Our Winterless Winter on Wild About Utah

Feb 20, 2018

Our winterless winter. I’ve been in this lovely valley over 30 years and have never experienced such a balmy January, and now February. The thaw began January first and never ended. As an avid cross country skier, I fear my days of low elevation skiing have ended over a month early.

And I’m well aware that my home state of Michigan is having an epic winter of extreme cold and snow. While we westerners are crying global warming, those across the Mississippi are saying “bring it on!”

So what do the computer models tell us about these phenomena as they predict our future in a warming climate? Our jet stream is acting might wimpy and limpey these days, which was what the climatologists saw coming in their modeling. I will attempt a brief explanation.

The jet stream is highly impacted by the temperature differences between the poles and the mid latitudes where we reside. The greater this difference, the more robust the jet stream. The poles have been warming at a crazy rapid pace- several time faster than the lower latitudes. This has reduced the temperature differences which has two profound effects on the jet stream. First, with less energy to move it along, it stalls out so to speak and its patterns linger longer over our continent. Thus the prolonged extreme warm temps in the west, and prolonged cold in the east. A month ago my son living in Atlanta, GA called to say he was walking his dog in a foot of snow, a new experience for that southern boy!

The second effect is the deep trough that allows the cold to reach well into those once toasty southern states. These sags can be shown with a jump rope. As you slow the energy, or rate of whip moving the rope, it begins to sag, creating a deeper, slower moving trough that even I can leap over!

So our western part of the jump rope is stuck in an inverted trough (the upward swing of the rope), creating a high pressure system that has dominated our state and much of the west with very warm temps and very little precip. This does not bode well for our ski industry nor our water supply, which is locked in our scant snow pack.

Many students from around the state have been working on a resolution with their state legislators which addresses this climate weirding. Bill HCR7 now resides in the House Natural Resources Committee, where it will probably be heard before you hear this. It may even have been on the House floor by then, and on to the Senate. The students are filled with hope that our state leaders will hear their testimonies in behalf of a future we all wish them to have.