Weird winter weather, explained

By: Rick Springer Email
By: Rick Springer Email

SHERMAN, TX - The arctic blast that rolled through Texoma in early February is being called the worst winter storm to hit this area in more that two decades. But is there a reason behind this unusually harsh winter that we're having? And could it happen again? The answers might surprise you.

Extreme weather events. Why do they happen? Where do they come from? What drives the weather? And why has this North Texas winter been so severe?

"I couldn't even tell you, it's Texas."
"It just goes around. It's a cycle."
"I have no idea."
"It's just time we had one."

Meteorologist Tom Miller has been KXII's morning weather man for the last 23 years. He says this year's winter weather is the most extreme that Texoma has experienced in more that two decades.

"In the twenty-three years of forecasting at channel 12 in Texoma, this is probably the longest prolonged period of cold snow and ice that I've ever had to deal with," Miller said.

At 4:30 in the morning on February 1st of this year, a winter weather system moved in to the North Texas area that would literally shut down the entire northern portions of Texas, and freeze Texoma to it's core.

"We had an hour, two hours of sleet which is very unusual and then we had snow on top of that blowing winds gusting up to thiry-five miles an hour, so this was quite some storm," said Miller.

The arctic front parked itself over Texoma and temperatures dropped below freezing for four straight days. Roads became impassable, hundreds of cars got stranded in snowy ditches. School was canceled for four days, and Grayson County was declared a disaster area. And with the last three North Texas winters being considerably more severe than usual, many Texomans are wondering if there's a method to the madness.

"This isn't a random event, but it is one of the most intense one's we've had in the past forty years," said David Baker. Baker is a physics professor at Austin College and has done extensive research on the global climate. He says that the reason for the reason for the unusually harsh can be found in the Pacific Ocean.

"The weather that we've had the last couple of weeks, the cold icy snowy weather is really a result of La Niña," Baker said. "La Niña is a climate system that occurs in the tropical Pacific, but it affects weather worldwide."

According to Baker, the Pacific ocean is split vertically down the middle with the warmer water on one side, colder water on the other. Every three to seven years, the two sides will slowly switch places and when the warmer side drifts to the east and comes to rest off our Pacific coast, it creates a condition knows as La Niña. The warmer the water, the further south it pushes the jet stream, and Baker says that this time around, La Niña is packing a big punch.

"This particular La Nina is pretty strong and so the jet stream which carries the weather systems with it has dipped further south than normal and with it it's brought the cold arctic air," Baker said.

But some North Texans think that there more to this story.

"Why do you think that Texoma has had such a rough winter this year? I don't know. I think times are changing."

"it's part of global warming. It's getting warmer, so we're going to have more harsh summers, but we're also going to have more harsh winters."

Scientists have not yet been able to make a connection between global warming and the severe weather that we've been experiencing, but that doesn't stop people from believing.

"I think it's just human nature to up-play the event as it has occurred and as you look back on it in memory."

However the question still remains.

"Is this going to be more common in the future? I don't know. With strong La Niñas we could have the jet stream dipping down," Baker said. "So, I don't want to say that we need to prepare ourselves for more of this type of weather, but it is a distinct possibility."

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  • by annon Location: texas on Feb 21, 2011 at 10:34 AM
    I hope their wrong.
  • by Joey Location: Denison on Feb 21, 2011 at 08:16 AM
    It will be interesting to see how todays opinions about climate change (ie global warming) will change 20-30 years from now.
  • by Anon Location: texas on Feb 21, 2011 at 06:58 AM
    To Bill just think about this. Warmer temps causes more evaporation and more capping causing increased drought and then floods. More moisture in the atmosphere even causes more snow when cold enough. There are hundreds of agencies and ten's of thousands (actually even more) more scientist believe because data is pretty clear. I know you'll take this offensive but there IQ's and education is MUCH more immense than yours. And some said we can't predict the weather. what? Weatherman predict it correct much more than they miss it. And much further out into the future. These same groups also predict climate change. And we can control weather more than you think ever heard of the concrete island effect. Or burn of large area and see what it does to the local area temp. Even Irragation over large area increases rainfall. Even the color of our roofs effect temp. Albedo effect.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 19, 2011 at 09:49 AM
    when the laws of god just make you pi$$ed. you'd better become an atheist. when the greed of man is not appeased, then all will rot, sick and diseased.
  • by Bill Location: Southmayd- on Feb 18, 2011 at 02:12 PM
    No one can explain Global warming because it is a hoax,and those that believe it will accept the tax,of course weather changes,that in itself isnt global warming,i wont even get into the three earth ages,because you wouldn't even understand.....i dont remember saying anything about Dinsaurs.Oh,if i dont agree with you,you cant take my opinion seriously?I am just as right as you.
  • by dianac Location: texoma on Feb 18, 2011 at 11:14 AM
    ok, i know we need to know about bad weather i get that..but when its in YOUR area are you watching tv? ch. 12 & ch. 10 in our are control SIX channels now, and when dallas chimes in there isn't anything else on any channel! come on! all of them?? you dont even have the courtesy to use the little box at the bottom anymore..with all your infomercials give us a little break this weather year??
  • by Me Location: Here on Feb 17, 2011 at 04:25 PM
    To "Hey me", Scientist and Al Gore make millions off their "The Sky is falling books, speeches and movies", give me a break, you didn't know that? And to "Sam", Since the first documentation of man and before industry, there was and always has been droughts, starvation and mass death, sad, but not new. As far as the record temps., the earth is unpredictable and so is it's weather, we can't control it or predict it, and it has nothing to do with "climate change", that's just the way it is. Heck, there are e-mails where these "Scientists" admit they were lying about Climate Change, and you still believe this scam. I don't like the gas and oil companies either, they are just as bad, never said I liked them, same type of people, just a different scam. Why take up for either of them?
  • by Hey Me Location: texas on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:13 AM
    Most scientist have nothing to gain from climate change. But the oil and gas and potentially all people have a lot to lose. More than money.
  • by Sam Location: texas on Feb 17, 2011 at 10:06 AM
    Me thats where your wrong. Droughts, and extreme temps. cause starvation and mass death esp. in third worlds. Part of why beef is high is back to back years with extreme drought leading to terrible wild fires. Russia set all time high records and so did brazil in last couple of years. Temp is VERY important to food supply. By the way oklahoma set all time cold (-31)record being blamed on reverse Artic oscillation. North seas no longer covered with ice desrupting north cold stibility.All time record warmth being broken as we speak. Atypical- meaning not normal. Actually extreme.
  • by Al Gore Location: usa on Feb 17, 2011 at 08:54 AM
    I didn't invent the internet or climate change but I did help bring them to the masses.
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