A prayer for winter.
THE annual Chilly Hilly bike ride around Bainbridge Island last weekend was guilty of false advertisement. It was hilly, yes, but the warm winter sun left riders, including me, pulling off gloves and leggings. Sweat in February is supposed to be reserved for the post-ride sauna, not the first few miles.
This so-called winter in Seattle is on track to be the warmest on record. Tulips sprout with irrational exuberance and the cherry blossoms in the University of Washington’s quad are set to be in full bloom March 9, a full two weeks early. Spring before St. Patrick’s day?
It is enough to make a native Pacific Northwesterner weep because our relationship with snow is pure: more, please. Snow brings powder ski days and cheap electricity from the roiling hydroelectric churn of engorged rivers. Seattle snow is the perfect houseguest — a break in the routine, but hardly ever staying long enough to leave a mess.
What are the consequences for our snow-starved winter? State foresters are worrying more about wildfires. Foothills at the 3,500-foot elevation around Mount Baker, where Puget Sound Energy has dams, usually have 100 inches of snow, but are bare.
And let’s take a moment to mourn for the skiers. The plight of Cascades ski resorts is dire. Downtown Boston has a full two feet more cumulative snowfall than Snoqualmie Pass. Hardcore skiers have been forced to find less-worthy pursuits, such as gardening.
All this could change as quickly as the Puget Sound tides. Previous winters were bleak, until sudden dumps in March. Weather forecasters suggest the balmy atmospheric anomalies of the 2014-15 winter might flip and rain could become snow.
And it’s not so bleak east of the Cascades nor in Canadian headwaters of the mighty Columbia River, Washington’s backbone of hydropower and irrigation. Seattle City Light’s reservoirs are full.
But we’re probably going to have to get used to winterless winters. UW climate scientists predict average temperatures will tick up 4.3 degrees or more by midcentury and average winter snowpack levels will shrink by at least one-third.
This winter, however, isn’t over. Take a break from a too-early bout of lawn-mowing this weekend and pray to Ullr, adopted god of snow for backcountry skiers. Bring a few weeks of freeze and rain. Bring a snow day or two for the kids, the blinding glint of sun on a white hill and, just for fun, a major headache for the mayor.
Bring back our winter.