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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Levin: Anticipating Spring

I’ve been anticipating spring, despite lingering ice in my veins. Despite the wind, the snow, the forty-three consecutive days of below freezing temperatures, I see and hear signs of an embryonic season.Chickadee flocks are breaking up. Hopeful males whistle their two-note song and blue jays add variety to their calls. Downy and hairy woodpeckers drum on tree limbs, setting up boundaries, signaling potential mates. Beyond the stonewall I hear the thin voices of browner creepers and golden-crowned kinglets.

Vixens’ tracks show spots of blood and urine; the message is quite clear: breeding season has begun. Bobcats and fishers also search for mates. Coyotes have already found them (actually, they’ve been together all winter). Days are noticeably longer, maple buds fuller, flush with the promise of spring. Sap lines are out.

I’d like to believe that winter has wound down. But I know better. It was minus thirteen recently and from wooded rim of Coyote Hollow the call of a barred owl sounded cold enough to shatter.

Weatherwise, February has been memorable for all the wrong reasons. New York City never had a colder month. In Portland, Maine, the average temperature was 14°; 5.2 for Rutland; 5.1 for Montpelier. Ithaca, New York had fourteen days at zero or below and a monthly average temperature of 10.2, one degree warmer than Syracuse. Boston’s record 64.8 inches of snow broke the previous one-month record by almost two feet. By March first, Worcester, Massachusetts had had more than nine feet of snow; normal is just over four.

Although it’s a minor opinion among climatologists, there is a growing number who believe the Earth has entered a period of “global cooling,” notwithstanding the enormous build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They base their theory on a progressive decrease in the number of sunspots per year.

In his book Dark Winter, former NASA engineer John Casey claims this cooling cycle may last thirty years. A Russian climatologist goes further; he believes Earth is on the threshold of a new Ice Age.

To back up Pleistocene prognostications, some climatologists cite an article that appeared in the American Meteorological Society Journal a few years ago, which noted that between 1979 and 1999, nearly four thousand people died of heat-related causes, approximately 182 per year, while nearly sixteen thousand died from the cold, or roughly 748 per year.

I haven’t switched from the global warming camp to the global cooling camp, but my shrinking woodpile and the prolonged visit of a snowy owl in Weathersfield has got me wondering.

Ted Levin is a nature writer and photographer. His latest book is America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake, University of Chicago Press, May, 2016.
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