Winter was running a bit late this year. If you feel the way I do about the winter season, you were probably pleased with the balmy days in the 60s that we continued to enjoy through December and even after Christmas. According to what I’ve read, we can attribute the unseasonably warm winter we’ve had to El Niño and some jet stream-related phenomenon. However, it’s not just the winter that’s been warmer than usual. In fact, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have reported that 2015 as a whole has shattered global heat records.
— NOAA (@NOAA) January 20, 2016
El Niño and the warmest year ever recorded
Overall, the Earth was about 1 degree Celsius warmer than average, but only the warm winter we’ve had can be attributed to El Niño. It’s being said that this past December is the most anomalously warm month that we’ve had in any year yet recorded. In other words, although December wasn’t actually the hottest month of the year, daily temperatures throughout December were higher than average by a much larger margin than any other month of the year.
Experts are saying that although El Niño is a major player in this specific season’s above-average temperatures, it’s not been the only culprit in the elevated temperatures throughout the entire year. Other culprits include Arctic Oscillation and Madden-Julian Oscillation, both of which are essentially periods of climate variability. Arctic Oscillation affects how far south cold winds from the polar regions can reach while Madden-Julian Oscillation is similar in effect to El Niño, but more sporadic and with a much larger area in which it could happen. Combined, these unseasonable changes in climate are causing record highs in most places while a few areas are experiencing lower temperatures than normal, such as the Southern U.S.
A cold front that swept across the South was pushing unseasonably warm air coming from El Niño in the Pacific toward the North, which accounts for the warm winter we were having. Additionally, the West Coast and South will likely experience more precipitation than usual, but the problem with random climate perturbations is that we can’t usually able see them coming. Being unpredictable in nature, we find out about them when they start happening.
Adding to the oddities, having above-average temperatures doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility of us getting actual winter weather, especially in the second half of winter like we’re in right now. For instance, Chicago was experiencing above-average snowfall this past November despite the month’s average temperatures being much higher than average, which would almost seem to be contradictory. And unfortunately, it seems our mild winter days are behind us.
As February draws nearer, temperatures have dropped to more seasonable lows. Just like last year, the second half of this winter will have much colder temperatures and the potential for some moderate to heavy snowfall that we were lacking through the first half. Our milder temperatures have moved to the northern parts of the United States and the Pacific Northwest, so while Seattle, Portland, and Minneapolis are experiencing a more mild second half of winter, the Southern and Northeastern U.S. are now getting more predictable and even lower-than-average winter temperatures.
According to the Weather Network’s meteorologists, New England and the Southern U.S. can also expect above-average precipitation in the second half of winter as well as cooler temperatures, which will reportedly persist into March before a quick transition into warm weather and minimal spring weather in between.
Sure enough, here we are on the edge of what’s essentially a late-January blizzard. Winter Storm Jonas, as it’s been christened, is to blame for the mid-Atlantic region surrounding Washington, D.C. having to prepare for up to 30 inches of snow according to current estimates.
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) January 20, 2016
Winter Storm Jonas will also be dumping lots of rain and ice on Southern Virginia and the Carolinas, but throughout Northern Virginia, West Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and much of Pennsylvania, the snowfall will be significant with the accompanying winds reaching up to 60 mph. As far north as New York City, there’s expected to be at least 6 inches of snowfall, but it’s the area immediately surrounding Baltimore and Washington, D.C. that will definitely bear the brunt of this blizzard.
Across the region, flights are being canceled as many people are frantically trying to get home before the snow starts. By the looks of any area grocery store, residents of the mid-Atlantic area are expecting to be confined to their homes for a week or more due to the snow, but it’ll likely be no more than a few days since we were informed of the upcoming storm and could prepare. It’s the urban areas that will be most affected by Jonas as dealing with this amount of snow is difficult with so little space in which to put it.
On the other side of this major snow storm, sources say we can expect the rest of 2016 to be another hot one, likely even hotter than 2015, which broke the record that had been set by 2014 the previous year. Some heat is definitely sounding good at this point. We just have to make it through 30 inches of snow and a few more weeks of bitter cold.