Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Europe's Deep Freeze

(Time Science) by Bryan Walsh
Back at the beginning of January, I wrote that this season was already shaping up to be season that winter forgot in the U.S. About a month later, that prediction is coming true. The average temperature in the continental U.S. in January was 5.5°F above the 20th century norm, and snow was almost nonexistent — the National Weather Service reported that 157 out of 166 American cities had below-average amounts of the white stuff. The groundhog Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter when he popped up from his hole on Feb. 2, but for most of the U.S. winter never really began — and the unusually mild days seemed like a coming attraction for global warming.
Across the Atlantic, much of Europe is suffering through a winter of historic — and deadly — proportions. Over 600 people have died from the intense cold that has gripped the continent over the past few weeks, with the most severe toll recorded in Eastern Europe. Over 5,000 Russians have suffered from hypothermia or frostbite while the country has seen 20 days of unusually cold weather when temperatures fell 13°F to 25°F below normal and Moscow on Feb. 13 endured temperatures of -4°F. (It could be worse though — temperatures in the northern Russian city of Toko fell to -63°F.)