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Feel the climate change

What a weekend we had, weatherwise. Saturday was perfect for the Skagit County Master Gardeners plant sale and so tomato plant seekers were lined up at 6:30 a.m. at the county fairgrounds. Sunday was perhaps better, a gift to mothers and their families to make Mom’s day a picnic, or at least opportunities to go for a walk.

Highs were in the 70s May 9-12 and after 1.9 inches of rain May 2, skies have been mostly blue. It is almost like Oregon, if not quite California. Maybe we don’t want too much sunshine too soon or for too long. But that is what is ahead.

This winter rainy season was normal. This year to date the western Skagit Valley has seen 12.4 inches, about the norm, but it is the first norm in the last three years. We have 4 inches more rain so far than in 2023 and about 1.7 inches more than 2022.

Last year there was 4.2 inches of rain May-September, with over 40% falling in September. In 2022, 6.1 inches came down those four months. The 25-year average is 7.5 inches and that has been brought down by lower totals in recent years.

What will happen this year? Folks in Texas and across the south and the tornado belt did not expect their recent record storms. The people who fled from the Parker Lake wildfire near Fort Nelson, B.C., were certainly surprised by events that turned on a dime.

Gardeners, whether of vegetables or ornamentals, know that when the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its plant hardiness map for the first time in 11 years, the zones shifted to recognize changes in growing degree days and heat zones: facts of life south to north, the length of our country.

Where are we going to be, weather-wise, in the Skagit Valley 11 years from now? In the past eight years we have had Canadian and Californian wildfire smoke get in our eyes for days at a time and headed for La Conner’s elementary school to cool off or jumped in the Swinomish Channel when a heat dome spread north from Seattle.

The joy – or disappointment – in the day’s condition is weather: the great Mother’s Day weekend just passed. The average daily weather over an extended period of time in a specific location: tracking a year of rain and temperature data in the Skagit Valley, is climate.

The National Resources Conservation Service’s snowpack and precipitation outlook and the state’s declaration of drought by the Department of Ecology are tracking and providing information on changes in the climate. Put the fact that 2023 was the warmest year on record in context of the 10 hottest years ever recorded are between 2014 and 2023. That is the global-scale story of climate change.

In the Skagit Valley, another season of planting is underway. Greater La Conner potato farmer John Thulen told Anne Basye for a story this week, “We are like gamblers. I don’t gamble but I do farm.”

All of us are gambling, not only with our futures, but reaching down to our grandchildren’s futures. Like all addictions, gambling is hard to break away from, hard to recover from. If folks are addicted to their cars, better that they are electric. If folks are addicted to being warm in winter and cool in summer, blankets and hand-held fans are more cumbersome than all-electric heating and cooling, but either alternatives from standard methods of operating are figured out or they aren’t.

Breaking the addiction to war, a huge fossil-fuel use, will save the planet in more ways than one, too.


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