Here in Austin on the day before Thanksgiving, it’s 50 degrees and cloudy at 8:30 in the morning. In Alert, Canada, it’s -9 and clear. Fort Yukon, Alaska, has -13 with overcast skies. There’s light snow in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a temperature of 30 degrees. Basically, we’re in the quiet before the storm. Most of the forecasters whom I respect and pay attention to say December will be the coldest it has been in decades at most locations in the Northern Hemisphere.
A few things that have taken place in the last 18 months: The Pacific Decadal Oscillation, of which El Ninos and La Nina are constituent parts, has switched from its warm phase to its cool phase. It’s a 30-year cycle, and during the last cool phase of the cycle temperatures fell worldwide. It was largely during this time that baby boomers formed their memories of winter in the Mid-west and Northeast. Another huge shift that is under way: We are entering what is known as a solar minimum, possibly a grand solar minimum. It was likely a series solar minima that produced the Little Ice Age (and the tiny, tight tree rings in the wood used by Stradivarius for his incredibly resonant violins).
What has taken place, climate-wise, during the new regime? Well, for starters, it snowed in Baghdad last year for the first time in at least a hundred years, China had its harshest winter in at least a generation, the American midwest and Pacific Northwest set records for snow and cold, there was an October snowstorm in London a little over three weeks ago for the first time since 1922, New Zealand and Australia saw more snow in their winter just ending, falling later in the season, than in memory, with the most recent snow in Australia coming just last week.
Are all of these events simply “noise,” in the parlance of climate professionals? Possibly.
And possibly not.