editorial cartoonist, he worked for the Halifax Daily News until it closed its doors in February 2008. He currently works for the Hill Times in Ottawa.