Grinch steals Christmas snow

   Unprecedented weather conditions were experienced this past week as no major blizzards hit the US.

By Sherry Vogel

Most major hub airports were devoid of snow as was Chicago O’Hare, a notorious trouble spot for winter-weather travelers. At Christmas mid-week, Chicago experienced inconceivable temperatures in the 60s.

  Baker has enjoyed unbelievable but widely welcome warmer temperatures as well this Christmas season. Although the warmth is appreciated many delighted in having a white Christmas.

   The Grinch with his “heart that is two sizes too small” could be blamed for trying to stop Christmas from coming by stealing our snow, but in actuality there are some interesting weather phenomenon that are causing different than normal temperatures and weather conditions.

   We are feeling the effects of the strongest El Nino since 1997-1998 as it unfolds in the eastern Pacific Ocean. An El Nino is a complex weather pattern caused by abnormal warming of waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean around the equator. An El Nino occurs when trade winds in the equatorial Pacific slow down or even reverse direction, allowing warmer water to pool-up on the eastern side of the ocean where it doesn’t belong.

   El Nino interestingly enough means The Little Boy or  Christmas Child in Spanish. In the 1600s, fishermen originally noticed the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. The name was chosen based on the time of year (around December) during which these warm water events tended to occur.

   This occurrence has wide reaching effects. On the global front it affects rainfall, ocean productivity atmospheric gases and winds across continents. An example is California is expecting more rain while Australia is expecting less.

   On a local level, it influences water supplies and food sources. The National Weather Service has forecasted that impacts of this winter will resemble those in 1997 when California and the South endured floods, mudslides and tornados. While people in the upper Midwest saved two billion to seven billion dollars in heating costs throughout their unusually warm winters.

   The El Nino is expected to prevail through winter into spring 2016, when gradual weakening is likely to begin. It will be interesting to watch new weather patterns as they unfold. Many weathermen won’t touch the subject of expected snowfall with a 12’ shovel due to wildly contrasting outcomes of polar jet streams.