This year’s holiday season has been full of extreme weather, with weird anomalies from coast to coast—like a script worthy of a Syfy network movie.
The week of Christmas was the warmest on record by far for a vast stretch of the eastern United States from Texas to Maine. In Philadelphia, every single day this month has been warmer than normal—if that word even retains meaning during a month like this.
While this month’s extreme weather is primarily due to an atmosphere supercharged by the record-breaking El Niño, it’s also an example of the kind of unnerving meteorological event that’s becoming more likely as climate change plays an increasingly large role in daily weather. The New York Times called it “a fitting end to the warmest year on record.” Together, El Niño and climate change have combined for a year unlike any other in human history—a harbinger of an altered planet.
Over the past several days, an alarming string of tornadoes has left dozens dead across the South. At least 68 tornadoes were reported in 15 states from California to the Carolinas from Dec. 21 to Monday, the longest streak on record of December days with a tornado. December tornadoes are twice as common during El Niño years, but this weekend’s atmosphere over the South was something different entirely: By some measures, it was the most moisture-laden ever seen during the winter months.
One tornado in northern Mississippi on Wednesday was so strong it ripped the carpet off the floor after destroying a home. A series of tornadoes also struck Northern Texas the day after Christmas, many at night, creating horrific devastation. The worst one seems to have occurred in Garland, Texas; it was the deadliest tornado in the Dallas area—for any month—in nearly 90 years. Meteorologist Bob Henson notes that 2015 is the first year since 1875, when records began, that there have been more tornado-related deaths in December than in the entire rest of the year combined.