A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Climate change: We’ve had it

Written December 14th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
That's ice under that deceptively benign-appearing veneer of snow.

That’s ice under that deceptively benign-appearing veneer of snow.

As we’re trying to clear our respective windshields of snow and ice on Thursday for the drive into town, we may be thinking that global warming can’t get here fast enough. Or if we can’t have global warming, at least a little local heat would be helpful right about now.

Winter doesn’t start for another week, officially. But the official dates for the seasons are out of whack with nature, at least around here. It’s been “winter” since it got cold and wet a few weeks ago. And with any kind of luck, actual winter won’t last quite as long as the calendar proclaims.

But as for climate change, we’ve certainly had some, as it turns out. And clearly it has been for the better. According to various publications available online, winters in this part of the country used to be far more severe and destructive than they have been lately.

Between 1849 and 1870, more than half the winters in the Willamette Valley were bitterly cold for weeks at a time and the Willamette River froze over four times. December 1919 was another bad one. Five years later, in December 1924 the Portland Oregonian reported the Willamette froze seven inches deep at Eugene, and the Columbia River was frozen so solid that Portlanders could drive their cars across to Vancouver on the ice. And the coldest winters of record were those of 1949 and 1950.

We’ve had deep freezes and big snowstorms in western Oregon since then, but nothing as severe or long-lasting as what happened more than half a century ago.

Whether this apparent change in our winter climate came about naturally or was the result man’s activities —  burning coal around the world, mainly — I don’t pretend to know. But clearly this change toward a less severe wintertime regime is a blessing to people living around here. Even if now and then, on rare occasions, we still have to shovel out the truck or scrape the windshield clear of ice. (hh)

Powers Avenue N.W., where climate change, though real, is not immedately apparent.

Powers Avenue N.W., where climate change, though real, is not immediately apparent.

10 responses to “Climate change: We’ve had it”

  1. Jim Clausen says:

    When I first moved into this area I ran across a guy who had an official and extensive record book that covered Scio, Albany, Eugene, basically the Willamette Valley in the mid 1850’s. Prior to this, I had stopped by the city of commerce and gotten some info and pamphlets on the area.

    One of the pamphlets told me that the average rainfall in the area was 44 inches per year. What to my surprise did the record books show? 44 inches per year.

    T’would appear that the weather (aka climate) in the area, despite a few ups and downs, has remained pretty constant for well over 150 years…

  2. John Hartman says:

    Hasso’s right. That’s why Trump has nominated the Pruit Climate Change Denier to head the EPA. The fear of global warming is a chimera according to Pruit. Once he’s in office, the analytics and insight of climate scientists will no longer be needed. Instead, we will rely on anecdotal “evidence” from former newspaper editors.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    Why am I not surprised by this hh-today entry? You see weather does not equal climate simply because weather is short term. Think a weather event such as this little snow/ice one. Climate on the other hand applies to longer term patterns.

    Pictures are nice btw.

  4. centrist says:

    Belief always TRUMPS knowledge
    Money always TRUMPS knowledge
    Deity help (almost) us all!!!!!

  5. John Wawrek says:

    I clicked on to this site simply to see if Mr Hering wrote another one of his ill-considered, misinformed pieces. I was not disappointed.

  6. Bob Woods says:

    Actually, when I read this I saw a softening of Hasso’s previous posts on climate change.

    Chalk it up to the season of glad tidings and joy.

    • centrist says:

      Have to agree with your observation. A second read, particularly the last ‘graph, shows a neutral position. Data presented, possible trend acknowledged.

  7. observer says:

    Touche, Mr. Hartman.


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