According to the calendar today is February 3rd, 2006 yet when I stepped outside this morning it felt and looked more like late March or mid April. There isn’t a speck of snow anywhere outside of downtown Detroit at the Winter Blast celebration that is part of the Super Bowl party scene and that snow is only there because they hauled in several snow making machines to make it. Normally the end of January and pretty much the whole month of February is the most miserable part of winter here in Michigan, but most days lately you could get away with a light jacket when venturing outdoors. The really weird part was that back in November/Early December it was looking a lot like what it should be like right now. It’s as if winter came a couple of months early and only lasted for a month and a half (the warming trend kicked in right around Christmas).
What the hell is going on? The folks over at Niches are sharing what they’ve learned:
Depending on what happens in February, it seems to me that this could be close to being the year without a winter. Mike at RealClimate has an interesting and fairly non-technical post up about this, treating ecological ramifications. The comments even feature one proponent of global warming!
At NOAA I found the following information.
First, we have a La Nina! Expected to be 3-6 months duration, it results in winter temperatures colder than average in the western US, and drier than average in the southeast US. If it lasts into the hurricane season it encourages the formation of hurricanes.
Second, also at NOAA, we have these absolutely precious temperature anomaly plots by the month. (A temperature anomaly plot just takes the difference between the monthly average for 2006, as here, and the average for a set of years (in this case 1970-2006), and color codes it as indicated.)
Since January is on everyone’s minds, here it is:
I admit that, given how miserable this time of year usually is, I’m not entirely unhappy about the mild weather, but it also worries me. You can’t help but have that nagging little voice in the back of your head repeating “global warming” over and over again. More from Mike at RealClimate:
Sadly, it appears that global warming may soon add Phil to the ranks of the unemployed. With the warming of 4-8ºC (7-14ºF) predicted over North America by the end of this century if we continue to increase greenhouse gas concentrations at current rates, the answer will become simple. Spring will come early every year. While this may seem like a pleasant outcome of climate change, it could in fact lead to serious problems for plants, animals, and entire ecosystems. Living things have adapted to the timing of the seasons over many thousands of years. Here, we are changing the timing of the seasons on timescales of decades. Plants and animals just don’t adapt well to changes on such short timescales.
January temperatures this year were 3-9ºC (5-16 ºF) warmer than the late 20th century average over most of the U.S.
The widespread pattern of this warmth is what was so unusual. Usually when one part of the U.S., say the east coast, is experiencing unusually warm weather, other regions, say the Rocky Mountain states, are experiencing unusually cold weather. This has to do with the natural wiggles of the jet stream from one month to the next. However, the pattern we’re seeing so far this year, where essentially the entire U.S. is anomalously warm, only occurs when the jet stream has retreated far north from its usual position. As we have noted before (see here and here), there is no way to ascribe any single anomalous weather event, or even an anomalous season, to global warming and climate change. But what we can say is that the temperature pattern we’ve seen this January is similar to the kind of pattern that models predict as being normal in just a few decades time given some anthropogenic forcing scenarios. Global warming is likely to “load the dice”, making the kind of January temperatures that might seem remarkable by past experience increasingly probable, and hence increasingly more frequent.