Here’s What’s Causing the East Coast’s Absurdly Warm Weather

Hint: It’s not global warming.

A ski lift, but no snow, at Campgaw Mountain Ski Area in Mahwah, New Jersey.Kevin R. Wexler/ via AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

This story originally appeared in the Huffington Post and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The weather’s been positively toasty across much of the East Coast over the past several days, especially for a December. In New York, Sunday temperatures shattered a 30-year-old record, hitting 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And the month has been chock-full of 60-plus days.

So what’s going on? Is this a climate change thing, or a welcome boon from the ongoing El Niño tropical weather event? The answer actually lies with a buzzword from 2014’s equally extreme temperatures: the polar vortex.

Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center at the National Weather Service, said last week the band of cold air surrounding the arctic—called the “Arctic Oscillation“—is particularly tight right now. During the polar vortex, pressure changes in that band of air caused it to slow and slip down towards America, bringing with it a wave of Arctic air that led to well below zero temperatures.

This time around, all of that frigidity is being kept north, causing the far more pleasant temperatures experienced around the east coast.

Meanwhile on the West Coast, a series of storm systems is expected to bring more rain and cover the Northwest and Rockies with snow this week.

In terms of El Niño, weather patterns could certainly shift as the phenomenon is expected to continue through early 2016. But the weather event isn’t to blame, despite forecasts it would lead to a particularly warm winter for some parts of the United States.

Some meteorologists have warned the Arctic Oscillation could slip as winter carries on, leading to a sudden downturn in temperatures. But if you’re holding on to hope for a white Christmas and some skiing over the holiday break, you’ll have to tough it out. The weather will be as fickle as always.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend