After an unmourned absence of a few years in much of the United States, winter arrived this year with a vengeance.
First the coldest, snowiest December in a decade or so. Then a foot or so of snow followed by the coldest temperatures since the turn of the century – or since weather forecasters found a way to measure wind chill, take your pick.
And down off the coast of the world’s coldest continent, Antarctica, a Russian ship carrying a scientific expedition got trapped in the ice, forcing the helicopter evacuation of most of those on board, in the middle of what passes for summer in that part of the planet. The irony is that the expedition was there to study global warming.
Meteorologists are finding better ways to predict weather, at least in the short run. But on a planet where weather patterns tend to readjust willy-nilly, long-range prognostication still isn’t much better than a coin flip.
What we do know is there have been colder winters. And warmer ones. And the Earth keeps revolving around the sun every 12 months, causing changing seasons in temperate climates.
There have been colder winters, even within recent memory. I recall my early days at The Herald when we photographed a couple of employees in front of a time-and-temperature sign that showed a chilly minus 19 degrees. And the blizzard of 1978, when some two feet of snow combined with frigid temperatures and high winds to paralyze central Indiana for several days.
Of course there has been the other extreme. It hasn’t been more than a couple of years ago that Indiana had February temperatures so high that everyone was breaking out short-sleeved shirts.
Lots of theories have been advanced for the varying weather patterns. El Nino. La Nina. The Alberta Clipper. You name it.