Late snow here, wackiness elsewhere

Local forecasters are predicting heavy snow in the mountains over the next couple of days, and significant amounts could reach the valley floor, too, depending on the timing.

Local weather prognosticator Greg Roberts, who operates RogueWeather.com, posted on Monday that he was seeing a combination of heavy moisture and cold Arctic air converging on the region that looked like it might duplicate the "snow bomb" that hit Southern Oregon last Jan. 3, dropping a foot of snow on Medford and 2-3 feet of snow in the Applegate and Illinois valleys. That got plenty of attention on Facebook, as you might imagine, with some people cheering it on and others shivering in dread. RogueWeather said it looked like heavy snow could fall on Wednesday.

The changeable nature of our weather, however, put a damper on that apocalyptic forecast by Tuesday. Snow levels were revised upward for Wednesday morning, as a warm front moves on shore. But a cold front is right on its heels, meaning snow could fall on the valley floors starting Thursday night. The National Weather Service forecast on Tuesday afternoon predicted the bulk of the moisture would move through before the snow level dropped, but significant snow was still likely above 2,000 feet, especially in the Mount Shasta area of northern California.

That's not unheard of for March 1 in Oregon, although it's a little late. But other parts of the globe are seeing truly wacky weather — even deadly in some places.

A severe storm system struck from Texas to Canada over the weekend, causing flooding in 12 states and tornadoes in Kentucky. Five people died as a result of the storms, which pushed the Ohio River to its highest level in 20 years. More severe weather was expected today, threatening Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas.

In Europe, meanwhile, cold Arctic air pushed south, sending temperatures plunging. Snow fell on Rome Monday, and Brussels was expecting temperatures in the low teens.

The Arctic saw a freak warming trend around the North Pole, with temperatures around the Arctic about 36 degrees F above normal. The northern tip of Greenland has seen 61 hours of above-freezing temperatures so far this year — a record — and sea ice is retreating. Reuters quoted a Danish climate scientist as saying the weather has "never been this extreme."

Scientists sometimes call this flip-flop "warm Arctic, cold continent," or "wacc-y."

The idea is that shrinking sea ice exposes warmer water below, releasing more heat into the atmosphere, potentially disrupting the jet stream.

Climate scientists are careful to stress, of course, that this is all weather, which is by nature variable and unpredictable. Weather is not climate, and unusual cold or unseasonable warmth in any one place at any one time does not mean climate change isn't happening. But increasing incidents of extreme weather are cause for concern, and scientists generally agree those extreme events seem to be getting more frequent.

Here at home, we may see snow on the valley floor in the next couple of days, or we may not. But if snow is your thing, there should be plenty of it in the mountains — where it belongs.

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