Otter Lodge Blog: Skye seasons
I’m writing this blog at midsummer, when the nights on Skye have only a few hours hours of semi-darkness. It got Martin thinking about all the other places around the world that share our light summers and dark winters – places on the fifty-seventh parallel. The diversity of the locations that lie at this latitude is amazing. Skye is north of Moscow and south of Oslo – so pretty northerly, but not in the far north. If you follow an invisible line from Skye that skirts around the top of the globe it runs around for almost forty-thousand kilometres; crossing cities, sun-kissed beaches, frozen oceans and tundra
It’s fun to tell people we’re at the same latitude as Hudson Bay, but Hudson Bay is massive. So is Alaska and Siberia, and these are all crossed by the fifty-seventh parallel. Some areas are densely populated; like Riga, the capital of Latvia, while others are almost totally empty of people. Nunavut, in northern Canada, is the size of western Europe with a population only three times that of Skye.
Lots of these places have really cold winters and in some places the differences between summer and winter is huge. Yet the average winter temperature for Skye is around four degrees in winter and around fourteen in summer; that’s only ten degrees difference. In fact, couple of years ago it seemed as though the temperature stayed at twelve degrees for the entire year – but that’s global climate change for you.
As with other parts of western Scotland, we get this mild, rather tame weather as a result of the Gulf Stream. If it wasn’t for this, our winters would be much icier. Compare the fifty-seventh parallel north with its counterpart in the south and the difference is stark. We’re on a latitude similar to the Sandwich Islands in the south but, unlike us, they don’t share their fifty-seventh parallel with any other landmasses. People think Skye is remote and wild, but it the South Sandwich islands epitomise the word isolated. One thing you are definitely not going to find there is a cafe selling sandwiches; just eleven polar islands, gripped in ice for eight months of the year, with no permanent residents. Apart from several million penguins.
The living things here on Skye probably respond most to changes in light levels rather than temperature. That includes people! Early spring sunshine brings new energy and the promise of days stretching, summer bustles with activity and autumn gradually winds down to a peaceful, dusky winter. Here’s a taste of Skye through the seasons.
January: Winter sunlight over the Isle of Eigg