Boise skiers get to celebrate the end of 2012 they way they love, schussing down the slopes of Bogus Basin.
They started the year agonizing, waiting until Jan. 19 for snow. If you read our Page 1 story Sunday, you know it was a harbinger of four seasons of wild weather. You can thank climate change, brought to Idaho by the greenhouse gases each one of us contribute by our dependence on fossil fuels.
Warmer winters are one of the signs that Idaho’s climate has changed before our eyes. But change happens. Our futures depend on how we adapt.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 2012 was the eighth-warmest year since records have been kept. Most of the others occurred in the past decade.
This shift has now become so apparent that we can follow it through the seasons.
The runoff came early this year, and as it peaked in April on the Boise River, a warm spell made the Corps of Engineers scramble to keep the river from overflowing its banks. Experts say Idaho runoff is coming earlier, and will continue to come sooner as regional conditions shift.
Then the fire season started early, causing hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland to burn across southern Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. In late June, the Charlotte Fire burned 66 homes and 29 outbuildings in Pocatello.
It was even worse in Colorado Springs. There 346 homes burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire. Much of Idaho spent the rest of the summer and into the fall under smoke as 1.7 million acres of Idaho burned — more than the l.2 million acres that burned in 2007 and the 1.3 million acres in 2000.
The fire season didn’t end until November, which was the fifth-warmest November since record-keeping began in the 1880s. Eight of the 10 warmest years have come in the past decade.
Across the West, those fires released more than 13 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That could rise to 31 million tons in the future.
That’s just one of the findings of a U.S. Interior report issued earlier this month.
But it’s not all bad.
The U.S. Geological Survey study said forests, grasslands, shrublands and other ecosystems in the West sequester or absorb nearly 100 million tons of carbon each year. This carbon is captured through natural processes that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The study showed that we are getting ecosystem services from the open spaces we have across the West.
Another positive: The lingering fall helped the vines on the slopes of the Snake River produce some of the highest sugar production ever, said Ron Bitner at Bitner Vineyards near Caldwell.
The milder fall temperatures have allowed him to produce award-winning cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. When Ron and Mary began growing grapes in the early 1980s, all they could grow were those for white wines.
So when you raise a toast to say goodbye to 2012, be sure the wine comes from the emerging viticultural gem, Idaho.
Rocky Barker: 377-6484