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Archive date:  January 26, 2012

Is this winter?

A far cry from last year…so far -

The bone chilling breezes of January 2011 are a distant memory. With scarcely a sub-twenty degree night, January 2012 has been down-right balmy at times. Snow Bird must be freaking out. NASA sent out a detailed description of their interpretation of the winter (or the lack thereof) so far. Here’s my break-down:

It seems that La Niña has teamed up with the “wobble” that our planet’s axis phases through. La Niña pushes up on the jet stream. I’m sure you will no doubt be disappointed to find out that I cannot determine with certainty whether it is Chandler’s Wobble or simply a precession of the equinoxes; whatever the precise difference between those somewhat similar phenomena are. Anyway, let it suffice to say that what they describe is similar to the rotation of a gyroscope top when spinning, with the bottom of the axis in a fixed position and the uppermost part making a circular pattern; displaying the angular momentum. (Stay with me, I’m almost there!!!)

All of that is to point out that the really cold air is trapped by two forces working together to keep the jet stream confined to a near circular pattern; lacking the extreme dips that commonly occur this time of year. Consequently, we in the contiguous part of the United States have, to this point, escaped most of the cold and snow. Conversely, some parts of Alaska have received 18 feet of snow. That said, it does not mean it will continue throughout the winter. It could break down at any time.

If we’re going to get winter, it needs to get on with it (not that my opinion carries any weight). So far we have had enough cold weather to keep most flowering things in a dormant state; I have seen a few open blooms on winter jasmine and forsythia in protected areas. What none of us want is an unusually warm winter followed by an unusually cold spring. I’d just as soon get it over with now.

January is almost over…there is hope!

David Bates