Sunday, December 10, 2006

Winter Observations

Now that we have received our first snowfall, I can expect with every new encounter to be asked if I have any trouble with the cold weather up here. I've talked a bit about it here before, but I thought I'd share some of my more recent or better understood observations.

The average year-round temperature difference between Chicago and Montreal is about 8 F (5C). The mean temperature difference at the height of summer is 6F (3C) and 11F (6C) at the height of winter. Now that's not really a big big difference. At least when you compare Chicago to North Carolina or to Florida. But it is enough to make a difference for one aspect of winter.

The snow removal post from last winter has been getting alot of attention and it has been interesting to read comments left on the Skyscraper Pages. I was surprised to see some people assume winter or the amount of snow that falls is not very significant. They were questioning why such an elaborate operation is required as opposed to almost every other US city.

Well it is not so much the amount of snow as the temperature. Back in Chicago, we would get snow. It gets cold and the snow sticks around. Sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months. But the temperature would get up high enough that there would be daytime thawing from the strength of the sunlight. It would not all go away, but it would usually keep the snow from piling up too high. Every few years there would be a particularly snowy and/or cold winter and the snow could pile up. But not to the levels or frequency of here in Montreal.

But here is the difference. That 11F (6C) degree difference keeps snow from melting during the day. In addition, Montreal is farther north and receives less sunlight in the winter. So unless snow is moved, it isn't going anywhere for a few months. And there seems to be significant snowfalls once or twice a week. Enough that they need to plow the streets every week or two if not more.

As for the conditions of the roads and sidewalks. They salt the major streets just like they do in Chicago. But due to the frequency of snowfalls, they probably salt them at least three times a week. The bridges seem to get almost daily treatment because although snow melts due to the saltings, they water refreezes overnight creating black ice. It seems rare to see the bridges dry during winter. As for the sidestreets, there is almost always a thin layer of snow or ice on them. Again this is due to the temperature not getting high enough for daytime thawing. Same goes for sidewalks unless they are along a commercial strip. Even then they likely have a mix of gravel and ice. So designer shoes are useless. Winter footwear and winter tires are a must.

Lastly, I'll repeat how I'm dealing with the colder temperatures. Kanuk. The fall before our first winter here, the in-laws suggested we get a Kanuk winter coat at their big annual sale. We each bought coats good for -30C and it has made all the difference. That along with long underwear, a scarf, good gloves, and a real stocking cap make the winter almost pleasant down to 0F (-17C). Kinda wish I had all this stuff back in Chicago when I had to spend an hour outside with part of it up on a windy el platform.

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