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Weatherwise -- May-June 2015

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From The Editor

As I write this, the extremely cold conditions across much of the country are dominating the headlines. Frigid temperatures 25 to 45 degrees below normal are freezing inhabitants of 27 states from Canada to the Gulf Coast; Chicago, Illinois, public schools are closed due to the cold; Boston, Massachusetts, lies buried under mountains of snow; 85% of the Great Lakes are frozen; and even Niagara Falls is partially iced over. The phrase “polar vortex” is being bandied about by the media in much the same way it was last year in late winter, as the eastern portion of the nation suffered through months of snow and unusual cold. Just two months into this year, there's no doubt that 2015 will go down in the record books as one of the more intense years, weatherwise, even if nothing else happens meteorologically for the rest of the year. But if recent years are any indication, the likelihood that we will have a quiet year in weather for the next 10 months is low, so keep tuned in to Weatherwise!

Still, thanks to the vicissitudes of Mother Nature, the weather always keeps us on our toes, bringing feast or famine depending on which way the wind is blowing, so to speak. The year 2014, chronicled in this issue's annual Almanac articles, was a perfect example of this feast or famine concept, with late winter bringing extreme cold and snow to the East Coast of the United States and extreme heat and drought to the West Coast. And while the Atlantic experienced a quiet year during hurricane season and we had far fewer than average tornadoes here in the United States, the Eastern North Pacific had well above average hurricane activity.

On a global scale, several big events made headlines, including a record-breaking snowstorm in Japan; a devastating hurricane in Baja California; two hurricanes in Bermuda in one week; catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and northern India; and cyclones in Japan, India, China, and the Philippines.

In conjunction with these storms (and despite the frigid temperatures endured by eastern North America early in the year), 2014 was the warmest year on record for the globe, heightening concerns about global warming and future catastrophic weather events. What does the future hold for a western United States plagued by an historical drought? Are coastal communities endangered as they become increasingly vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding?

Nothing highlights these questions better than our annual accounting of the previous year's weather events. Editing this issue has been a sobering reminder for me of the challenges we face, environmentally, as a planet, and I hope it also serves as food for thought for you, our readers.

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