“Hoar frost,” a feathery frost that forms as a result of specific climate conditions, covered trees and branches throughout Leelanau County on Sunday, Feb. 4, inspiring countless photos and conversations. The prematurely melting snow and the impacts of global warming on northern Michigan’s winter created a layer of fog that blanketed the region in an eery but beautiful landscape. According to the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, “the word ‘hoar’ comes from old English and refers to the old age appearance of the frost: the way the ice crystals form makes it look like white hair or a beard.

It’s winter, but the first half of January didn’t look or feel like it. “It’s milder than normal. It may turn colder toward the end of the month,” said Jeff Zoltowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Leelanau resident and retired meteorologist Dave Barrons, a familiar face on local television for many years, says climate change is making expectations based on past years less reliable. “We’ve added more carbon dioxide to the air. Carbon dioxide holds more heat,” he said.

The U.S. Senate has passed its historic climate change legislation, and the House of Representatives is expected to soon follow suit and send to President Biden to sign the bill. The political victory comes not a moment too soon, with a rapidly warming planet striking communities with one climate-related disaster after another. Leelanau County, too, is enjoying the momentum of the clean energy movement. Earlier this summer, Leelanau Energy launched its “Energize Leelanau Challenge” initiative to locate clean energy or energy efficiency projects in the county that are shovel-ready and that benefit communities, and help fund them with seed money totaling between $250 and $15,000 per project.

It was the year of high water, as Lake Michigan water levels nearly eclipsed their all-time record—just six years after setting their all-time low. That made beach walking difficult; it exacerbated conflicts over beach-walking rights along riparian-owned property; it made the reality of Climate Change even more dire, and it contributed to flooding in Leland’s historic Fishtown.

Student activist Liam Bottoms led Leelanau School students to join in the worldwide walkout to protest against global climate change on Thursday, Sept. 20. Millions of Students and many adults from around the world walked out of schools and workplaces to demand immediate action against climate change. The walkout was planned ahead of the United Nations General Assembly and Climate Action Summit which will be held on September 23.

The mean age of our local cherry growers is nearing 60. The future generation of cherry farmers, i.e. those 40 and under, number about a dozen, and the path ahead is not looking clear.

Our unusual cold weather is actually caused by global warming. Our extremely cold winter was outbalanced by simultaneous record-breaking heat in Australia. Meanwhile, the Arctic continues to be warmer than normal. That affects everything above the equator.

We had a 15-year period of intense evaporation followed by a cold snap (the Polar Vortex) in a sequence that was unprecedented. The weather turned. Quickly. This indicates a change. The range is new and the speed of the swing is new. “If you have events that are not part of your historical record that represent a change in conditions, that’s the definition of climate change,” said scientist Andrew Gronewold.

“Although the water coming from over the (Leland Dam in Fishtown) is forceful, it’s not the real cause of the floods,” Leelanau County drain commissioner Steve Christensen told the Glen Arbor Sun. “When you look at the forces involved, the flooding is from Lake Michigan-Huron.”

The League of Women Voters Leelanau County will host a forum entitled “Care for the Planet Because Your Health Depends On It: Health Impacts of Climate Change and What We Can Do About Them” on Wednesday, June 6, at noon at the Leelanau County Government Center Lower Level Community Room.