mørketid and local warning at 70*N

Subject: mørketid and local warning at 70*N
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 13:44:14 +0100

                        MØRKETID AND LOCAL WARMING IN TROMSØ, N.NORWAY (69*50'N)

Mørketid (=the dark times) we call the period in winter, when the sun does
never rise above the horizon; here in Tromsø this is from 21 November until
21 January, when we celebrate soldagen (sun-day). Of course, although the
sun is not visible directly, its rays may still make for wonderful
sunset-spectacles around noon in the southern skies (in fact, the light of
winter days here is to my eyes more special than the midnight-sun light of
midsummer), and we also still have a daily rhythm in daylight, with
a  shortish period of light (albeit twilight only in the darkest weeks) in
the middle of the day. Today e.g., Dec. 2d, is a somewhat murky day, and
when I write these lines  at my office this Sunday afternoon at 1 pm, it is
already almost dark again.  Or rather, as dark as it gets: fortunately that
usually is not really completely dark, as the snow on the ground reflects
the sparse light in such a way, that it is often possible to make one's
way, even along not-lighted paths. (We also have a lot of street lighting here)

Just now the situation is not quite so favourable, though, as winter did
not come in November either; after the heavy snowfall I reported about some
weeks ago, the winds veered to the SW and W again, a strong high pressure
area built up over Russia, and all the Atlantic depressions are pushed on a
northwards course along the Norwegian Sea. This brought mild (mildish, a
few degrees above freezing) Atlantic air over most of Norway, now and then
all the way up to Svalbard , where Longyearbyen at 76*N had +1*C yesterday
morning! In S. and W. Norway these depressions also have brought torrential
rains and even floodings, but here in the north the winds are often S to
SE, and as our coast-line is aligned SW-NE, they come in here across land
and are not all that wet. So the net effect is often stormy southerly
winds, not all that much precipitation, and the ca 3 ft of snow that we had
on the ground, slowly turned into a much thinner crust of packed snow and
ice, making the footing treacherous away from the busier roads, and the
hospitals swamped with broken ankles and hips. I myself also fell the other
day on my own steepish and icy driveway, and so today I decided to risk
backing out my car along this slippery slope (what the gymnasts on TV call
a C-moment) rather than slithering  on foot across the path through
Folkeparken. Most of the time the manoeuvre succeeds, and one drives on
feeling clever.

Birdwise there is little news to tell. Still woodpeckers around, still
flocks of thrushes (I saw Fieldfares in the early morning taking advantage
of the street lights) and here and there Waxwings. In my garden the Willow
and Great Tits diligently collect sunflower seeds from the hanging feeder,
often yearningly watched by the neighbour's cat, until the local Magpies
find him and pester him until he gives up and goes somewhere else. A
Sparrow Hawk zoomed through the Folkeparken the other day, and the
White-tailed Eagle patrols from above. Still no Bullfinches at all at my
feeder; I wonder whether they too maybe feast on the rowanberries, of which
large quantities still hang on the trees.

The fjord is most of the time now covered with whitecaps, and I have no
fresh information about the numbers of wintering ducks and cormorants
around. One of the disadvantages of mørketiden is of course that birding
becomes technically more complicated, with only a very narrow window of
opportunity middays for watching; otherwise there simply is not enough
light. It is a good time for finally making those reports and lists, that
have been waiting for months.

                                                                Wim Vader, 
Tromsø Museum
                                                                9037 Tromsø, 

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