Cold, eh?

March 1st. Saskatchewan, Canada.

Well this is a bit unfortunate. It was minus 31 in Calgary this morning, the wind picked up and it felt like minus 50. That’s about the same weather whether Fahrenheit or Celsius – the scales meet at -40. So, minus 40 Fahrenheit is also minus 40 Centigrade. Cold in any system. Finger-shattering, lip-splitting cold. Even inside our house – it was 12 degrees in one of our bedrooms this morning. Of course it would have been more uncomfortable had we been camping out this weekend.

Global warming? Just like politics, all weather is local. Yes, we are getting a cold start to March. But it’s not even a record for us – it was once -36 C on March 1st. Meanwhile, the southern hemisphere is finishing off one of their hottest summers. The severe droughts, grass fires, and dust-bowl conditions are being exasperated by extreme heat. An article titled “Australian Summer Melts Records,” published yesterday by the Australian Associated Press and featured in The Guardian, says records for sustained heat have been brutally burnt. Adelaide, for example, had 5 days in a row of over 42C. They haven’t had that before.

Today in Calgary, people didn’t stray far from home. Nor did the bees. March is usually the worst month for winter losses in this area. Bees might survive (even queenlessly) for the span from November through late February, possibly eating as little as forty pounds of honey, but then with longer days they become restless. Queenless and weak hives lose population through drifting on mild days while robust survivors suddenly consume vast amounts of winter stores by rearing brood. At about the same time, honey bees which became adults in September or October are approaching their ‘Best-Before’ date and are expiring. Sometimes dropping like flies. Not sure what this last blast of arctic chill will do to the bees, but it would have been better for everyone if it had turned mild instead of bitterly cold.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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