North American Birds

VOLUME 69 NO2 2016

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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198 N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S The Changing Seasons: Carbon Copy The Changing Seasons: Carbon Copy EDWARD S. BRINKLEY • 124 PEACH STREET • CAPE CHARLES, VIRGINIA 23310 • (THALASSOICA@GMAIL.COM) The Weather Winter 2014-2015: you'd be forgiven for confusing it with Winter 2013-2014. The West was very warm, the East very cold, again. The Great Lakes froze over, again. Wicked snowstorms followed similar tracks in both winters. Even Alaska temperatures were comparatively mild, again. And sea sur- face temperatures were anomalously high off both coasts of the United States, again. Many meteorologists and forecasters took to calling this winter a "carbon copy" of the preceding, and climate change nay-sayers (in the East) were all in bloom as they crowed once again about the cold—U. S. Senator James Inhofe memorably throwing a snow- ball in the Senate chamber on 26 February 2015, calling the warming climate "the great- est hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." This is from the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Somehow unable to access information from the rest of the continent, the senator failed to perceive the extreme warm anomalies every- where else (Figure 1). Globally, the period December 2014 through February 2015 was the warmest such period on record (NOAA 2015). For about the past 70 years, the coldest air masses in the Northern Hemisphere have tended to form over northwestern Canada and over Siberia, but in winter 2013-2014, the pool of coldest air (called the "Polar Vor- tex" in most media, especially when it swept southward into heavily populated areas) was centered more over Hudson Bay, well to the east of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. No other winter on record has shown such a pattern, at least not such a persistent one. According to Eyad Atallah of McGill Univer- sity and colleagues (2015), this anomalous cold feature appears to be related to the anomalously warm air (and seawater) over the eastern North Pacific that kept the jet stream locked in, with a very pronounced (or "meridional") ridge/trough combination that kept the West and especially the South- west warm, the Midwest and Northeast cold. This persistent pattern was even more in- tense in winter 2014-2015, despite the fact that Siberia was anomalously warm and the Arctic essentially average in temperature (Figure 1), thus not a carbon copy of the pre- vious winter in hemispheric terms, though it Six species of warblers were seen in December 2014 at Sedgewick Park in Oakville, Halton Region, Ontario, including Tennessee, Orange-crowned, Nashville, Wilson's, and Yellow-rumped Warblers and Northern Parula. This Wilson's Warbler was present from 29 November (here 30 December) 2014 through 6 January 2015. Photograph by Ethan Meleg.

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