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This article was published 5/1/2012 (3144 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
PARKAS are shelved in favour of sweaters, and backyard rinks have gone to slush.
But as Winnipeggers stare in wonder at one of the balmiest January weeks on record, a word of warning from a climate scientist: The long-term trend may not be so forgiving.
"Our warms are getting warmer, and our colds are getting colder," said David Barber, the director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Earth Observation Science. "That's happening all over the planet."
To be clear: Thursday's high of 6 C isn't, itself, climate change. Daily variations in temperature and precipitation, storms and everything else from the skies are weather, and weather has always liked to spring surprises.
Winnipeg's average high in January is -13 C and the low is -23 C. Eighteen centimetres of snow are usually on the ground by now and 18 days on average have a wind chill of -30 in January. But the long-term trend, which is called climate, Barber said, is behaving much as researchers have predicted. Which is to say, it's getting warmer and wilder.
Over the last 30 years, Barber said, the global temperature has increased by about 0.6 C over its 100-year historical averages.
That sounds like a small amount -- but when you consider the difference in average temperatures between the time when a glacier covered much of Manitoba and now is only 4 C, Barber pointed out, you realize how much of a difference those few digits can make.
For now, Barber agreed, many Winnipeggers are delighted to soak up the gentle January. But if the trend continues, he warned, and more steps aren't taken to address the root causes of climate change, we may come to see the increasing pattern of warm days as more curse than blessing.
"(An additional) two degrees Celsius seems to be the point at which our human systems are sufficiently resilient that we can adapt to much of this," Barber said.
"When we get past that 2 C, it gets extremely difficult to adapt. With the models we have right now, we predict we're going to hit this mark some time in the next decade or two.
"It's right in front of us."
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Updated on Friday, January 6, 2012 at 11:41 AM CST: adds colour photo
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