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The Missing Winter? Finding the Snow

Written by Jesse Richardson on February 07, 2012 with No Comments

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Sunny Winter Day

Photo Credit: Kamilla Nylund

As you may have heard – or even noticed depending on where you live – winter seems to be taking a break this year. Reports (see AccuWeather and Farmers’ Almanac) from mid to late 2011 forecasted “a season of unusually cold and stormy weather,” with some regions experiencing “a frigid climate… [and others experiencing] lots of rain and snow.” But as we’ve seen (across the states), these reports have been largely – well – wrong.

Winter, if anything, seems to be missing this year from the front porches and slopes of the United States. We’ve seen very little snow in our northern states, with rocks poking out on mountains like Grand Targhee. And while there has been a few generous blankets laid, it’s nothing like we saw in previous years. In fact, January was the “third-least snowy on record” as reported by HPost.

Many have immediately jumped on the bandwagon, arguing this shows evidence of global warming and climate change. Before anyone can give weight to such a claim, we need more information.

The Lower 48

Truth is, winter in the lower 48 states has been sparse. Unlike last season, where an incredible 49 of 50 states had snowfall, our lower states are faring poorly. In January 2011, an incredible 69.4 percent of the lower 48 had snow on the ground. As of February 2012, only 19 percent have snow on the ground. To some, the record breaking winter season last year is only eclipsed in memory by the almost complete 180 of this season. Incredibly, according to the same Huffington Post article, “Midland Texas has had more snow this season than Minneapolis or Chicago.”

The Rest of the World

While it may be somewhat surprising for those of us in the states, the world at large has had an average year for snowfall. Some parts of the world have been dumped on and others are feeling the cold snap, even if it did come a bit late. Take Japan for example.

Snowstorms have battered away at the Japanese coast, coating the nation with over twice as much snow as normal in some areas. At one point, a local reporter stood beside a snow drift that was over twice his height. Unfortunately, the frustrating cold weather has done more than create icy spectacles for tourists and locals. In all, there have been 56 deaths and more than 750 injuries since November of last year. Traffic in and out of major cities has also suffered greatly, with cars ill-equipped to deal with the rough, slick terrain.

In the Czech Republic, the cold has been welcomed. Winemakers, for example, celebrated at the sight of minus 13 Celsius, which is right in the range for harvesting their coveted grapes for ice wine. And this came not a minute too soon. As put by Antonin Zatloukal , a wine maker at Three Oaks vineyard, in an interview, “Thanks God! It’s minus 13 (Celsius) today…We never picked the grapes so late before. Previously, we always managed to do it before the year’s end.”

For Europe and Asia, this year has been the ninth snowiest since 1966. Perhaps the cold will come back to the states next year?

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