I am a true Canadian, four-season girl. I could not live in constant heat, nor constant cold. I enjoy the transition and the beauty and surprise that each season brings. This morning’s walk in the fresh snow connected me with nature and calmed my spirit as it always does. But for those who dread Canadian winter understand the importance of what cold and snow provide for us.
Snow is important to the earth in its’ permanence, but also in its’ seasonality. Canada experiences really only a few months of extreme cold, but the impact sets up the environment throughout the year.
Permanent Cold Weather
Snow is 80-90% reflective of the sun’s rays, where plants are more in the 10-25% range. This provides overall cooling for the earth year round from permanent ice and snow in the northern and southern hemispheres. Click here for the most recent data from NASA on the reduction of permanent ice.
Cold and snow are important, and as temperatures rise globally, and production of ice and snow decrease there are environmental consequences. Ice on lakes “provides physical protection for fish and fish eggs, and protects shorelines from erosion, too.” Loss of permanent frost and ice in northern climates, like Alaska, are exposing shores to violent winds and waves, causing erosion.
The Value of Seasonal Cold
Do you notice the quiet that accompanies a snowfall? That is because of the air trapped between the snowflakes that builds an insulation barrier. This protects plant roots, seeds, and spring flowers.
Snow also provides dens for animals with these same insulative properties. Some animals burrow underground, or in caves, but many just live in snow. And high snowbanks often provide feeding options for animals, like deer, who can reach up higher onto tree branches for berries or bark.
Spring run-off fills lakes and rivers. It naturally cleans away the salt, sand, and other debris that we push onto the environment. That spring water provides clean, oxygenated water to aquatic life. On a larger scale, the snowfall on higher elevations melts to become the fresh water supply for us to drink. This run-off also feeds hydro-electric power.
Let’s Get Personal
On a more personal connection studies show that relationships improve with cold weather. We have longer telephone conversations, we spend more time indoors with family. We are selective about the activities we engage in. When those activities are done, cold improves sleep. Prime temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 19 degrees Celsius). Cold weather also converts unhealthy fats in the body to what are called brown fats that are used for energy. Shivering, and generating energy to stay warm converts and burns off some of the bodies’ bad fats. And cold is easier on our joints and inflammation. Just think of a cold compress for your whole body!
So, with spring just around the corner I had to stand up for snow just one more time for the importance of cold and snow during one of our last heavy snowfalls. Many people like to escape to colder climates. But now you know what that white stuff is doing for you while you’re away. I love the cleanliness of it. The peace. And with it there is always the promise of spring.