It's the Warmest Winter Ever and It's the North Pole's Fault
With just weeks left to go, the world is heading toward the warmest winter ever recorded as a strange brew of weather patterns at the top of the world combines with the mercury-boosting influence of climate change.
A stubbornly extreme low-pressure system over the North Pole has pulled the jet stream north, backing it up against the fast-moving winds that constantly ring the polar region. The result: A tight barrier that’s kept the cold locked in place, upsetting fall forecasts for an icy winter ahead.
Now, with temperatures 3° Celsius higher than the 20th century average across the contiguous U.S., the uniqueness of the pattern is expected to spark an avalanche of new research into its cause. If the trend continues through Feb. 29, when winter ends for meteorologists, it will set a global high for the season in U.S. records going back 141 years.
“What really jumps out is not a particular hot spot,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist with the Weather Underground, an IBM company. “But the sheer breadth of the warmth.”