'Chandler's Wobble' may usher in a new ice age

Weather Gems

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Last week in 'Gems,' we reported that NASA has discovered 'cracks' in the fluctuating earth's magnetic field.

This is worrisome, because this magnetic field affects the ionosphere, and particularly the winds in the lower troposphere. These 'cracks' in the magnetic field and the shifting of our planet's magnetic poles can lead to SUPER STORMS on virtually every continent like we've seen in recent months.

This month's mega-monster cyclone 'Yasi' left much of northeastern Australia in Queensland a "war zone," according to rescue workers. This incredible storm packed winds near 190 miles per hour. Although it was labeled as a Category '5' cyclone (hurricane/typhoon), theoretically it was an 'off the scale' Category '6'!

Tens of thousands of homes were severely damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of people died. Livestock herds were decimated. There were reports of "sharks swimming through the flooded houses."

As if these worsening superstorms aren't enough, we have 'Chandler's Wobble' to worry about.

It was first discovered by an American astronomer in 1891 by the name of Seth Carlo Chandler. Chandler said that the earth "wobbles like a top" whenever our planet slows down a bit in its rotation like it has in recent years.

According to NASA, "the track of this spin began to slow down very slightly about Jan. 18, 2006." Since then, we've had a series of EXTREMELY HARSH winter seasons in both hemispheres.

If this 'wobble' of the planet continues, it's entirely possible that we will eventually see at least a new 'Little Ice Age,' maybe even a new GREAT ICE AGE like the one approximately 11,500 years ago.

But, in the meantime, most climate scientists are predicting increasing volcanic activity, which could lead to additional global cooling, more frequent earthquakes like the deadly tremor in New Zealand this past week, an increased number of deadly 'tsunamis,' colder and snowier winter seasons, cooler, shorter summer growing periods and more catastrophic superstorms resulting in widespread famines from food shortages.

Stay tuned. In this worst cycle of WIDE WEATHER 'EXTREMES' in at least 1000 years, virtually ANYTHING can happen, weatherwise and otherwise. Believe it!

NORTH IDAHO WEATHER REVIEW AND LONG-RANGE OUTLOOKS

It's certainly been the 'tale of two winters' across the Inland Northwest. We had our first BLIZZARD WARNING in the Coeur d'Alene area in more than three years Wednesday night and Thursday morning that led to more than 160 school closures in the region, the most since 2008. Even North Idaho College, where Randy Mann teaches Physical Geography, closed for the day.

As of 10 a.m. on Thursday, when I wrote this column, we had picked up nearly 11 inches of dry, powdery, wind-driven snow at my station on Player Drive. Drifts exceeded three feet in places. The wind-chill factor was a bitter minus-18 degrees. Our weather-watcher in Dalton Gardens measured a whopping 14 inches of the white stuff in the 36-hour period ending at 8 a.m. on Thursday. This was 'double' the 7 inches of snow that most stations from Athol northward in the colder air received in the same time span.

In fact, due to the southward path of many storms this 'fickle' winter of 2010-11, I've measured a third more snowfall this season at my station than my friend Mark Dymkoski has gauged at his place two miles east of Twin Lakes, in the usual 'snowbelt' zone. This is a complete 'reversal' of normal snowfall patterns.

As of 10 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, I had measured 99.2 inches of snow for the season on Player Drive, a tad under the 100-inch mark. It's quite possible that we will eventually reach 115 to 120 inches or more this winter, if March and April turn out to be snowier than usual as expected. March is due to come 'in like a snowy leopard' this next Tuesday as another winter storm bears down on the region.

It's amazing that November and February - like 'frigid bookends' - turned out to be much colder and snowier than the mid-winter months of December and January. This has happened only five times since 1895.

November was the snowiest such period on record in the Coeur d'Alene area in 2010 with an incredible 38.3 inches of the white stuff. There were two mornings just ahead of Thanksgiving with record subzero readings near minus-10 degrees in the region.

Following similar subzero temperatures in North Idaho this weekend, more moderate to heavy snows from milder air 'overriding' the Arctic dome entrenched in the region will likely push our February snowfall total by Monday evening to near or above two feet. That would bring our seasonal total to at least 105 inches, probably more.

This means that this winter season will make an all-time record three winters-out-of-four with total snowfall amounts above the 100-inch mark in Coeur d'Alene. Only last winter, during a mild El Nino, did we see a far below normal seasonal snowfall total of just 18.4 inches, the ninth least winter snowfall since 1895.

But, that's North Idaho weather for ya ... ONE WIDE 'EXTREME' to the other in short order.

What's next? Stay tuned.

Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. E-mail sfharris@roadrunner.com

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