QJ Science: Winter woes ahead

Be warned: this coming winter has been described as the “T-Rex of winters” by the Old Farmer’s Almanac’s editor.

When students choose to come to Queen’s, it usually isn’t because of the weather. In the summer, it’s humid. In the winter, it’s frigid and snowy.

And in the months in between, it rains enough to make sure the Campus Bookstore will never lose money on its “10 per cent off umbrellas when it’s raining” deal. Unfortunately for us Canadians, it seems this upcoming winter might be particularly harsh.

Recent predictions made by the Old Farmer’s Almanac, a reference book that contains weather forecasts, are anticapating this winter will be longer, colder and snowier than last year.

The predictions indicate that anyone living across Ontario and right through to Quebec should prepare for bitterly cold winter. The only optimistic part of the Almanac’s predictions is that the snow should be fluffier than last year.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac makes predictions of events such as sunrise and sunset times, high and low tides and weather based on temporal patterns and past events.

Using these patterns, the authors of the Almanac claim to be able to accurately predict the weather many months into the future.

Already it seems we may be experiencing some of what’s to come. The temperatures in Kingston at the start of September have been much lower than last year, dropping low enough to make some students reach for their winter jackets.

That being said, it could be worse. In Calgary, Alta., residents had their first significant snowfall of the year on Sept. 8. Though it’s not a record snowfall for that date, it’s only a small comfort considering it was technically a summer snowfall.

In Kingston, however, we have the added benefit of being in close proximity to Lake Ontario, providing us with an extra layer of “lake-effect snow”. Lake-effect snow is created when a mass of cold winter air moves over warmer water, creating clouds.

When these clouds move over land, the drop in temperature makes it snow. Since winter winds typically blow from the west, this sends the lake-effect snow directly at us.

All things considered, the Old Farmer’s Almanac isn’t the most scientific source for weather predictions. The writers are quite secretive about their methods, claiming to use a top-secret mathematical and astronomical formula.

However, anyone who has worn rain boots on bright, sunny day that the weather man promised would be a thunderstorm knows even the Weather Network isn’t infallible — and they have the benefit of radar and satellites.

Predicting weather is a difficult science, and the further ahead you try and predict, the less accurate your predictions will be.

Saying that the upcoming winter will be worse than last year’s is also a very general and “safe” prediction.

There’s also a lot of room for interpretation. When the Almanac predicts a colder winter, does that mean there’ll be one day during which the temperature will be lower than every day of last year’s winter? Or does it mean every day this winter will be colder?

Short of having a mild, significantly warmer winter, it’s likely there’llbe at least some evidence that the Almanac’s predictions are partially correct.

So for us students, it may be best to start preparing for another winter of bundling up and skating to class on icy sidewalks.

Even if temperatures feel warm at the moment, don’t forget: winter is coming.

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