WORDS on WEATHER & CLIMATE — January 6, 2011

More on December 

by CRAIG JAMES 

In last week’s article, I wrote about some of the interesting weather that had occurred in December, but it was written before the month ended. The final week of the month also had some newsworthy weather I want to tell you about.

I’m sure you heard about the major storm that buried much of the Northeast the day after Christmas. This storm produced 24 inches of snow in Newark, New Jersey and in Brooklyn, New York. Up to 32 inches of snow fell in northern New Jersey, which may be the largest snowfall total ever recorded for that state from a single storm. I think it would be really neat to get a storm like that around here, but it has never happened.

The storm gave Atlanta its first white Christmas since 1881 and, at a number of locations in the Southeast, it was the first white Christmas ever recorded.

It was a Christmas miracle for some folks in North Carolina who ended up with free diamonds. A jeweler in Wilmington pledged to refund every purchase made at his store between November 26 and December 11 if three inches of snow fell at the Asheville, N.C. airport on Christmas Day. Statistically, the odds of snow falling in Asheville on Christmas Day are roughly three percent. It has only happened twice in the past 60 years. I don’t imagine his insurance company was very happy to learn that 8.5 inches fell there this year resulting in over a half million dollars in purchases having to be refunded to customers who have never been so happy to see snow.

Behind the storm, another shot of very cold air plunged all the way into Cuba and the Bahamas. At Freeport, Bahamas, the low of 40 degrees on Monday the 27th was just one degree shy of the coldest temperature ever recorded in that country. The state of Florida has now confirmed that this past month of December was the coldest December of record.

In California, a final storm for the month on the 29th upped the monthly rainfall total in Los Angeles to over eight inches for the wettest December of record. It was very cold behind the storm. I was in southern California at the time and it was quite humorous to see television reporters wearing parkas while doing live reports in front of outdoor thermometers showing temperatures near freezing. What a hoot. However, it was seriously cold in northern Arizona on the last day of the year when the Grand Canyon Airport reported a low temperature of 29 degrees BELOW zero. It has never been that cold in Grand Rapids.

As the final storm of the month moved out into the plains states, a line of thunderstorms produced at least 33 tornadoes from Illinois to Arkansas on New Year’s Eve, resulting in seven fatalities. Behind this storm, additional snowfall in Minneapolis brought the monthly total to 34 inches, making it the snowiest December of record for that city. By the way, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in California received 209 inches of snow in December, with the seasonal total already up to 310 inches.

Here is a map of average temperatures for the month of December. You can see how cold it was in the eastern United States, and even with cold temperatures the last week of the month, the west ended up with above-average temperatures, as did eastern Canada.

For those of you who love winter, it appears as if we are going to continue to see colder-than-average temperatures here in the Great Lakes area for the month of January, with a chance of really cold Arctic Air the third week of the month. Looking farther ahead, I’m afraid this spring may also turn out to be cold. And if you’d really like to be depressed, the longer-range computer models are indicating a colder-than-average summer in our area, too.

Just remember, the alarmists keep telling us all this cold weather is because the Earth is warming. Pretty soon it will be so warm we’ll see snow in June.

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Comments

  1. Tom Van Dam says:

    Craig, We enjoy reading your articles in the Squire. Our son, Derek, would like your email address. He is considered the ‘expert’ on global warming in South Africa, and would like your opinions. The email we sent him (weatherguy8@comcast.net) keeps bouncing back. Can you help? Thanks.

  2. Mr. James,

    I think we should bear in mind that North America only covers 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Climate scientists aren’t trying to predict the weather this season: they’re looking at long-term temperature and climate trends that affect the whole world differently.

    Warmer temperatures do indeed drive down the likelihood of snow events over time (less instances of reaching freezing temperatures), but warmer temperatures also put more water vapor in the air and intensify the precipitation we experience in many regions. Lake-effect snow, too, will likely be exacerbated by a warmer climate.

    It’s a complicated story and one worth explaining, understanding and being reasonably prepared to respond to as a society rather than dismissing as “alarmism.”

    More on precipitation in the United States and climate change here: http://globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/full-report/national-climate-change

    Thanks,
    Aaron Huertas
    Press Secretary
    Union of Concerned Scientists

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