Boise's warm and weird winter: What does it mean?

Now that the Legislature has (gratefully) adjourned for 2012, let’s talk about the weather.

Let’s talk about this little nugget of knowledge from the National Weather Service in Boise. For the first time on record, dating back to 1878, Boise had a winter without a high temperature at or below freezing.

Nice try, Jan. 16. Your high temperature was 33.

The last time Boise had a high temperature at or below freezing was Feb. 26, 2011. That’s a 403-day streak, as of Wednesday.

It’s a cliche to say it, but it sure is strange weather we’re having. It’s enough to make me want to up the ante and buy me a Stormtracker 7001.

But what does it all mean?

Different things to different people, of course. For people who subscribe to global warming, a winter unlike the 133 that preceded it provides corroborating evidence. To the skeptics, it’s a blip on the weather radar.

It’s first worth remembering that weather and climate are two different things.

Weather is short-term and anecdotal. It is what you see out your office window, what you experience during your daily errands. We inevitably view weather through our own subjective prism. That’s part of why this National Weather Service factoid is so interesting. We all know Boise had a snow-challenged year (just ask the folks at Bogus Basin, where ski season began in mid-January). That said, the winter didn’t feel much warmer, at least not to me.

But that’s weather. Climate is longitudinal. It’s a mural, a montage of weather snapshots. That’s why it is unpersuasive, if not misleading, when somebody points to an April snow squall and proclaims it evidence that global warming is bunk. Fair is fair:
It’s not good science to read too much into one unusual winter.

I do think it’s fair — and it’s prudent — to chalk up Boise’s winter that wasn’t as one more sign of climate change, one more call to forward-thinking action.

I believe two things on this issue. First, I believe the body of evidence — not just in Boise, but beyond — points to climate change. Second, I believe that the soundest course of public policy is to make energy decisions based on the supposition that climate change is real, and a real threat. The consequences of inaction exceed the cost of action.

As a country, as an electorate, we aren’t there yet. The climate change issue triggers an imperfect storm: questions about motives and hidden agendas, vitriol and name-calling. There isn’t much room in the debate to suggest, however gently, that our decisionmakers should hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Unfortunately, Boise’s non-winter of 2011-12 isn’t likely to sway many opinions or change the debate, even locally.


Idaho’s first-of-the-month food stamp crunch isn’t going to go away this year.

That means longer lines and more hassles for the 230,000-plus Idahoans who receive food stamps — and anyone else buying groceries on the first of the month. And it’s because state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, blocked a bill to fix this problem.

Currently, food stamp benefit cards are replenished on the first of the month, hence the monthly surge in traffic. On March 24, the House authorized the Department of Health and Welfare to stagger food stamp benefit distribution, on a bipartisan 55-12 vote.

When the bill was assigned to Lodge’s Senate Health and Welfare Committee, she tabled it.

“During times when we cannot fund education at the levels we would like, should we spend taxpayer dollars because a company cannot handle all the business it receives?” Lodge told the Idaho Press-Tribune.

I think Lodge is looking at this backwards.

She is right that the grocers are swamped, which is why they lobbied for this bill. But the grocers are swamped because of a problem of government’s making. Health and Welfare decided to cut administrative costs — despite a rapid increase in the number of Idahoans on food stamps. Grocers are feeling the effects, as some customers walk out in frustration, leaving perishables in their carts. WinCo pegs its annual losses at $250,000.

That explains why the Boise-based chain and the Northwest Grocers Association offered to kick in $100,000 to offset some of Health and Welfare’s $220,000 in staff costs. (The agency’s startup costs were estimated at $440,000.)

This was a good public-private partnership — good enough to get 55 votes in the House. But not good enough to persuade one senator.

Get Twitter updates on my blog and column and Statesman editorials. Become a follower. You can also get updates on Facebook's Idaho Statesman Opinion Page.



Not so curious.

If the earth shifted at all, it would be major, major news. We would all hear about it. It would start with all the satellites that orbit the earth, giving us communications, surveillance, geo-tracking, weather, and so on. Every one of them is tracked with a dish much like that on your roof for TV. If the earth shifted, every one of those devices would have to be re-aligned. In the meanwhile, ALL communications would be disrupted. The impact would be enormous. So, that isn't what's causing it.

The amount proposed to

The amount proposed to assist in changing the issue date for food stamps was a drop in the bucket. The businesses should have funded the entire program instead of state taxpayers funding any portion of it. How does this benefit taxpayers in general -- zilch.

Isn't it a bit ironic that those obtaining free food stamps are ones who don't have the time to wait in line. Talk about gimme mind set. Shameful. After all what else do they have to spend their time on other than collecting freebies at taxpayers' expense. Enough of this crap.

Benefits have been on a card for over ten years, no line

What is more, there's no law saying they have to be spent that day and the balance carrries to the next month if you have one.


"foreignoregonian" is not anonymous

It is my identity and my philosophy

Would you prefer everyone to be called 'Poster'?

FYI, foreignoregonian ...

I'm not singling out you or any commenter. But I am taking down inappropriate comments. I have no problem, for instance, with the above comment.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Perhaps you had better give a more proper definition

You get plenty of comments that wouldn't seem to hold water yet they stand.

None of us are robots and quite frankly I'm boneweary.

If you are what you eat, you eat what you are.

I realize you have been through good sized ataffing cuts but why must we endure a glut of football stories then have three people writing the same byline or 9 stories by you, most duplicated?

We're all also aware that Voices is practice for the main section and ironically nullifies the impact to those who see both sections (they DO, your latest 'blogs'--these aren't blogs--link to Voices).

Why ruin the experience that way? Practice can be done with a PC and word processing program.

There is almost no justification for Voices and that's not good for IS in full.


"foreignoregonian" is not anonymous

It is my identity and my philosophy

Would you prefer everyone to be called 'Poster'?

Spring weather

Don't buy the warming climate rhetoric. The winter might have been warmer but the springs have been colder and the summers shorter. Its just nature's natural progession.

And just think --- KR gets......

paid to write stuff like this.

It's ALL her fault

"And it’s because state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, blocked a bill to fix this problem."

KR, Your statement reminds me of somethign a 14 year old might say.

Well, pimp2

The bill passed the House. The bill was held by a Senate committee chair.

How would you word it?

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

doesn't mean a thing

Only Al Gore or his type would look into it or give a poop about it. It is a typical non-typical winter. Last year we almost drowned, this year we got a late start. Next year we might get 2 feet of the fugly white stuff on the valley floor. WGAF, cause you can't change it.

It's sure been

dull news since the State Legislaggards left town.