Today’s topic is the winter weather. The weather is very much like Seattle Washington, cool & damp. For the Netherlands is has been a warm winter so far as there has not been any snow so far and At least since 1 December no temperatures even at night below 0C (or 32F). I have been given thick socks and told to expect colder temperatures as winter goes along. Historically the Netherlands does not experience heavy snowfall on a regular basis, but can experience long periods of cold every few years. Personally, with the El Nino effect being strong this year I believe this winter will not be a typical Dutch winter. Today as I am writing this, it is totally overcast, the temperature is 7C (46F) at 16.00 (4PM). The first thing I noticed as we were flying into Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) was how green it was. This is atypical as usually everything except evergreens are dead by this time of year, but it hasn’t got cold enough to totally brown the grass and open fields. Despite the overcast, which is quite common I am learning, I have been able to get out and walk. We live very close to a rather large park, with several shared use paths; all paved with few if any real inclines. Over the next few days, I will relate my stories about my walks and my only adventure on a bike so far. I am living at a northern latitude higher than anywhere in the continental 48 states, so our sunrise is after 8.00 (8AM) & it gets dark early as in 16.30 (4:30PM) instead of the 17.30 (5:30PM) or a bit later that I was used to in KY. The payoff comes in summer when the sun is still up at 22.30 (10:30PM)
I was in a discussion with my in laws recently about the upcoming winter. They related some stories I would like to retell. Although it gets cold in the winter and occasionally the canals will freeze, they do not freeze hard. Much like Kentucky, they might get a thin covering of ice that is easily broken. As I understand, most canals are only 3-4 meters deep (9-13 feet) since they are plied by smaller boats; there are deeper channels of course in the ports. Every once in a while, on average 7-10 years or so, it gets really cold, for several days, cold enough to make the ice thick enough to skate on. Ice skating, especially speed skating is big here; there are teams in most towns and leagues in the larger cities.
My mother-in-law has her speed skating trophies on display at her home. When the ice gets thick enough to host a national speed skate it is huge news.
From Wikipedia about the skate: “The Elfstedentocht (English: Eleven cities tour) is a skating tour, almost 200 kilometres (120 mi) long, which is held both as a speed skating match (with 300 contestants) and a leisure tour (with 16,000 skaters). It is held in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, leading past all eleven historical cities of the province. The tour is held at most once a year, only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick; sometimes on consecutive years, other times with gaps that may exceed 20 years. When the ice is suitable, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours.”
An interesting note about the speed skating event; Using the name “W. A. van Buren“, one of the least-known titles of the House of Orange-Nassau, The King (then Crown Prince) Willem-Alexander participated in the 1986 Frisian Elfstedentocht. The last 3 Elfstedentochten were 1985, 1986, & 1997. In 2012, there was a media frenzy as it seemed it would happen, but it did not. History shows this goes back to at least 1760 but wasn’t organized until 1890, however due to the weather was not held until 1909.
NL has 4 distinct seasons, but the summer as the Dutch joke goes is only 3 days long. Due to the Northern attitude of NL summers are much cooler than we are used to in the US. If Dutch folks want hot weather, they holiday (vacation) in the south of France or in Spain, Portugal or Italy.
As we go into Spring, Summer & Autumn I will revisit the weather.