Its hard not to feel envious when you look at those photos from the late 19th century that were taken as the miners and loggers made their way up the deep valleys below the alpine peaks and built villages and new towns. Places like Harrietville, at the head of the Ovens River below Mt Feathertop, seem to have had regular dumps of snow through the winter months. Now, if we just get some snow flurries down that far it rates as an event.
Of course, Australian weather has always been famous for being erratic. And if you look at the snow pack records that chart winter snow depths over the past 3 decades you can see wild variety between the seasons.
Climate skeptics love to point to cold weather and hard winters as ‘proof’ that climate change is not real, but this just reveals more about their ignorance of how climate change is expected to work than proving any other point. Some climate campaigners prefer to use the word ‘climate chaos’ because this gives a better indication of what the science tells us is coming: ever more erractic and extreme weather events. In our part of the world, this will include drought, flood, fire, and extreme weather events like torrential rain.
This info is easy to find. It is not the stuff of hysterical greenies hiding in caves. It is from the mainstream of the climate science community. In a democracy we can think what we like. But having an opinion which runs counter to science doesn’t mean climate change is not happening. One of the things that strikes me – in a week where much of western and north eastern Victoria has been flooded, people evacuated, the road to Falls Creek was cut, and a landslip closed operations briefly at Hotham resort, is how quickly we can adapt to changed conditions and accept them as the ‘new’ normal behaviour of the weather. Just a week before that we had those wild snowfalls that blocked the Hotham Road for a day and a half and dumped almost a metre of powder across the alps. Then throw your mind back to July, and the gray rainy skies that brought miserable conditions and mediocre snow.
My point here is not to stir up fear, or to slate all this strange winter to climate change. Its just to remind ourselves that what we have experienced has not been an ‘ordinary’ winter. Sure, we need to grab the good winters when they do come along, and ski or board as hard as we can. We probably need to grumble and find other things to do in the winters that don’t happen. But we should never lose sight of the fact that all of whats happening is consistent with what climate science tells us is coming, unless we decide to do something serious as a global community to greatly reduce our greenhouse emissions.
And for me that’s reason enough to do what we can where can, to reduce our impact, and to get action at the community, corporate and government level.