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Climate change

ADDISON COUNTY — It’s no secret weather is a favorite topic of conversation in these parts.
And 2016 gave us all a lot to talk about, and not just because the World Meteorological Organization announced in mid-November that the year would probably go down as the hottest in recorded climate history — topping 2015, of course.
Quick, somebody please tell the President-elect and Congress.
Anyway, this past winter in Addison County and Vermont was the mildest in recent memory. Towns banked cash by not paying highway workers their customary overtime to plow roads, and stockpiled unused sand and salt for this winter.
This warm winter of 2015-2016 had interesting side effects. The maple syrup season came early, with some sugarmakers tapping in early February, and lasted long. Overall, it was productive.
And the relatively toasty winter allowed more deer to survive. In 2015 the Department of Fish & Wildlife estimated the state’s herd at about 120,000, a number that grew to 145,000 a year later. As a result, hunters weighed more deer in Addison County during rifle season (573) and overall including all hunting seasons (1,064) than in any year since 2005, when the department banned shooting spikehorn bucks during November’s rifle season.
After a mild winter summer came. More fans and air conditioners hummed than usual, and not a lot of rain fell. Many farmers had to resort to irrigating pastures during drought-like conditions. Beekeepers found some benefits, as flowers flourished and their hives produced plenty of honey.
But the fall apple crop was down, and although the taste and quality of the fruit remained good — the size of the apples was smaller than typical.
Another unofficial Vermont fall crop — red and golden leaves — flourished in a balmy September and October. Some say foliage season started early and lasted weeks.
Yes, then we did get some cold weather and snow in December, just enough to restore some semblance of order in the world.
But through it all in 2016 when people ran into each other on the street or sat down for a cup of coffee at places like Buxton’s Store, Carol’s Hungry Mind Café or New Haven’s Village Green Market, they probably spent even more time than usual talking about the weather.

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