Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shiver Me Timbers

Normally, a weather story would not be the subject of this blog. However, given the nature of this particular storm, I thought it most appropriate to discuss. Since nothing of interest is going on in Washington or around the world, I thought the storm was the perfect topic. Most people are surprised by this storm and are trying to remember the last time the US has seen one like it. To my knowledge, there has not been a winter like this in some time. It is hard to deny the sudden shifts in weather patterns are out of the ordinary. And as much as people want to forget about it, global warming is a real problem. And it is a major player in this strange winter.
Last week, some places in the US were near record highs for the first part of January. Unless you are from Miami, 70 to 75 degrees this time of year is far from what is expected. More and more I hear people wondering where winter is. I hear people thinking back to when it was cold all winter long. Then this storm hits. And if you live in Denver, it was one in a line of storms that have caused major problems.
Suddenly a winter blast at just the time of year it should occur. And the problems start coming. Many people are without power in the central part of the country. So far 54 people have died because of this storm. And it won't be the last. This storm is only one in a series of storms that started up right before the new year. And it will be only one in a long line to come. Winter is not nearly over. So why is this winter different from others? The answer is El Nino.
When you hear the term "El Nino," most people laugh. They don't really see this strangely named weather pattern as a threat. However, throw into the mix increased global warming and the problems are apparent. It is a misnomer to believe that increased global warming will lead to higher temperatures at all time of the year. Global warming does not negate the season. Certain parts of the Earth will still get less sunlight during the "winter" and more during the "summer." What global warming does is increase overall temperature. The best place to see this is in the ocean. Because of the oceans, we have weather. And when the temperatures of these oceans increases, we get lots of weather. El Nino plays into this.
During an El Nino, the Southeast part of the United States gets less moisture than normal. The western part of the country gets a lot more. For evidence of this, just check the hurricane statistic from 2006. We saw very few hurricanes on the east coast. However, in the Pacific (off the coast of Mexico) a record number of hurricanes formed. The effects of El Nino have now continued into the winter months. Because of this stronger El Nino (due to global warming), we will see periods of very warm days followed by harsh winter weather. In fact, we are already seeing it. This will last well into spring and then look out for another record breaking summer heat wave.
Enjoy winter while you can. If you like to freeze your butt off, your time is now. Winter is here and it is going to hit hard over and over again. We are seeing now the beginnings of new global weather patterns. The threats of global warming are become more apparent everyday. If we continue to ignore them, this will only get worse.

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