This week's weather highlights might suggest that our planet is undergoing catastrophic change: more heavy rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest, excessive warmth along the Colorado Front Range, tornadoes along the Gulf Coast and a major snowstorm (just now developing) in New England.
In actuality, though some of these events have been especially severe, their occurrence is not unusual in the month of February. Were it not for the excessive precipitation in January, the current rain and snow in Northern California, Oregon and Washington would not be considered unusual for this time of year. Here in Colorado, February is often characterized by periods of warm, sunny weather, to be followed by the upslope snowstorms of March, April and early May. While yesterday's tornado near New Orleans was especially severe (a record for that area), tornadic thunderstorms are relatively common along the Gulf Coast in February. Finally, as a winter storm descends on New England, promising more than a foot of snow and blizzard conditions in some areas, we must remember that most severe "Nor'easters" develop in this month.
While global warming cannot be directly blamed for any of these events, it may intensify storms when they occur and alter weather patterns such that droughts or floods become more common in some regions. But, for now, we must accept the fact that this week's weather is fairly typical for February, a sign that the jet stream is becoming restless as the sun rises higher in the southern sky.