The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
The warmer the weather the more chipper people’s moods, but do unnatural warm spells have the same effect on our environment as on people?
Renee Delaney, founder and project manager of Niagara Farm Project (NFP), says the up and down weather has good and bad aspects.
Speaking about NFP, Delaney says, “For us it’s the worry about pests, the bugs that typically like warmer weather are often only found south of the border. Now we will see a change of what we ‘normally’ see around here because they have had the opportunity to migrate north.”
Many critters now have the opportunity to move north due to the warming climate, including biting insects such as mosquitos, which can carry pathogens that can be harmful to humans.
A bug that bites something other than humans is the crucifer flea beetle that thrives when there is decent snow cover but milder winters. This small beetle is dangerous for cruciferous crops, which are vegetables in the cabbage family such as broccoli, kale and cabbage and can also destroy canola crops.
The NFP is a “for community profit” agricultural organization focusing on establishing a desire to produce local sustainable food and food practices.
The Weather Network forecasted this winter in southern Ontario to be milder than the past two winters. The network describes the warm winter as a result of El Nino.
That is a band of warm, nutrient poor water from the equatorial Pacific causing climatic changes every few years, typically in late December. El Nino is a phase in the cycle called El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), along with the reverse phase called La Nina.
Regular winter temperatures in southern Ontario do not hit the double digits and this winter, there has been a lot of hitting the double digits.
Hamilton, Toronto, London, Sarnia and Windsor were all able to break their previous records for the warmest Feb. 20, with most reaching 12 degrees Celsius.
Windsor hit the warmest temperature out of all of them, with an increase of 2.9 degrees from their previous record in 1983.
Lack of precipitation is another big problem with such unsure weather. Delaney says, “This is why we are trying to set up sustainable methods that don’t rely on pumps and electricity, for example, rain barrels and simple irrigation techniques.”
If the up and down temperatures that have been occurring all winter continue into the spring and summer, Delaney says it can affect the harvest of plants.
“Last summer was not good because the up and down temperatures slowed the plants’ growth. I waited until the end of August before I was able to harvest a tomato!” says Delaney.
On the plus side, Delaney says the warmer weather does allow for more work to be done in preparation of the growing season ahead.