2015 was the hottest year on record. We saw many record-shattering heat waves around the world. The year ended with temperatures in the geographic North Pole 50ºF (27ºC) above average. The temperature was so high, it actually briefly exceeded the freezing point of water. What is remarkable is that this is during the period known as “the long night” where because of the angle of the Earth to the sun in winter, the sun never rises. This has only happened twice since record-keeping. A monster storm system named Frank has wrought havoc over much of North America, where it caused two tornado systems and dangerous flooding, more on that later. It has also brought flooding to parts of the United Kingdom, where it has been causing washed out roads and inundated vehicles. In fact, ten people had to be rescued after being stranded in a bus in Scotland.
While in many parts of the northern hemisphere, it was a white Christmas, for those in the Alps it was anything but white. They are in the midst of a snow drought, much like the one that plagued North America last year, and a vast majority of typically densely populated ski runs are closed. France, Germany, and Switzerland are currently experiencing unusually high temperatures. Many resorts have been able to make only thin strips of snow, opening one or two runs at best. Even in higher altitudes, where making snow is easier, snow off the runs, read backcountry, is sparse. While meteorologists are predicting snow, it may be too little too late for resorts in the lower Alps to attract skiers, and this comes with substantial risk to the economy. There was also spring-like weather in the US, with temperatures in New York hitting 60ºF(15.5ºC). Ski resorts in New England are also having difficulty staying open with abnormally warm temperatures. While resorts in the Cascade Mountains and the Rockies in the US Pacific Northwest are open and doing well for now with a recent dumping of snow (up to 4ft(1.2m) in some places., they may struggle later in the season as El Niño is expected to bring drier than normal conditions. The warm temperatures across most of the US left many Americans feeling like it just wasn’t the holiday season, a sentiment echoed in Canada. The temperatures in Calgary, Alberta have been considerably milder than in average years. Temperatures frequently dip to lower than -20ºC, (-4ºF) but the coldest day recently was -17ºC(-1.4ºF), and those were extremes, with the temperature rarely getting colder than about -10ºC(14ºF).
Tragically, 14 people are dead after a rash of at least 20 tornados hit the southeastern US. The tornados were sparked by the storm system mentioned earlier. The devastation happened on Christmas Eve, so we should spare a thought for those whose holiday season suddenly became a nightmare.
Unfortunately, the tragic events we reported on are in no way a full reflection of what has been going on in the world. If you would like to see all of our recent headlines, please click here.