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Let’s Do The Arctic Oscillation

By Staff | Jan 10, 2012

Has this winter been great, or what? Who would have thought that we would be outdoors in nothing more than a light jacket in January in Iowa? Have you seen the walkers and joggers out? How about the kids on bikes? The ground hasn’t frozen yet and there’s barely a skim of ice on the lake. It’s a mild winter, for sure-and it’s setting records throughout the Midwest.

According to an article that appeared on Friday in The Washington Post, an excess of 300 record high temperatures were set in 21 states last Thursday. A sampling of record setting temperatures of several Midwest cities was listed. In South Dakota, Huron hit a high of 65 degrees and Mitchell was 68 degrees. In North Dakota, temperatures soared to 61 degrees in Minot and 55 degrees in Fargo.

The article went on to say: “What distinguishes this warm spell is the amount by which some records were broken. Consider Rapid City, South Dakota hit 73, obliterating the old record by 13 degrees. (That 73 degree high temperature was four above the high temperature of 69 in Miami, Florida).”


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the reason for this unusually warm winter is Arctic Oscillation, “a natural see-sawing of atmospheric pressure between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes of the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. Because it isn’t predictable very far in advance, climate forecasters often describe the Arctic Oscillation as the ‘wild card’ of the winter forecast. So far this winter, the Arctic Oscillation has been in its positive phase, playing the card that favors a milder winter”.

Arctic Oscillation. Sounds like a flavor of energy drink or a dance from the 70s, doesn’t it? Whatever the reason for the warmer temperatures, I appreciate this rare treat. If you haven’t finished your yard work from the fall, here’s your opportunity to finish up. Those Christmas lights you have up outside-hanging from the eaves and trees-now is the time to take them down without the accompaniment of ice and snow.

I have to wonder about the squirrels I see waddling around the back yard. Normally by this time of the year, the plump squirrels of fall have slimmed down a bit and become downright skinny by the end of winter. With nuts and other energy-dense food so easy to access without the snow and frozen ground, will the squirrels remain chubby throughout 2012?

Another thought or twoif this weather continues to be so unseasonably temperate, will the flowers begin to bloom? Will the grass turn green? It’s something to think about.

Finally, be aware that the days are now growing longer, as well. As they say, “it’s all downhill from here,” and with the Arctic Oscillation, it’s an even quicker ride down the hill! –Lori Hall