Warning: heavy geek content.
Meteorological winter is here as of December 1 and the sun has almost reached its lowest point in the sky. Even though we’re nearly 4 million km closer to the sun than we were in June, the low angle in the sky and short daylight hours ensure a limited amount of heat. There is an El Niño event occurring this year; rainfall amounts are down and temperatures have been considerably above average so far. Because the way the earth accelerates at this point on its way around the sun we have reached our earliest sunset time of 4:41pm while mornings will continue to darken until the end of the month.
As a result of the mild weather there are some plants that have not yet gone into dormancy and they are a probable indication of what global warming will bring to Toronto’s climate if temperatures continue to rise.
The downside of such mild weather is that in wooded areas, and especially if warming affects Canada’s boreal forest, leaves on the ground slowly decompose when in a normal winter they would be compressed by snow and their carbon content preserved. This decomposition releases carbon dioxide, reducing the natural carbon sink effect of the boreal forest.
On a lighter note, although it’s quite common in Toronto for winter to begin in earnest after Christmas, this winter there is a feeling that we may be getting off lightly.
After the last two winters, let’s hope so.