North American Birds

VOLUME 68 NO2 2015

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

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178 N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S The Changing Seasons: Winter of our discontent The Changing Seasons: Winter of our discontent EdWard S. BrinklEy • 124 PEACH STREET • CAPE CHARlES, VIRgINIA 23310 • (THAlASSOICA@gMAIl.COM) Weather Winter 2013-2014 will be remembered for the endless media hype of the "Polar Vortex" (as though the phenomenon had never been observed before), but certainly it was a bit- terly cold season in the East and especially in the Midwest, where Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and In- diana recorded top-ten coldest seasons ever. Long-range forecasters, for the most part, did not see this cold coming. By contrast, Cali- fornia recorded its warmest winter on record (shattering the record set in 1980-1981 by al- most a full degree), Alaska its eighth warmest, and Arizona had its fourth warmest. Florida was exempt from the cold to the north, enjoy- ing a milder-than-average season. Precipitation in the Lower 48 states was low, the ninth driest winter overall, but parts of al- most all 50 states had some snow cover late in the season, and the area covered by snow came in tenth since records began (1966), ac- cording to the Rutgers University Snow Lab. Detroit had its snowiest winter ever, and most cities from Chicago east to Boston had top-ten snowy winters. The Northern Rockies also had above-average precipitation, but much of the West and the Great Plains were drier than average, particularly the swath from southern California through Texas, with all states recording top-ten dry seasons. On 20 February, Texas reservoirs were down to 64% capacity, the worst since 1990. Late February rains began to break the horrible drought in California, where reservoirs at the end of the season still ranged from 36% to 74% of long- term averages. For Canada as a whole, the winter of 2013-2014 was 0.4° C below the average This Red-necked grebe landed in a snow-covered feld, far from any open water, at Saint-Patrice- de-Sherrington, Québec 30 January 2014, part of a large exodus of this and many other species from the freezing great lakes—but from which lake(s)? The winter movements of this species in the Midwest and southern Canada are still shrouded in mystery. Photograph by Monique Groulx.

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