Decreasing Snow Cover

It's not just ice caps that're melting, but snow as well. And though this might be beneficial for Winter driving, it's not so great for our climate.


ode to snow

The cold, dark Winter has always been a huge part of many Pagan holidays, rituals, and livelihoods to ensure continuance, warmth, health, and food until the Spring comes. Many of our deities govern the season, as well as for snow and ice, such as Beira to Scottish Pagans, Boreas and his daughter Khione from the Greek pantheon, Ullr and  Skaði to Heathens, Morana to Slavic Pagans, and many others. We whisper our devotions and cast into the warm flames of our hearth during this time. Snow, that fluff stuff that falls in the Winter, can be hard to navigate through, hunt in, commute, or stay warm and dry from. However, snow is just as important to our Earth as the trees are, or the plants, the animals, the sea, or even us Pagans. Snow regulates the surface temperature of the planet, and fills the rivers when it melts away. It covers up to 18 million square miles of the Earth every year and plays a huge part in our energy by reflecting the sun's energy back up into the atmosphere, thereby cooling the Earth.

Snow also traps heat in the soil, acting like an igloo or blanket, because 90% of it is trapped air and this prevents moisture from escaping; allowing beneficial soil organisms deep within to survive that helps keep our gardens healthy, as well as keeping animals warm. Generally, each inch of snow adds about 2 degrees Fahrenheit to the soil. But if the climate has warmer temperatures, then the snow melts quicker or doesn't stick as much and so, it cannot do its job. 

When we lose our snow cover

Not only does snow benefit the Earth by keeping our climate cool and regulated, it also supplies us a continuation of water as it melts throughout the warmer half of the year. Warmer temperatures are shortening the time of snow on the ground in the Northern Hemisphere, and decreasing snow and ice cover in the Arctic. The rising temperatures are also melting the snow supply sooner which decreases the amount of water available to us and when that water is available. In 2015, California's mountaintop snow cover went down so low, it nearly hit zero; depleting the state a valuable water supply.

In North America, the average snow cover has decreased about 3,300 square miles per year. This typically occurs in the Spring; shortening the time of snow on the ground by 19 days since 1972. Without this snow, the ground absorbs four to six times more energy from the sun; heating it even more which would have otherwise been reflected by 80-90%. This is especially vulnerable in some areas where the sun never sets like Alaska, or Iceland; 24 hours of the sun's energy. Snow cover doesn't hit a record low every year, but it is decreasing slowly over time. So, the more our temperatures continue to rise from climate change, the faster our snow cover melts which in turn raises our temperatures even more. The faster our snow melts, the lesser amount of water is available for Earth's beings, including humans, and the smaller our rivers and reservoirs become. 


Save the snow

It is vital we bring our global temperatures back to what they were in preindustrial times, and to keep them there, so that we can have longer snow cover periods (and more of it), as well as so many other environmental benefits. Several environmental initiatives have sprung up to help spread awareness of decreasing snow cover, such as who work to combat climate change so children (and adults) everywhere can enjoy their snowmen longer.

As much as a nuisance snow can be, and sometimes dangerously so, we depend on it for temperature regulation, healthy soil, rivers, a drinkable water supply, and for our religions. Long, dark Winters are as much a part of our religions' cultural and historical development, as the harvests and summer times are. For as Pagans, we understand that without the darkness, there can be no light- without the cold, there can be no warmth; an eternal balance that Earth is constantly struggling to maintain and it is up to us sustain this balance.