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Record Breaking Winter

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The winter of 2011-2012 has not been a normal one.  I don’t have to tell you that temperatures have been well above average and the snowfall count is one of the lowest we have seen in decades.  But new numbers out of the National Weather Service are beginning to put this Meteorological Winter (December-February) into perspective and many are doing a double take at just how unusual it has been.  The brief article below is from the National Weather Service in Aberdeen.

Winter 2011-2012 on Track to Be One of the Warmest in History in SD:

Meteorological winter (defined as December – February) 2011-2012 is on track to be one of the top 10 warmest winters in history at many locations across central and northeastern South Dakota.  This very mild winter can be attributed to several factors including below normal snowfall, lack of snow cover, and few arctic air intrusions. 
The tables below list the top ten (10) warmest average temperatures for the period December 1st through February 15th (77 days) at Aberdeen, Pierre, and Watertown.  Keep in mind that there are still 14 more days left in February (2012 is a leap year), so these rankings will be updated periodically.

Not only will our winter be one of the warmest of all time, but for many could be one of the driest.  Obviously, snowfall is well below average.  In fact, many locations have seen just 10-20 percent of what they had seen by this time last year.  But how do these numbers stack up against history.  See for yourself…

Amazing the difference a year can make when the entire area finished far above average last year and even set new records in some cases.

Even though the U.S. has experienced a much warmer then average winter does not mean the whole world has.  In many cases, much of the globe was below average in the month of January.  Remember that the earth is always trying to equal out all forms of weather.  So when the South Dakota experiences a really really warm January, there is likely another location somewhere on the globe that is experiencing a really really cold January.  Same story goes for everything else when it comes to the earth, one component will always equal out another.  Take the picture below.  It shows temperature anomalies (departure from average) for the globe through the course of January.  Blue for colder then normal and red for warmer then normal.  The larger the colored dots, the farther away from average those locations ended up.

Notice that the U.S. finished well above average, but much of eastern and central Asia finished well below average.  Same story goes with the rest of the world.

This can also be tied to other things like ice in the arctic.  I know many of you have probably heard of the shrinking ice cap in the Arctic.  What you probably also haven’t heard is the fact that the Antarctic ice cap is growing.  In fact, it has been well above average for the last 4 years and this January had the 4th highest ice extent in Antarctica since records began in the 70’s.  Just something to keep in mind the next time someone talks about climate change.

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