US Experiences Hottest December on Record
According to preliminary data, last month may have been the hottest December ever on record. Texas notched temperatures 5 to 9 degrees above normal with the state experiencing its warmest December in more than 130 years. In Colorado, ski resorts postponed their openings due to lack of snow, and Salt Lake City saw no snow in November for the first time since 1976.
Why This Matters
Across the country, residents are feeling the impact of this winter's heat. In addition to heat, there is still drought -- especially in the West. Dry conditions in Boulder County, Colorado fed an unprecedented wildfire that was the most destructive in the State's history, leveling 1,000 homes. Though the Western US expects wildfires during the summer season, they are virtually unheard of during the winter months, making this one particularly alarming.
In other western states, high winter temperatures are worsening an already menacing drought (California just adopted drought rules outlawing water wasting, with fines of up to $500 per day). Paul Brooks, a hydrologist at the University of Utah, told Grist that "changing snow patterns are one of the greatest threats of climate change." To address this, he says, will require "all hands on deck."
Guardian: The climate science behind wildfires - why are they getting worse?, August 20, 2021.
In other states, the consequences of extreme winter heat have been less straightforward. In Alaska, days of unusual heat triggered rainfall (the state is warming faster than any other US state), which abruptly turned to ice when the state plunged back into its typical cold weather. Residents have little choice but to wait for the thaw. Meanwhile, the thick layers of ice have caused road closures, power failures, and a phenomenon some are calling "Icemageddon."
In a tweet from the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities: "Ice is extremely difficult to remove once it has binded to the road surface. Even though air temps were warm... roads were at sub-zero temps, which caused ice to bind to the surface."
CBS: Alaska Records All-Time December High Of 67 Degrees, December 30, 2021.