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US Weather Map: A Tale Of Two Winters

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A new map shows that winter is all but skipping over the western half of the country, while the Eastern side is really getting hammered. It's not news that winter is warmer over here on the Best Coast, but it has been unusually warm over here while the Eastern half of the country has basically been Winterfell. A map via Climate Central shows just how much we've been deviating from average winter temps: in the West, temps have been higher by 10 to 13 degrees. Conversely, New England and Michigan were a chilly 13 to 16 degrees colder on average.

California in particular is looking at having its warmest recorded winter, even beating last year's. We've been reaching temps about 5 degrees warmer, on average, than we've had for the past several winters.

Before you brag too hard to your friends back east, however, keep in mind that the lack of rain and especially snow is bad news during our drought. Winter is the season when we're supposed to recover from our typically dry summers. A high pressure off the West Coast is causing the warmth, which means we're not getting much precipitation and what we are getting is rain, not snow. Rain is something of a double-edged sword. It's good, because it increases the growth of plants and flowers, but bad when those plants dry out in the summer and become a wildfire hazard. Snow, however, makes sure there's available water in the summer for vegetation. Snow would typically form a snowpack that nourishes plants as it melts in summer, and would also act as a primary source of drinking water in California. How pathetic is the snowpack this year? It's at 19 percent of normal.

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