Signs of cooling are evident on a global scale

Weather Gems

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Since the late 1990s, we've seen a rather remarkable absence of warming in the Pacific Ocean and the North Atlantic to depths of 2,000 meters, some 6,800 feet. Only the South Atlantic and the Indian Oceans have continued to show some slow warming to those depths.

If history repeats itself, and there is no reason to believe that it will not, it is my opinion that even the South Atlantic and the Indian oceans will soon begin to cool, perhaps for the next several decades or more.

The summer sea icepacks are increasing in size in both the Arctic regions and many areas surrounding the Antarctic continent. Ships have frequently been trapped by extremely thick ice exceeding 10 to 12 feet in places in both polar regions. Ironically, this included a ship filled with global warming scientists and friends earlier in the Antarctic summer.

Land masses tend to experience changes in temperature on a global scale much quicker than the vast oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet. We've seen such a dramatic cooling in the past six to eight months in both South America and North America. The winter of 2013 in parts of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and southeastern Brazil was the coldest in more than a century with 'rare' snowfalls in many areas that hadn't seen such events in modern times.

The current winter of 2013-14 across the Northern Hemisphere has been the harshest in living memory in many areas east of the Mississippi River deep into the heart of Dixie. Just this past week, parts of Arkansas and Tennessee had record snows and morning lows in the single digits. Jonesboro, Ark., has never seen such a harsh winter season. It's been "more like a normal winter in Chicago," according to clients in this part of the Razorback state.

Winter wheat and other crops have suffered "significant damage from winterkill in areas without protective snowcover."

Not only have crops east of the Rockies been killed by an extended period of record low temperatures this bitter winter of 2013-14, but in the drought-parched Far West in California, a full week of sub-freezing temperatures in early December cost the Golden State's citrus industry at least $441 million in damage.

Citrus Mutual reported in early February that frigid readings as low as 18 degrees produced hard freezes that resulted in more than $260 million in damages to navel oranges alone. Mandarin oranges and grapefruit had losses of $157 million and lemons suffered approximately $24 million in damages.

There were likewise losses in winter grains, citrus and vegetable crops this winter in parts of Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico. The Florida citrus crops and vegetables have thus far been spared any major cold weather damage, but the harsh season isn't over yet.

The record early February coldwave across the U.S. deepened this past week. This resulted in critical shortages of propane, which is the main source of heat for nearly 6 million households in the country.

For many people on fixed incomes, the sky-high utility bills this harshest winter in decades has led to a rather desperate situation of choosing between 'heating' and 'eating.' After deducting higher medicare and other insurance costs in 2014, most retirees have seen their net incomes lowered by at least 5 percent. No wonder the stock market plummeted this past week. There's less money for non-essentials. If this is 'global warming,' I'd hate to see 'global cooling!'


I wrote this North Idaho weather update on a snowy, but considerably warmer Friday morning, Feb. 7. Things indeed were "looking up" weatherwise and otherwise.

Our morning low was 9 degrees above zero, up 17 degrees from Thursday's record-tying minimum reading of minus 8 degrees, the coldest temperature locally in Coeur d'Alene in more than four years since the mercury dipped to minus 9 degrees on Nov. 24, 2010.

Other subzero readings in our part of the country on Thursday included; minus 13 degrees at McCall, minus 11 degrees at Challis, minus 10 degrees at Spirit Lake, minus 9 degrees at Athol and minus 5 degrees at Spokane. Deer Park, north of Spokane, reported minus 8 degrees. Several rivers and lakes in North Idaho and eastern Washington at least partially froze over during the subzero cold spell.

Longer term, we should see increased moisture in the next six weeks extending through mid to late March across the Inland Northwest. The pesky high pressure ridge in the eastern Pacific waters has finally broken down allowing rain and snow to push into the Pacific Northwest as far south as the drought-parched Central Valley of California. Southern California, as of this writing, however, remained bone dry.

I still see a much milder than usual weather pattern arriving locally in North Idaho by the time that we turn the clocks ahead on March 9. We could see afternoon highs reach the upper 50s and lower 60s despite a few scattered rain showers.

In the meantime, though, for at least the next 30 days or so, we should be colder than normal overall with more snow than usual for late winter. Our final 2013-14 seasonal snowfall total in town should be near 50 inches, quite an improvement from the puny 16.4 inches just prior to the return of the white stuff on January 28. As of 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, our Coeur d'Alene 2013-14 snowfall stood at 33.5 inches, more than double the Jan. 28 total.


Cliff Harris is a climatologist who writes a weekly column for The Press. His opinions are his own. Email

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