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Washington Voices

Weather extremes like blast from distant past

Thu., Dec. 8, 2011

It still looks like our pattern of wide weather extremes will continue into 2012 and beyond. The recent record October snowstorm over parts of New England and the upper mid-Atlantic states was just another example of more weather records that are being shattered that stood for more than 100 years.

Long-term climate data shows that this rampage of nature in the late 20th century and the early portion of the 21st century is similar to a period 800 years ago. This occurred at the end of a cycle of global warmth that was more intense than the one that in the late 1990s. During that time, the mighty Vikings actually farmed Greenland around the year 1000 A.D. Grapes and tomatoes grew as far north as Labrador in North America. But, in the 1300s, much colder weather put an end to the Vikings’ reign in Greenland.

This current extreme climate cycle began around 1968. Based on history, it’s not expected to end until at least 2038. Its peak should be somewhere between 2024 and 2027.

Record-breaking weather conditions are often the result of violent clashes between much colder than normal air to the north and much warmer than average air to the south. These violent collisions were some of the main ingredients to the major tornado outbreaks across the nation’s midsection last spring.

In the near-term, I believe that weather conditions for 2012 will be interesting across the Inland Northwest as well as the rest of the world.

We should see a solar maxima in terms of sunspot activity sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. It may be strong enough to adversely affect electronic devices like cellphones, satellites and other modern technologies like the last sunspot maxima more than 20 years ago in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

As far as our current weather pattern, late November and early December have turned out to be one of the driest periods in recorded history. A strong stationary ridge of high pressure continues to camp out over the Far West. All of the snow that many are now asking for has been falling east of the Rockies.

However, the long-term weather charts do show the high pressure ridge breaking down later next week allowing for some snow to finally move into the region.

Contact meteorologist Randy Mann at randy@longrange

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