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John Wheeler, Published February 08 2014

Weather talk: Extreme winters not necessarily abnormal

Several years ago, I remember listening to my son’s pediatrician explain how the average height of boy at a certain age might be a certain number, but most boys at that age are either taller or shorter than average.

In fact, some boys are quite a bit taller or shorter than average without there being anything wrong with them at all. The further from average, the rarer the case. But even being in the 99th percentile is not a sign of abnormality. True, there are conditions which can make people extremely short or tall, but most tall boys are just tall.

It has since occurred to me that his explanation works for weather also. Winter has an average temperature. Almost all winters are somewhat warmer or colder than average.

Some winters are greatly above or below average. One winter (1886-87) was the coldest on record. But the present winter and even that terrible winter in 1887 is not an abnormality. Nothing has to “go wrong” for a winter to be cold like this one.

– John Wheeler

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