As surely as I finish typing this and hit send to fire it off to my editors, none of what I’m about to write will still be true. But, have you noticed that it’s nearly the end of December and, so far, nothing has happened here in Ohio that seems much like winter has arrived?
Granted, winter doesn’t officially start until December 22nd, but by this time, we have usually had some pretty frigid temperatures and at least one significant snowfall. As of now, however, there have been only a few days of what I even consider cold weather, something below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But, there is a good explanation.
According to meteorologists, El Niños is back and with it comes the unseasonably warm weather. El Niños is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs when warm water in the western tropical Pacific Ocean shifts eastward along the equator.
During this event, the winds slow down and even change direction, so as the warmer water arrives along the coast of South America, it continues to heat to the air above which then sweeps across the northern continent, creating above average temperatures.
This happens every few years, although some instances are more pronounced than others. But are they getting worse because of climate change? The answer to that question appears clustered in debate.
However, according to a CNN report this past October, “The influence of climate change on El Niño is a matter of debate. Some research suggests that while the overall number of El Niños is unlikely to increase, the number of ‘super’ El Niños are twice as likely to occur.”
The article goes on to suggest that representatives on climate change with the United Nations say that, “Confidence is low that climate change will affect El Niños in the future. But just because El Niños may not change doesn’t mean their impacts won’t become more severe.”
As for snowfall in the Midwest this year, it looks like the Farmer’s Almanac (199th edition) has totally missed the mark. It says on the publication’s website, “Precipitation-wise, if you like snow, then you should head out to the northern and central Great Plains (most of the North Central States), the Great Lakes, New England (sorry Boston!), and parts of the Ohio Valley where snowier-than-normal conditions are forecast.” Oops. Well, they had a 50-50 shot at it, right?
The next obvious question is, how long will the unusually warm weather last? Well, something better give soon because my grass is growing and a few days ago I actually saw blooming dandelions.
Most experts are reporting that this may be one of the strongest El Niños events in recorded history so the warmer weather may continue for some time. But, as nice as it has been not to have to break out the snow shovel, these conditions can have some negative effects as well.
Joe Cornley of the Ohio Farm Bureau recently told Cleveland.com, “For food production, there’s a purpose for having a winter to kill off the bugs and weeds and diseases that are out there that could have an impact on your crops.” He also noted that deep freezes followed by thaws can be damaging, and wheat growers prefer to have a good layer of snow to insulate their dormant plants.”
On the positive side, this has been a great year for getting outside and seeing some of the area’s holiday spots without being so miserably cold at the same time. Local parks and historical sites have experienced higher than usual attendance and people are remaining active more, helping to keep away some of the winter blues.
Higher temperatures also means a lower demand for heating fuel and that will help keep costs down this year. It might be bad for the stockholders of the energy companies but it’s very good for consumers.
And for all of the procrastinators out there, warmer weather means that after Christmas is over, there is no reason why you can’t get outside and get those lights off down off the house before St. Patrick’s Day rolls around.