The Year the Arctic Shifted South

(Originally published on Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog)

Last week, Chicagoans were treated to one of that city's worst blizzards of all time. Featuring several rounds of thundersnow — a relatively rare phenomena that has been in abundant supply this winter, making appearances in D.C., New York, Boston, and now Chicago 

— winds gusting to between 50 and 70 miles per hour, and upwards of 20 inches of snowfall, the storm paralyzed one of the most battle tested cities for dealing with wintry onslaughts.

The eerie sight of hundreds of stranded and abandoned cars along Lakeshore Drive, a scene straight out of the global warming disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” must've made New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose administration was roundly criticized for botching cleanup efforts after the “Boxing Day Blizzard” in December, feel satisfied that it's not just the Big Apple that can be snarled by a snowstorm.

Arctic sea ice extent for 2010-2011, compared to the 1979-2000 average as well as the 2006-2007 winter season. This data shows the record low sea ice extent for the month of January. Credit: NSIDC.

True, the massive storm system that brought snow, strong winds, and icy conditions to areas from New Mexico to Maine, largely spared the D.C. area from its most significant impacts, disappointing snow lovers 

— as have other major storms this year (well, except for that one...)

However, between this blizzard, and the parade of east coast snowstorms that have dropped so much snow on the northeast that local news coverage in southern New England of late has been dominated by reports of roof collapses, this is certainly shaping up to be a winter to remember.

Yet for a key region of the globe, it's actually proving to be a remarkably warm winter so far, which, believe it or not, may help explain why it's been so cold and snowy in the U.S.

Read more at Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog.