It seems as if our climate is suffering from a bout of amnesia… ”Is it spring, fall, or winter?” Who knows.
First, allow me to present you with a few of the statistical oddities of this year’s winter weather. The first week of January, per discovery.com, saw these abnormally high temperatures in American cities:
- 44 degrees in Fargo, ND
- 61 degrees in New York City
- 72 in some parts of Colorado.
- In the midwest, some areas are 40 degrees above average temperatures.
At a time when snow normally covers approximately 50% of the nation, there was under 20% coverage as of early January. In fact, I heard on the radio a few weeks ago that local golfers were calling in for tee times!
So what is the cause of this unusual winter? Many people I have talked to are conceding that global warming is to blame. It makes sense, right? Entire regions have vastly higher average temperatures this year than usual. Global warming seems a natural (or un-natural) scapegoat. Not entirely…
There are two forces at work, experts say. The first of which is “La Niña.” According to the same discovery.com article cited above, “La Niña conditions have pushed warm water toward Australia in the western Pacific, leaving ocean waters off the American West coast about 5 degrees F colder than usual. As a result, moisture levels are currently low in the atmosphere from California to Washington State” (Sohn). Now, while this phenomenon explains the unusual absence of snow fall, it doesn’t quite explain the soaring temperatures.
The other natural occurrence contributing to our winter weather are the two forces known as the “Arctic Oscillation” and the “North Atlantic Oscillation.” They work together like gears to alter jet stream patterns accross the U.S (Sohn). Essentially, these two climatic phenomena are working together to push warm air into regions we don’t typically see.
Regardless of the cause, most I have spoken with are pleased with the warmer weather. However, I purchased a snowboard in early January in anticipation of finally finding a fun winter activity… a purchase I am currently lamenting.
Sohn, Emily. “This Winter’s Weirdly Warm Weather Explained : Discovery News.”Discovery News. Discovery Channel, 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <http://news.discovery.com/earth/weird-warm-weather-120110.html>.