Southeast a Target for Snow & Cold

"What Happened to Global Warming?"


Chief Meteorologist Jennifer Rukavina

More and more people have wondered why we have seen an increase in snow storms and extreme cold weather events across the SE United States, including the Local 6 area. Some have posed the question, "Where is global warming?" ...and that has led me to write this blog.

Without getting deep into the Global Warming debate (we can do that another time), there are reasons for the increased frequency of snow and cold across the South, that have nothing to do with global warming.

Back during the Summer of 2009, the abnormal warming of the oceanic waters off the coast of South America known as El Nino, became established and that directly impacts the weather pattern over the Continental US. For the Pacific NW, they are more likely to see increased rainfall and milder winters. In the Southeast, the weather pattern becomes more active with increased moisture and a stronger pull of colder air from Canada.

With that being said, it is no surprise that we are experiencing more frequent snow events, even as far South as the Gulf Coast. The Pacific NW and California has been plagued with too much rain causing mudslides and flash flooding. The impact of El Nino is also being felt as far north as Vancouver where a lack of snowfall due to mild temperatures led the host city to truck in snow for the Olympics.

You may be surprised to know that the average snowfall for Paducah and surrounding areas is actually 10.2 inches a year. One may think that seems a bit high but that number is based on a 30-year average. The last winter we recorded at least that much snow was the winter of 2004-2005, another El Nino episode. In fact, looking back over the last few decades, our snowiest winters often correspond with El Nino episodes.

Something to remember when it comes to weather vs. climate....they are different! Daily weather and one single weather event (snowstorm, tornado outbreak, flooding, hurricane) does not necessarily represent our overall climate. Just as one winter season does not represent a 30-year average climate. The easy answer that most people try to affix to extreme weather events is global warming or lack there of. The use of the two words, global and warming, have found a place in everyday conversation. They are often associated with political agendas and heated debates. What they are suppose to represent is the changing temperature climate of the globe as a whole. What most people fail to understand is that just because one region of the country is exceptionally cold, it does not mean the entire globe is so. Global warming or climate change happens in natural cycles and is occurring when you look at the big picture.

The debate begins when scientists from opposing sides argue over whether humans are causing it to occur more rapidly. That is where I wrap up the global warming subject for this blog. :)

As for the now, El Nino is expected to hold through the Spring and keep our weather fairly active. Likely that means a few more chances of snow and a couple more bouts of colder temperatures in the Southeast. Just thought you might want to know why.

While I have had my share of fun in the snow...I, for one, am ready for warm season!