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Don’t Just Blame Global Warming: Weather Phenomenon Causing Warm Winter

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Japanese Quince flowers bloom in the Central Park Conservatory Garden on Feb. 27, 2012 in New York. An unusually warm winter has caused many flowers and trees to begin blooming early in the northeast, putting them in danger of damage if freezing temperatures occur. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA)

Japanese Quince flowers bloom in the Central Park Conservatory Garden on Feb. 27, 2012 in New York. An unusually warm winter has caused many flowers and trees to begin blooming early in the northeast, putting them in danger of damage if freezing temperatures occur. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA)

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBSDC) — What happened to winter?

As the calendar gets ready to flip over to March, much of the nation has experienced unseasonably warm weather over the winter months. But don’t just blame global warming for it.

According to Arthur DeGaetano at the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the primary cause of this past month’s cozy temperatures is due to a phenomenon called Positive Arctic Oscillation, in which low air pressure in the Arctic region creates a jet stream that blocks cold air from leaving.

“The jet stream acts like a fence or wall that confines the air … and doesn’t allow the cold to come down over most of the [United States],” he told CBSDC.

His statistics indicate that this past February was the fourth warmest for Washington, D.C., with an average temperature of 44.2. That average is exceeded in warmth only by Februaries in 1976, 1977 and 1990. Records extend beyond 1942. D.C. is expected to kick off March at a balmy 68 degrees Thursday.

For New York City, February 2012 comes in first place, tied with 1984 at 40.9 degrees average.

Accuweather.com said national figures reflect the trends seen in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

Their data reportedly confirms that the warmth for the 2011-2012 winter “was a nationwide problem – not just limited to the Northeastern states.”

“I don’t know which [data map] is more pitiful – the one in December where almost no one was getting above-normal snowfall, or the February map where a larger portion of the nation was in a snow drought,” the report continues.

Instead, much of Europe has been saddled with the extreme winter weather the U.S. Northeast region is more accustomed to, resulting in the coldest winter in over 25 years for countries such as Italy and Greece.

Global warming may seem to some like a contributing factor, and in an extremely generalized sense, it is part of the equation.

“With global warming as a trend, we’ve seen temperatures rise [over the past 50 years] … so to a certain degree, global warming contributes,” DeGaetano said.

He added, “We can’t say there’s just one ingredient, but the oscillation is the primary one [in regards to this February's warmth].”

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