Upside Down Winter: Thanks El Nino

Scenes like this are common out east this winter. (NOAA image)

It's been the kind of winter that leaves forecasters scratching heads. When Philly ends up with roughly twice as much snow as the Twin Cities in a winter, something's out of whack.

But snowfall patterns this winter are not that uncommon in El Nino years. A persistent southerly storm track is a trademark of El Nino winters. This winter came with a twist. Enough cold air filtered far enough south to turn rain into snow in some unusual places.

Take a look at the season snowfall for various cities in the Midwest and eastern USA. There's an interesting trend of more snow as you move south this winter.

Twin Cities: 40.7" (96% of average)

Madison: 48.9"

Chicago: 52.4"

Sioux Falls: 56.6"

Des Moines: 62.3" (210% of average)

While an El Nino winter would explain a southerly storm track this year, it seems the trend of heavier snow has become commonplace in recent winters in the southern parts of the Midwest.

Now check out the eastern USA.

Washington D.C. 56" (412% of average, all time record)

Philadelphia: 78.7" (508% of average, all time record)

The all time record east coast snow totals are also consistent with an El Nino sotrm track that snakes through the southern U.S. then turns northeast. This winter, a potent combination of cold air and Atlantic moisture has wrung out the heavy snow back east.

Cold and snow is weather; not climate

Many have tried rather ignorantly to use this winter's cold and snow in the U.S. as evidence that climate change is bogus. One day, week, month or winter is called weather, not climate. Weather in one part of the globe does not a represent global trend. NOAA has an interesting and informative look at this winter's snow and climate change here.

In fact, January was the 4th warmest on record globally according to NOAA.

Pine tree effect again today:

Watch for places like Brainerd to be among the warmest in the state again this afternoon. The forested areas of north central Minnesota are particularly efficient at reradiating solar energy to heat the lower atmosphere.

Percentage of incoming sunlight reflected by various surfaces.

The higher albedo (more reflective) surfaces of snow covered prairie in southwest Minnesota have kept temperatures about 5 to 10 degrees cooler the past few days.

Expect filtered sunshine today as a few more high clouds drift by. The sun should increase tomorrow as we make a push at 40 degrees in the metro later this week.



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