R. I. P. Winter

It’s beginning to feel both as though autumn has been with us forever, and that it is especially reluctant to leave us, this year.

This year has been a mast year; the trees and bushes have been laden with prodigious quantities of nuts and berries. The hawthorns, especially, seem to be weighed down with berries, and we have gathered large quantities of nuts from the hazel in our garden. There are so many acorns beneath the oaks nearby that there is a thick, continuous, crunchy, carpet of them underfoot. Traditionally, this has been said to indicate a harsh winter ahead, although how the trees and bushes are meant to work this out when we have no idea what the weather will be then, heaven only knows.

What it really indicates, of course, is that the climatic conditions have been such throughout the year that these trees and bushes have successfully produced their large crops. Nothing to do with what will come along later.

On the other hand, the leaves have held onto their greens for longer than usual and only turned late, and still seem most reluctant to fall. It has taken the determined efforts of a few strong winds just to remove about half of them. Certainly, around my part of Britain, anyway.

It is not cold. There are no signs of a proper winter chill approaching, with the long-range weather forecast contenting itself with predictions of the occasional cold spell in the next month, which takes us through to mid-December. In the garden the grass and many of our other plants are still engaged in that crazy autumn growth spurt.

Of course, it was never unusual for November to be wet and mild, and we may yet have a biting cold winter, although I wouldn’t bet on it. It is a long, long time since we have had a winter like that in these parts. In my lifetime, only the winters of 1963 and 1978/79 really stand out as being extremely harsh, although a few others have had shorter periods of cold and snow. The expectation for winter around here now is that it will just be chilly and wet. I think only once in the last six or seven years have we had more than just the odd flurry of snow; that was from the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ a couple of years ago, and even that only lasted a few days.

We seem to have lost winter somewhere along the way, which sounds very careless of us.

In fact, that is quite a good way of describing it.

You don’t need me to tell you we have been careless in the way we have interacted with nature, the result being our world is heating up dangerously. And in our part of the world, this has led to hotter, drier, summers and milder, wetter, winters. There has been a notable increase in destructive flooding events. Downpours are frequently very heavy and long-lasting. Rather than being spread out through the month, we may get an entire month’s worth of rain in less than a day. Summers, conversely, have become very dry.

This is absolutely nothing to the extreme climate conditions suffered by millions of others in other parts of the world, but it helps to bring it home to us that the Climate Emergency is real, and it is happening. With everything else happening in the world at the moment, this seems to have been conveniently ignored by the mainstream media for the last six months.

R. I. P. Winter.

26 thoughts on “R. I. P. Winter

  1. Colin Barrett

    Hi Mick. I agree that winters here do not seem to be as harsh as they once were, and nature does seem to have blossomed this year. I’m still thinking of hibernating though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This year is predicted to be El Nina year meaning it will colder and winter will be harsher. We are already seeing early onset of winters. It is true that humans have played with nature and it looks like a payback time!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In Ohio we too have had extended mild autumn weather far longer than in my memory. We just had a two week spell of balmy temperatures (no jackets!). More unusually, leaves stayed on the trees much longer. It has been beautiful and we can’t help think this extra dose of beauty will help to hold us for a long virus-altered lonely winter. But it has also felt wrong. I can’t help but wonder how the unusual temps affect everything from insects to birds to the mallards still on our pond when they should have gone south by now.

    I read that we humans change our expectations so quickly that already we barely notice how much less birdsong there is, how strange it is that our windscreens are free of insects, how invasive plants take over more effortlessly. Then these aberrations become norms, lessening our concern when even these change.

    We are finally getting the lovely gray skies and windy storms typical of November. I am grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly, the milder winters have an impact on nature over here. Many of the garden pests that would usually die over winter have managed to survive until the following year, so we have larger numbers of (for example) slugs and wasps. Apparently malarial mosquitoes are much closer to Britain, too.

      We do get used to these changes. It seems to be something that humans are good at – perhaps it is generally a survival mechanism, although it might well work against our interests in this case.

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  4. Traditionally, this has been said to indicate a harsh winter ahead, although how the trees and bushes are meant to work this out when we have no idea what the weather will be then, heaven only knows.

    Given that oak trees have had at least 23 million years to learn about weather and climate, I wouldn’t put anything past them.

    Speaking of weather and climate, my neighbor across the road is an old sheep farmer. A while back, his grandson asked him to help on a science project. The goal was to illustrate the difference between weather and climate.

    Jay said, “No problem.”

    He took the kid out into the farm yard and pointed to the watering tank. “That is weather,” he said. He then pointed to the well pipe filling the tank. “That’s climate.”

    The water in the tank was approximately the temperature of the last 24 hours. The ground water filling the tank tracks closely to the average annual temperature. Around here that is 45°F.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree about the trees probably being able to deal with the climate, at least until we manage to completely screw things up for them. But as to supplying extra fodder for the squirrels and birds to eat, I’m not so sure. It seems a lot of extra energy for little or no return.

      I suppose that would get a few extra ones buried and germinating later, although why wouldn’t they just do that every year, in that case?

      Contrary blighters, trees.

      A good lesson for your neighbour’s grandson. His teacher should then set him a long term project to measure the temperature of the groundwater each year, to see if it changes.

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  5. We’ve had horrible winters the last few years, but then we’re in Wales so that’s not suprising. What I’ve noticed more than the weather is the birds’ behaviour. For instance, the male pheasants that have been coming to our garden with their hens every day for over a year, are still in courting mode! That should have stopped a long time ago.

    Most of our leaves are down, now. I think you must be in a warmer part of the UK. Or maybe it’s the winds we get here – we’re in a valley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are in South East England, so we certainly get different weather to you. But this has been on my mind for a while, and recently I read a piece by a Scottish naturalist bemoaning the fact the really hard winters have virtually disappeared from his part of the world – yes, there would be several days of harsh weather at a time, but then usually a rapid thaw unlike he had been used to seeing. The winters of the past when his area would be frozen solid for weeks at a time were just that – in the past.

      And he spoke about the changing behaviours of the wildlife, not surprisingly.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the photo of the old trees in the woods. It looks medieval. I am in New England and our autumn has been mild as well. Though over a two week period we had summer-like temperatures, traditional autumn, and an entire day of snowfall. It’s hard for my body to adjust to the changes. We’ve also had some strong winds. The other night the wind was so strong it felt like the house was shaking and my bed lifted up, which it couldn’t have but the sensation from the wind rattling the house felt like it. With the daylight savings time it’s dark so early we don’t go for walks anymore after work. It’s depressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes it seems as though the seasons don’t know what they’re supposed to do anymore. The weather chops and changes from one thing to another, never really settling into a proper period of weather. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent still is the lack of daylight!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The seasons all seem to be shifting. Rains drying up in some places, floods in others. Winter a memory in some places where others are buried in snow and freezing temps. Animals are dying, viruses are thriving. We’re in big trouble and don’t seem particularly motivated to make more than miniscule changes. A sad situation, Mick.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. For the past 6-7 weeks the pavements near to my home have been thickly carpetted with leaves. This is, I think a combination of heavy leaf fell and, possibly partly due to council cutbacks meaning that street sweepers are not coming along as frequently as was previously the case. They are, however generally close to walls and fences which indicates they have been swept to the side. My local woods also has a thick carpet of leaves. There is a real climate emergency and noone should make light of it. I do, however believe that we will find ways to tackle it (indeed a lot of work is already being done. Witness, for example the huge growth in renewable energy and the phasing out of petrol vehicles). We do, I think need to avoid talking ourselves into a position of despair which can only lead to paralysis, or the view that we should all just party as the titanic is going to sink anyway, therefore we may as well enjoy ourselves while we can. This is not, I know your view (nor is it mine). Best, Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, that’s not my view, but I think there is a real danger in assuming that science will necessarily come galloping to our rescue just in the nick of time – it is that view which I think leads to a feeling of ‘it’ll be fine – we can just carry on as we are until then’. It is more a case of we may be able to fix this, but it needs us all to give it our best shot.

      Thanks, Kevin.

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