Unable to travel home for Christmas due to a new batch of puppies, Kate got nostalgic about taking the snowmobiles out to chase hares and gaze at the stars. The truth is, there wasn't much snowmobiling action for her to miss around here, although the hares would have a tough time hiding in their white coats.
Sorry about the dim photo, but that's about the best I could do at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Another unusual thing about this view (looking north from the highway just west of Arcola) is that you can't see the hills, only about 3 miles away and rising nearly 400 feet above this plain.
I spent the later part of New Year's Eve downloading the climate data for western Canada and browsing through snow-depth records for our area. I found some partial records for Handsworth and Willmar starting in 1980, but for a consistent and older record the closest station I found was Estevan, with data going back to 1955. I had been thinking these brown Christmas holidays were a new thing, but Estevan had Christmases with essentially no snow in 1957, 1966, 1976, 1979, 1986 and 1987, as well as the recent ones that I remembered from 1997 and 1999. A brown New Year's Eve is a little more unusual, but there was only 2 cm of snow on the ground in Estevan in 1956. Other years with little or no snow on New Year's Eve include 1979, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997, and 1999.
When I compare these records with the partial data for Handsworth (in the hills west of Moose Mountain Provincial Park) and Willmar (south of Arcola), it seems to confirm my suspicion that we often have snow when Estevan doesn't, and the hills may have snow when the nearby plains don't. Handsworth had 6 cm on New Year's Eve 1986, and 7 cm in 1987. Maybe there weren't any brown Christmases at the farm when I was growing up, after all. I don't know what the snow is like over at Handsworth this year, but when I drove out to the farm yesterday, the hills were still looking very brown here.
Daily precipitation and temperature records are available for many more stations and much longer periods than the snow depth data. I wonder how hard it would be to model probable snow depth from those records, to estimate how many brown Christmases there were back in the early 1900s. It might be easier and more accurate to just ask around among the old-timers. Hopefully their memories are better than mine.
Anyway, if you're wondering how I marked the turning of the year, I didn't. It passed quietly sometime while I was exploring tables of snow depths. Garth was incommunicado in Pokhara, Nepal; otherwise it would have been fun to do a couple of phone smooches, once when midnight swept by over there, and again when it finally got around to us nearly twelve hours later.
2 weeks ago