The other day I passed by a marquee promoting the latest movie being shown at the Earle Theatre in downtown Mount Airy, which happened to be “White Christmas,” that classic holiday film starring Bing Crosby.
And I had to chuckle, because the closest we came to a white Christmas this year was indeed the one on the movie screen.
Which is true most every Christmas in these parts. I remember that in 2009, I wrote a column exploring the last time Mount Airy had experienced the white stuff on the holiday, which at that point was way back in 1981, according to the friendly personnel at the city’s F.G. Doggett Water Plant. They supply the monthly weather statistics that appear in The Mount Airy News and often are consulted by us for snowfall totals, etc. — that is, whenever snow does occur.
And since 2009, I can’t think of a single Christmas around here with snow.
In fact, the only form of weather this December which remotely can be considered white is the fog that has been occurring in recent days.
Given that snow at Christmastime might be too much to expect based on the statistical history of the region, we’ve also been missing the close friend of snow: cold temperatures.
The mercury hit the lower 70s on Christmas Eve and the upper 60s on Christmas Day, which is not exactly cold, and makes me think that Christmas in July isn’t such a strange concept after all.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not really complaining about the warm trend. What these climatic conditions have lacked in sentimentality (bundling up under the mistletoe in front of a fireplace while sipping cocoa), has been compensated for in other areas.
One includes not having to pay a high heating bill or wear bulky clothing when venturing outside.
Yet there also are drawbacks aplenty associated with this warm spell.
One is the effect on the skiing industry, which is now non-existent in North Carolina and other southeastern states. In addition to no snow, it hasn’t even been cold enough to make snow at resorts in the Boone area.
In addition, I know people who have been forced to mow their lawns recently, which have broken out in lush shades of green rather than the brown hue yards are supposed to take on in winter. (I refuse to mow my own yard in December, on principle — I don’t care how much it grows.)
There is another concern: why this weird weather phenomenon is occurring in the first place and what the implications might be for the long haul. I don’t want to get into any kind of global warming/climate change/it’s-the-end-of-the-world kind of debate, but do think something is wrong here.
All the benefits from abnormally warm conditions aside, I do like it when weather follows its usual, predictable patterns. In other words, it should be hot in summer and cold in winter, and when snow does come this should be considered a normal part of the season.
When that doesn’t happen, I tend to have questions.
Based on findings by my scientific research team, the recent warm weather is due to the so-called El Niño effect, which is a series of climate changes that occur every three to seven years during the late summer into winter. This can be accompanied by abnormal warmth as well as rain, which we’ve also been experiencing in abundance.
Meanwhile, the polar vortex, an area of low pressure above the Arctic Circle that has been known to bring long periods of cold air to the southern states, has been stuck over the North Pole.
That explanation sounds plausible, but being the conspiracy theorist that I am, there seems to be a deeper, more profound reason for this unusual weather. I’m not talking about just 2015, but in the past few years with a greater occurrence of hurricanes, tornadoes, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes and other devastating conditions compared to the past.
Could it be that mankind has abused our planet to such an extent that it is finally striking back?
If so, a warm December might be the least of our worries.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.