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By Climatologist Cliff Harris

Article published March 23, 2012

It seems to me that the climate change debate continues to be obscured by manmade hot air and fury. Deeply entrenched and extremely vociferous positions have been taken on all sides. I’m sort of ‘in the middle of things.’

I still see an evolving climate of WIDE WEATHER ‘EXTREMES,’ the strongest such cycle of weird weather patterns globally in at least 1,000 years dating back to the days of Leif Ericsson, the mighty Viking chieftain.

Take this recently-expired wild winter of 2011-12 for a prime example of wide climatic extremes. Europe, especially the eastern countries, much of Asia, the Mediterranean regions and even North Africa experienced some of the coldest and snowiest weather conditions in nearly 400 years, since the mid 1600s in some cases. Alaska had its snowiest winter in at least 150 years and is now suffering from raging floods resulting from a huge snowmelt runoff situation.

By extreme contrast, however, the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. saw its mildest winter season in recorded history. The current warm spell with record afternoon highs in the 80s in places like Chicago, Detroit and Columbus, Ohio is unprecedented in its duration, more than 10 days in many instances. Thousands of Midwest farmers have planted their corn and soybean fields nearly a month ahead of schedule, this despite the threat of a killer freeze looming at the end of this month into early to mid April, especially north of I-80, which runs through Denver, Des Moines and Chicago.

Just this past week, we saw a record 28 inches of snow delight skiers in the Flagstaff, Arizona area. Heavy snows likewise fell near Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border. On the first full day of spring, March 20, there were moderate snows in North Idaho. Earlier that morning, rare late-season snowflakes were observed in both Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. March of 2012 was the wettest March in recorded history across the Inland Northwest.

It remains the firm opinion of this climatologist that the earth’s ever-changing climate is constantly being influenced by naturally-occurring cycles of solar and volcanic activity, sea-surface ocean temperature patterns and, possibly, by cycles of cosmic rays that bombard our planet.

What happens to our climate in the next decade will depend mostly on what happens with changes on the sun, our primary weather-maker. All indications are that we will turn cooler again following the peak of the current sunspot ‘maxima’ in late 2012 or early 2013. But, as usual, only time will tell. But, I assure you, our weather won’t be boring.