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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