ORMSTOWN, QUE. — A Quebec crop farmer and longtime government weather station operator says he’s not worried about climate change, after faithfully recording his local precipitation and temperature numbers twice a day for the last 60 years. And contrary to the international headlines, Peter Finlayson says this past summer was decidedly not the hottest ever at his farm.
This year’s temperatures in Ormstown — and Eastern Canada in general — stand in stark contrast to the hottest-summer-ever stories. The sensational headlines began in July with reports of that month being the hottest July ever, as announced by the United Nations several days before July was even over. “A truly remarkable feat,” as Finlayson has wryly observed. At the time, the UN secretary general declared a new era of “global boiling,” a term more recently joined by “climate breakdown.”
“It’s not something we should be losing any sleep over,” Finlayson says. “I just can’t get terribly excited about it.”
Crop heat units recorded at Finlayson’s farm — located at the same latitude as Winchester but 100 km to the east — landed right on the 10-year average, between early May and September 10, he says. Rainfall was up, which he connects to a natural event, a massive December 2021 volcanic eruption in the south Pacific.
His figures also show an average temperature of 19.2 degrees Celsius during August, which is lower than the 50-year average of 19.8 C. He says the warmest average August temperature was set in 2021, at 22.4 C. The coolest was 17.5 C in 1982.
Over the span of his career, Finlayson has recorded an average temperature increase of just over 1 C since the weather station was first established at the farm in association with Macdonald College in 1963. Collected data goes back to Environment and Climate Change Canada. The 1 C increase is in line with the reputed rise in “global” temperatures reported by NASA and scientists who say the earth’s average temperature has gone up a little over 1 C since the 1880s, with two thirds of that occurring since 1975.
Simply reporting a rise in temperatures lacks the important context of when to begin looking at the data, he suggests. He concedes that humans have had some impact on climate but that natural weather cycles must be acknowledged and that there have been periods on earth that were warmer than today. He deems the current obsession over cow methane as “nonsense.”
Unlike the station at his farm, Finlayson points to the placement of many other weather stations as a problem. Monasteries and religious institutions were some of the first places to host them, he says, and they tended to be in downtown cores. Since then, the cities have grown up around them, creating a heat island effect. In other words, weather stations in cities are hotter. The same goes for airports, another popular weather station spot. “And yet they compare these stats over time,” says the farmer, who suggests the urban weather stations should be weeded out.
The gradual increase in crop heat units observed at his farm — from close to 2,800 in the 1960s to 3,150 today — has coincided with a whopping corn yield boost that he also attributes to improved seed genetics and crop inputs. Sixty bushels per acre was good when he began growing grain corn in 1967, he recalls, “and 80 bushels was wonderful…. And yet here I have the very same land, the very same fields and now we take off about 165 bushels per acre.”