There has been some concern over this past summer’s record melting of Arctic sea ice. Part of the reason for the thawing ice was abnormally warm sea-surface temperatures in that region. This melting occurred at the same time that the icepack in Antarctica reached its greatest size since at least 1979.
Those are just two examples of the planet’s wild weather this year.
For example, on Dec. 3, temperatures soared to 70 degrees in Chicago and Indianapolis, both record highs for the date. It was even warmer in St. Louis at 74 degrees. Louisville, Ky., hit a near-record 75 degrees.
By contrast, the town of Chicken on the Taylor Highway in the eastern interior of Alaska, dipped to a record low of minus 52 degrees Nov. 29. Fairbanks International Airport reached minus 30 the same day. The city had its coldest back-to-back Novembers in recorded history in 2011 and this year. The winter of 2011-’12 was the snowiest in Alaska and the Yukon in at least 50 years.
There’s little doubt that our planet’s weather has become “unbelievably extreme,” in the words of the World Meteorological Organization.
The year began with record cold and heavy snows in parts of Europe and Asia. The canals froze in Venice, Italy. Schools were closed by snow and ice for the first time in living memory in Rome. Rare snows were seen in Africa – in January in the north and July in the south. Central Australia had its coldest July in recorded history.
Droughts ravaged nearly two-thirds of the U.S. in 2012. Moisture shortages in parts of the parched Great Plains were termed worse than that during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Russia, the Ukraine and southern Europe likewise saw massive summer droughts that destroyed about 20 percent of the 2012 wheat crops.
Other parts of the world had too much rain. Devastating floods swamped much of West Africa this past summer. And in early December, record rains caused lowland flooding along the Napa, Russian and Truckee rivers in Northern California. Nearly 2 feet of rain deluged Sterling City, Calif., in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills.
Many areas in the Inland Northwest are finally seeing measurable snowfall. The new snowfall has been great news as most of the area ski resorts are now in nearly full operation.
I’m still expecting occasional snowfall between now and at least late January as a series of Pacific storm systems will move across the region. This new weather pattern increases the chances of a white Christmas in the Inland Northwest.