America’s winter wonderland is starting this season with anything other than traditional.
The calendar says December, but in most parts of the country, temperatures are up for sandals. In the Pacific Northwest, umbrellas are needed if there are no arks, while snow shovels are gathering cobs in the Rockies.
Meteorologists attribute the latest batch of record-shattering weather extremes to the effects of La Nia weather patterns from a stuck jet stream and cold waters in the equatorial Pacific.
It is still falling astronomically, but for meteorologists winter begins on December 1. This year, no one told the weather.
On Thursday, 65 weather stations across the country marked record high temperatures for December 2, including Springfield, Missouri, at 24 °C (75 °F) and Roanoke, Virginia, at 22 °C (72 °F). Cheyenne, Wyoming and Billings, Montana broke long-time high temperature records by 6 degrees.
Parts of Canada and Montana have seen their highest December temperatures in recorded history. On Friday, parts of South Carolina and Georgia touched record highs.
In Washington state, Seattle, Bellingham and Quilaute all set 90-day fall records for rainfall. Bellingham received about 60 centimeters (about 24 inches) of rain. According to the National Weather Service, the Olympic and Cascade Mountains were hit hard with more than 127 centimeters (50 in) in three months. Forks, Washington received more rain in 90 days than Las Vegas in 13 years.
In addition, Hawaii’s Big Island summit has a Blizzard Warning with up to 30.5 centimeters (12 in) of snow and gusts of more than 161 kilometers per hour (100 mph).
Meanwhile, the snow in Colorado has disappeared. Earlier this year, the latest first measurable snowfall on record in Denver occurred on November 21, 1934. According to the Weather Service, there is a slight chance of snow on Monday night. Still, with no snow since April 22, it is the third longest stretch of the city the city has gone without.
One big factor: The jet stream — the river of air that carries the weather from west to east on a roller coaster-like path — just got stuck. That means low pressure over a portion of the stream is bringing rain to the Pacific Northwest, while high pressure hovering over about two-thirds of the country is creating dry and hot weather, said a senior weatherman at the Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center. Scientist Brian Hurley said. in College Park, Maryland.
If the jet stream moves higher or bends differently, rain and other extreme weather won’t be as concentrated, Hurley said.
This is a typical weather pattern with natural La Nia weather oscillations, he said. El Nio, the flip side of a La Nia, is the cooling of parts of the central Pacific Ocean that changes weather patterns around the world. La Nias brings more rainfall to the Pacific Northwest and makes the South dry and hot.
These extreme weather shocks are more frequent as the world warms, said Jeff Masters, a founder of Weather Underground who works at Yale Climate Connections.
In Boulder, Colorado, meteorologist Bob Henson enjoyed a rare December bike ride on Thursday.
Still, “there is a lot of concern about the lack of snow,” he said. “It puts you in a mental crisis. You enjoy the warm weather, while noting that the Earth’s warming is not good.”