Grapevine closed by snow: playtime near L.A., but tough work on I-5
The California Highway Patrol works hard to reopen the Grapevine closed by the winter weather, even as arts students outside Los Angeles frolic in the snow, highly unusual at that low altitude.
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Warmer waters tend to drive rain into California coasts while the colder temperatures of La Nina tend to produce dry winters. The weather pattern this winter, points out Mr. Kittell, is a cold La Nina, although an “unusually wet” one.Skip to next paragraph
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In December alone, he points out, Los Angeles received about 10 inches of rain. In a normal year, the city receives approximately 15 inches total. “So, we’re way ahead,” he adds.
As to whether or not this cold wet pattern implies any larger trends in the overall phenomenon of global warming, David Easterling, a climatologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in North Carolina, points out that even if the planet is gradually warming, “that does not mean we won’t have regular climate events like snow and rain.”
Placing the current cold snap from Florida to New York and Los Angeles in this bigger picture, he also points out that cold weather in one spot means there is unusually warm weather somewhere else. While Angelenos may be throwing snowballs and hauling out their warmest clothes, “Canada is having some unusually warm weather.”
Warm is relative, he is quick to add. In this case, he says, “it might be like 12 degrees somewhere up in the Canadian Yukon, but you have to realize it’s normally 40 degrees below zero.”
The scramble to deal with extreme weather from coast to coast is a cautionary moment, says David Hales, president of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Even in the most developed countries, he says via email, “we are unprepared to deal with the disruptive consequences of the extremes of weather – extremes which are fully consistent with projections based on very conservative models of the effects of global heating."
IN PICTURES: California's great storms of December 2010