What happened to winter?

Some people think that global warming is just a fantasy of tree hugging lefties or mad scientists. Every year that I spend in Europe global warming becomes more obviously a fact of life. We don’t need scientists to tell us that ice-skating on Dutch canals is a thing of the past, relegated to those lovely old Christmas card images. We don’t need the government to tell us that you can no longer count on any snow skiing season before January or that you can count on finding any snow below 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) in the Alps or any mountains in central Europe. Go ski on a glacier, while they last.

This year, for example, has been the warmest winter so far in centuries. It’s now mid-January and I think we’ve had only 1 night below freezing here in Amsterdam. My camelia bush is in full bloom. I pruned back my roses even though they were still putting out leaf buds. Tulips are for sale everywhere. It’s just not normal.

Also not normal is the storm we had last Thursday. Five people in the Netherlands are dead because of the storm. There is millions of euros of damage to buildings. I don’t know if anyone has counted the number of cars smashed by falling trees. We had force 9 (out of 10) winds and walls of rain coming down. Flights were cancelled, schools were closed and employees were told to go home early Thursday afternoon. Trains were stopped so lots of people just couldn’t get home at all. I left work at 4:30 Thursday afternoon not realizing what chaos there was in the city. Luckily I phoned DB on my way out, who was himself trying to get home from Haarlem. He told me to take a taxi home because the trams were not running, or were running strange routes due to down trees or power lines. On the ride home I saw just that – police everywhere in the city directing traffic or cordoning off dangerous areas, people struggling against the wind, bikes fallen over littering the streets and sidewalks, dead trams, fallen trees. What a mess!

There is an article and some good photos on the Radio Netherlands website.

And just when I thought that would be it for a while, last night we were woke up by hail hitting the windows, thunder and hard rain and high winds. And its warm. Too warm.

It’s times like this that I’m thankful the Dutch are better prepared for too much water than the people of New Orleans were. I’m thankful they’ve had centuries of experience holding back the sea and rivers. I’m trusting those mad scientists know what they’re doing.

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