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Opossum Day: Warm, weird weather

Friday, February 1, 2013
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Happy Groundhog Day! It would be more fun if we had an Opossum Day, but you can’t mess with tradition.

In the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” — everyone knows the gist of it, right? — Bill Murray is a weatherman who lives the same day over and over. I think the weather in the movie doesn’t change.

In my Opossum Day movie, the weather will be extremely flexible. I don’t know if Oppie will see his shadow or not, but he better have good coping mechanisms.

In case you haven’t noticed, the weather here in the real world is getting weirder. Weirder and warmer both. You don’t need a long-term memory to know it.

A high temperature was set Wednesday at Albany International Airport before those Minnesota mauler winds came through. But even after that, snow was melting wherever there were piles left Thursday afternoon. Like the third week in March, but with less sunlight.

But we live in a flatland climate. Here’s what just caught my attention:

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is officially advising people not to try skiing in the Adirondack backcountry, “due to lack of snow on lower elevation trails.”

That’s right. There’s no snow. In the Adirondacks. At the end of January. And there have been a few years in a row like that in the Adirondacks.

So we have devastating tropical hurricanes blowing far inland and delivering wet slaps that send houses sideways, no snow in the East’s greatest wilderness and a lot of people wondering what they ever bought a snowmobile for.

All indications are things will keep going this way.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average annual temperature in the continental United States in 2012 was 55.3 Fahrenheit, which was 3.2 degrees above the 20th century average.

That made the year of Hurricane Sandy and a widespread Great Plains drought the warmest year since modern record-keeping started in 1895, and it was a full degree warmer than the previous record warm year, 1998. Average temperatures have risen every decade since 1895, according to NOAA.

The government has only kept a drought index since 1998, but last year set a new record, with 65.5 percent of the U.S. land mass experiencing drought in September. Nine million acres out West burned from wildfires.

Each state in the continental U.S. had annual temperatures that were above average. Nineteen states, including New York, Massachusetts and even mountainous Vermont, set or tied warmth records. An additional 26 states had one of their 10 warmest years.

Nationwide, there were 356 high temperatures set or tied and only four all-time low temperatures set or tied.

I’m not going to tell you I know what’s going on. I don’t know whether to blame a deity, Chinese industrialization or people who leave their lights on all night in Ohio.

But I do know Oppie and I have something to ponder when the alarm clock goes off.

Stephen Williams is a Gazette reporter. The views expressed in his column are how own, and not necessarily those of the newspaper. He can be reached at 885-6705 or swilliams@dailygazette.net.

 
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