A surfeit of weather

Subject: A surfeit of weather
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Sat, 05 Feb 2005 13:27:50 +0100


Since writing last time, the general weather situation in our area has not
changed much. The Atlantic depressions still are forced on a northerly
course by an extensive and strong high over W.Europe, and for us here at
70*N that means an endless oscillation of southwesterlies with mild weather
and northwesterlies with more polar air. Both directions bring a lot of
precipitation, so perhaps it is in many ways a blessing in  (very heavy)
disguise that part of the precipitation comes as sleet or even rain
(ready-cleared, say all the people who struggle to keep their driveways
snow-poor). Even so, the snow depth is well over one meter, I think. it was
115 cm three days ago, but we have had pouring rain one day, before maybe
25 cm of fresh snow again last night. (The forecast is, no surprise,  for
more snow tomorrow, than two days of sleet or rain, then more snow again.)

Last time I crowed a little about the way our region copes with heavy
snowfall, compared to many others. Revenge came almost immediately: the
combination of 172 m snow, directly followed by the same amount of rain,
turned out hard to swallow also for our town authorities, and the
newspapers are full of complaints about the mediocre quality of the snow
plowing (the powers that be point to budgetary restraints in response),
about mothers with prams forced out into the streets because the sidewalks
are impossible, and about the ice-rink character of the streets and paths
where the snow plow HAS been recently. We have implements here called 'grip
soles'; rubber strips with metal pegs to bind under your shoes, and they do
indeed help a lot. (Unfortunately mine gave up the struggle yesterday, just
when I needed them most: they come in a '2 sizes fit everybody' format,
which makes them too thinly stretched under size 12 shoes). But even so it
is still difficult and the old lady whom I met slithering through the
Folkeparken yesterday, said 'We walk here with our femurs at stake!'

Today there are no such problems, because of all the fresh snow, just heavy
going. There was a real blizzard last night (and most of the pass-roads in
our region are still closed because of 'uvær', litterally 'un-weather',
meaning very bad weather. In Folkeparken I saw the same phenomenon as last
week: all is white when you look one way, but the stems are still dark when
you look the other way. In addition it had clearly gone on snowing after
the wind had died down, so all trees carried a heavy load and many branches
hung low over the path, so that I had to shake branches as I walked along.
They then shook off the snow and majestically rose to let me through!

So what about the birds? Very little news to tell, and the only new bird on
my year list is the intrepid little Long -tailed Tit that flew past my
office window the other day. The lone Black Grouse is still in our
neighbourhood, and even made it into the local newspaper this
week---nowadays people take pictures with their mobile phones and send them
to the local paper electronically---, but it is still not on my list. I
surprised a grouse---no doubt this bird--in the Folkeparken the other say,
but never got to see it well enough---although the days get steadily
longer, I still walk in twilight to and from work.

In the garden the feeder this morning suddenly attracted many tits, mostly
Great Tits (up to 10 simulataneously) with fewer Willow Tits. No finches as
yet. yesterday, when it waqs so mild, the birds in Folkeparken were also
more active than normally, both tits and bullfinches, although I have not
heard any song as yet. And earlier this week the resonant cooing of male
Eiders wafted up from the sound, also the first time I heard that this winter.

It will be quite a change to spend 2 weeks in summer New Zealand soon,
that's for sure. We have had had a bit too much weather this winter; I
don't mind the snow much, It is the rainy days that are the problem.

Vader, Tromsø Museum
Tromsø, Norway

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