Enchanted October on 63°N

In Finland the popularity of Climate Change made great advances today, 14/10.  For background, the statistical average October weather here consists of dark cloud cover, afternoon high of 6°C, night-time low of 2°C, some rain or wet snow.  Today, instead, we Finns enjoyed temperatures that have never been experienced here in October.  The new afternoon high and night-time low records are now 21°C and 14°C – both precisely the long-term July averages.  In Kuopio [Eastern Central Finland, where we live] the previous October record was beaten by 4°C!

At noon I set for a 20 km bike ride around Kuopio.  The feeling was unreal.  Sky was deep bright blue from horizon to horizon, sun shining, warm and gentle wind blowing.  Soon I took off my light windbreaker and continued with just shirt on.  Lots of people were walking, biking, enjoying Sunday afternoon on the lakefront paths and parks, smiling, talking to strangers, even picknicking.

I returned home and invited neighbours for prosecco and snacks.  The dress code was sun hat and sunglasses.  We sat around the garden table sipping from high glasses, talked about how strange and hot the summer and autumn have been, laughed and had gorgeous time.  To top the day, I heated the old sauna on the beach, we bathed and swam – lake-water brought us back to reality, though, it was 8°C.  But what the heck, back in the sauna it was 85°C.  A day to remember.

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What does not belong?  On the bike my mind flew back to October in Chapel Hill, NC [we lived there in the seventies], 3000 km (!) South from Kuopio.  My Californian born brother-in-law, who now also lives here, said that this is like the nicest of winter days in Sacramento, CA.  I checked the average afternoon temperatures for the two cities.  For October in Chapel Hill it is 22°C, for December in Sacramento, 12°C [a nice winter day would, of course, be warmer].  So, both of us still seem to remember correctly.

As a matter of fact, exactly one year ago I was in Chapel Hill, but the October weather was then as abnormal for Chapel Hill as it is now here for Kuopio.  I cannot quote exact temperatures, but the afternoon highs were above 30°C, typical for August but not October in Chapel Hill.

When an October day in Kuopio is like an average July day here, or an average October day in Chapel Hill, and when October 2017 in Chapel Hill was like average August there, does it make sense to compare these to historical mean temperatures.  The new October temperature record in Kuopio is three standard deviations above the long-term mean.  In Finland the ten highest countrywide annual average temperatures since 1847 include only two values from before 1990, and hardly any uncertainty remains about 2018 turning out yet another warmest year on record.  Each new decade since 1970 has been warmer than any previous decade.  The decadal mean temperature has increased by 2.7°C since 1850, and the current warming trend is 0.4°C per decade.  There is no meaningful long-term average, because the whole temperature range moves upwards from decade to decade.

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And still, I thoroughly enjoyed today’s weather and plan to enjoy tomorrow as well, biking and tending the garden for winter.  So why should I not wish this to be the future of our Octobers.  Because Octobers of the future becoming like Augusts of the past, mean that Januaries of the future will become like Octobers of the past, and I just don’t dare to imagine what the Augusts will be like.  It might work out for us in the North-most county on the Globe IF, if we could – in some unimaginable way – isolate our fate from those 9/10 of our fellow human beings for whom it will certainly not end up well.

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