Archive for Weather or Not

Horton hears a Boo Fricking Hoo

After Snowmageddon 2015 slid past New York City and made a beeline for Boston, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and cursing of forecasters; one of them even issued an apology. Bad move, says Lisa:

I think the forecasters who are apologizing are doing a huge disservice to their audiences. No matter how sophisticated our weather tracking systems, a storm can veer off unpredictably as this one did slamming Boston instead of New York City. If your city prepares and dodges a bullet, that’s a win. Certainly better than the other scenario: not being prepared.

We’ve dodged a few here over the years; in fact, we can count on at least one overwrought forecast fizzling out per season. Which is not to say that we behave any more sensibly:

From years of working as a journalist in New England, I learned that people who live in cities — even supposedly weather-savvy cities like Boston and Portland, Maine — are very disconnected from the weather. They simply refuse to believe that weather almost on any given day is probably the most dangerous thing they will ever face. Every time a snow storm was predicted to hit the Portland area, we at the TV station knew where the stories would be. Some bozo would ignore the warnings, get in some ill-equipped little Japanese car without chains and make a completely unnecessary trip such as trying to drive up to the ski resorts to get a jump on the lift lines, or even just driving through deserted streets looking for an open corner store to get cigs. Actually, usually there would be dozens of such dummies. While on the road, some would get stuck, skid out diverting emergency vehicles and police attention from more pressing matters like keeping lanes to hospitals cleared. I remember one such case where an idiot skidded out his car, and blocked an area where an ambulance was trying to get through. Took several diverted snowplows, tow trucks and a critical hour to get that car out of the path and the ambulance with a patient into the hospital.

“Travel is strongly discouraged,” which is usually the worst it gets down here, doesn’t contain any qualifiers; they don’t say it’s discouraged for everyone but you. An outright ban, as enacted by NYC, is the same but more so. Says Norman-based comedian Amanda Kerri:

Is it so hard to make a PBJ sandwich for a day or two? Oh my god, you might not have Pad Thai delivered at three in the morning… This is why the rest of America hates you.

And truth be told, if some of my neighbors wander out on a night that would challenge a Zamboni, well, they better have platinum-plated reasons.

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Gaia, you stupid bint

The WaPo Wonkblog counts up all the federal disaster declarations in the last fifty years, and declares the most dangerous counties in the land:

The award for most disaster-prone place in the U.S. goes to Los Angeles County, CA, which has experienced 53 disasters in that time period — on average, a little more than one disaster per year. These include 35 fires, 6 each of storms and floods, 1 hurricane-related (Katrina evacuees), 3 earthquakes, and 2 deep freezes.

In fact, Southern California counties account for four of the top 5 disaster-prone counties in the U.S., driven primarily by the frequency of fires and floods there.

How could any place compete with that horrifying record?

Oklahoma County, OK comes in at number 4, on the strength of its severe storms, fires and ice storms.

Oh, that’s how.

We’ve had 39 such declarations in that half-century. Don’t even think of counting state disaster declarations.

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Don’t blame Canada

Usually when it gets this cold, I start grumbling about the Great White North and the denizens therein for their failure to keep the damn cold air where it belongs, somewhere in the general vicinity of Baffin Bay.

I am told that this time, anyway, the stuff is coming from much farther away:

The cold comes courtesy of this wobble in the polar vortex, which is enabling pure, Arctic air from Siberia to migrate across the North Pole, head south across Canada, and cross the border at high speed — like a tourist without a passport. The Arctic invasion is occurring in the wake of a phenomenon that is well-known to temporarily destabilize the polar vortex, which is a sudden stratospheric warming event.

The unusually cold air mass is rotating around Hudson Bay, Canada, with spokes of frigid air descending into the U.S.

I guess the Russians should be grateful that their Arctic air is “pure.”

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Doesn’t look so slight to me

Then again, once it’s happened, the probability is 100 percent, right?

Screenshot from Oklahoma Mesonet

This was the Mesonet report at OKC West, taken at State Fair Park. And the water total won’t be forthcoming until the snow — 2-3 inches, more or less — actually melts into their little tin cup.

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Although not Rainier

Not only do we obsess over the weather forecast, we’ve been known to review old forecasts:

For more than three weeks Oklahoma has been wrapped in fog, dark clouds, and just a flannelly cocoon of winter weather. We are not built for this much darkness! I really don’t know how people in the Pacific Northwest cope with it. So yesterday we all felt refreshed just seeing the sun. I went for a quick little 3 mile run wearing only a light jacket, and I had thoughts like better get the pool opened up soon!

“Light jacket” makes sense: the inversion layer sitting above us has produced indifferent highs but uncharacteristically above-freezing lows.

The National Weather Service properly caters to this tendency:

I missed that little bit of sunshine, being stuck in Post-Vacation Recovery Mode, but we’re actually getting some today. Which is good, since I am told that there’s no parking left at Byron’s, or as no one dares call it, Booze R Us.

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So it was written

I’d forgotten this little squib, which I posted to Facebook on 12/25/13:

Informing us that there would be no thunderstorms in the near future, the Weather Guys explained that there was a cold stable air mass in place. And let’s face it, you can’t have Luke’s gospel without cold stable air.

I admit, though, that it might be nice if they moved Christmas to July, when the stores aren’t so crowded.

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Everybody knows that the bird has the word

However well our Weather Guys do at locating tornadoes, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with these birds:

US scientists say tracking data shows that five golden-winged warblers “evacuated” their nesting site one day before the April 2014 tornado outbreak.

Geolocators showed the birds left the Appalachians and flew 700km (400 miles) south to the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, devastating storms swept across the south and central US.

In 2013, researchers tagged 20 of the birds; after flying to Colombia for the winter, ten of them showed up the next spring, and after the storms broke, five were recaptured and their tracking devices opened up.

In this case, all five indicated that the birds had taken unprecedented evasive action, beginning one to two days ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“The warblers in our study flew at least 1,500km (932 miles) in total,” Dr [Henry] Streby said.

They escaped just south of the tornadoes’ path — and then went straight home again. By 2 May, all five were back in their nesting area.

Dr Streby and his team suspect infrasound:

The most likely tip-off was the deep rumble that tornadoes produce, well below what humans can hear.

Noise in this “infrasound” range travels thousands of kilometres, and may serve as something of an early warning system for animals that can pick it up.

“It’s very unlikely that this species is the only group doing this,” Dr Streby said.

Now to find a species that (1) can utilize infrasound and (2) can exhibit some serious TV presence.

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Meanwhile, up in the sky

The spring storm season in this place lasts 14, maybe 15 months. On the upside, when the sirens pipe down we get a glimpse of something like this:

There was a tornado warning at the time, at a far corner of the county.

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Meanwhile in Buffalo

And to think I was whining about a couple of inches this week:

Snow scene from Buffalo NY November 2014

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Possibly freezing it off

The only time I’ve ever had a fuel line freeze, I was in KCTV’s home town of Kansas City, so I sort of understand the metric:

I didn’t have heated seats back then, either.

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All those clouds look alike

Even the National Weather Service says so:

Partly sunny, or is that partly cloudy?

Then again, there’s a lot to be said for getting multiple uses out of the same graphic, with the possible exception of the one they use with the word “Hot,” described by a regular reader as the Eye of Sauron; the less I see of it, the better. It’s not going to show up for rather a long time, though.

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Turn down the weather machine

Stephanie Bice won the Republican runoff for Senate District 22, in west Edmond and northern Canadian County; there is no further opposition, so she will take her seat after the first of the year. Between now and then, we can only hope that she will improve her grasp on what is and isn’t possible:

Preventing droughts? Are we hiring an Equestrian weather patrol? Because last I looked, the jet stream and the clouds didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to what we want. We can certainly mitigate the effects of drought, but anything beyond that is out of our hands.

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There’s never been a drought like this

Well, it’s pretty dire in California. But this is nothing compared to, oh, eighty years ago:

Mr Mitchell, meteorologist for channel 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth, used to be meteorologist for channel 5 in Oklahoma City.

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The autumn un-empire

There are those who would prefer that summer stick around a bit longer:

I keep seeing all these things on Facebook that say, “Share if you are ready for fall?” No! No, I am not ready! I’m a summer person. Yes, fall is nice — pretty colors and all that — but it doesn’t last long. You get four to six weeks of nice weather, maybe two or three weeks of pretty colors and then the leaves all fall off and it gets COLD long before official winter arrives. And don’t tell me, “Cold is better than heat because when it’s cold you can put on more clothes.” That’s not a feature; it’s a bug! That’s part of the problem. I don’t want to put on more clothes! As long as it’s just “shirt sleeve weather” that’s okay but I hate coats and jackets.

Not for her the layered look.

Then again, anyone who doesn’t get annoyed by that “Share if” crap on Facebook isn’t paying attention; you’d think by now someone would have shot the “Share if”. (Consider yourself deputized.)

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By the yarbles, downwardly

No one, I assume, has ever ordered one of these in January:

The husband, who is pretty good with this sort of thing, checked out the air conditioner and discovered that it had a bad capacitor. Just so happened we had another one from an old air conditioner so he installed that one and it worked. Yay, we’re cool again. But, not knowing how long that old part would last he looked up a new one online and asked me to order it. The total, with standard shipping, came to $19 and change.

This seemed to me like something we might want in a hurry. If the air conditioner quit completely with temps in the upper 90s we might think an extra $30 or perhaps even an extra $50 would have been worth it.

Which makes sense to me — and dollars for the vendor:

There are not enough curse words in the world to express my feelings upon seeing the price for two day shipping. Keep in mind this part is slightly smaller than a 12 ounce soda can and not exceptionally heavy for an object of that size. Total cost for 2 day shipping: $276. Or something like that. It was definitely 3 digits starting with a “2” and I’m pretty sure there was a “7” and a “6” in some order. Sorry, I’m a bit traumatized by the experience. I mean, what the hell? Are they going to hire James Earl Jones to bring it in a limo and deliver it personally to my front door? (Yeah, I’d pay $276 for that.)

It works the other way, too. I bought my Big Nasty Snow Pusher from Amazon one summer for $50ish. Same device last December: $109. (Shipping, at least, was free.)

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Out of the Garden, into the Sunshine

There is much chatter about the 21st Century Exodus, from California to Texas. We don’t hear so much about this move down Interstate 95:

I moved to Florida from New Jersey a couple of weeks ago because of a number of personal and financial reasons.

Many New Jersey residents are doing the same, including my accountant. She, as I, can pay for a small mortgage, real estate taxes, insurance and association fees on a condo in Florida on what we paid for real estate taxes alone in New Jersey. Add the fact that Florida has no personal income tax, and you’ll have loads of New Jerseyans heading to Florida. I had my car transported by truck, and the man who delivered it told me the 9 other cars belonged to people who are moving to Florida.

There is, of course, a drawback:

New Jersey is hot and humid in the summer, but you don’t know humid hotness until you’re in South Florida to stay. The main difference between the two is, Miami doesn’t really cool off at night.

I’ve never been to Miami, though a couple of trips to Orlando gave me a healthy respect for — or maybe an abject fear of — Florida humidity, especially since it can do things like this:

Morning walks before the temps hit the mid eighties (in both temperature and humidity) become a streaming flow of sweat pouring down from my scalp, through my clothes, slowing down enough to puddle in my bra — not stopping until reaching my ankles. Anything not made of natural fabrics (including two tops made of “wicking” material) then becomes clammy the moment you step into an air-conditioned building. The result can best be called a synthetically-induced hot flash: Brutal sweat followed by chilling dampness.

And people wonder why LeBron would go back to Cleveland.

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Making a dew point

Osaka Jack, as his name implies, lives in Japan, but in a part of it with ridiculous humidity levels not unlike what we’re having to endure this week on the Baked Plain. So this My Little Pony fiction idea gets my vote:

Which was apparently a reaction to this:

The only worry is that it might take longer than 22 minutes to clear this mess up.

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Sweaty in Seattle

Parella Lewis of KCPQ, aka Q13 Fox (Seattle/Tacoma), presents a startling statistic:

Five. Whole. Days.

And the record for consecutive days with highs 90 degrees plus in Oklahoma City (again, per NWS)?

Read the rest of this entry »

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Meanwhile beyond the sky

Tim Blair quotes a writer on the environmental beat:

“The Anglican Church has told the Abbott government to change its approach to climate change, urging it to respect and base its policy on scientific evidence.”

The comic power in that paragraph is equal to several kilotons of the finest plutonium. Here we have an organisation founded on belief and faith now demanding that selected scientific opinions inform government policy. These same people think they can talk to the planet’s inventor just by putting their hands together.

I demur somewhat on that last sentence — apparently there are Anglicans of a sort who don’t even believe in God — but one thing I have learned is that false prophets are generally trying to generate profits. (See, for instance, Saint Albert the Gaseous.)

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Warming just before the dawn

Said I on 12 August 2012, nine days after the Hottest Damn Day Ever in this town:

It’s not the 100-plus afternoons that bother me so much; it’s the 80-degree sunrises, with the neighborhood runners sweating at 0530 and wondering what they did to deserve this.

On said Hottest Damn Day, the high merely tied the 1936 record (113°F), but the low, if you can call it “low,” was a darkly scorching 84. If you’re in the habit of counting degree days — and why would you be? — the first thing you’d do is take the average of the high and the low, and you’d come up with, um, 99. This is almost Phoenix-level searing.

Aside: We have 123 years of records for Oklahoma City. On how many days did it fail to drop below 84 degrees Fahrenheit? Answer: one.

Now comes this disturbing bit of news:

[O]ne thing that is never, ever mentioned in the press but is generally true about temperature trends — almost all of the warming we have seen is in nighttime temperatures, rather than day time… This is one reason why, despite claims in the media, we are not hitting any more all time daytime highs than we would expect from a normal distribution. If you look at temperature stations for which we have 80+ years of data, fewer than 10% of the 100-year highs were set in the last 10 years. We are setting an unusual number of records for high low temperature, if that makes sense.

People wonder why I have so damned much foliage. I’m trying to maintain some shade in the face of hellish warmth — even when it’s dark.

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In the meantime, we have weather

A semi-elegant thought experiment on the question of carbon dioxide:

[I]f one goes back to (say) 1850 and spawns a parallel universe in which one instantly and without pollution kills all the humans, then runs the clock forward to today, is there more CO2 in our universe than in that parallel universe’s 2014? In that case, my even-money bet would be “yes”. But I don’t feel hugely strongly about that. I also don’t care or think it is germane to much of anything.

We would like to disclaim, expressly and in full, any responsibility should some farking maniac transport himself back to 1850 and destroy all of mankind. If we wait long enough, we can do it ourselves, thank you very much. And we’ll probably do it with financial derivatives and similar bogus constructs. This is the way the world ends, not with a whim, but a banker.

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Doo point

Under the circumstances, “windy” probably goes without saying:

Fartly cloudy and windy

Mama said there’d be days like this.

(Via Bad Newspaper. The paper in question is the News-Democrat & Leader of Russellville, Kentucky.)

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That’s one crummy thermostat

You know, if we’re going to take this climate-change stuff seriously, the first thing we have to do is determine the optimum temperature of the planet. (I vote for 23°C, or as the Americans persist in calling it, 74°; this is precisely the temperature I maintain in my house, so I admit to exactly as much bias as that takes.)

Unfortunately, the planet refuses to cooperate:

There was global warming. Then global cooling. Then warming. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

It seems to me this melting and warming has been going on long, long, before we started the Industrial Revolution, eons before Duke Energy and ConEd fired up their first coal burning power plants, hundreds of centuries before Monsanto screwed with the DNA of a kernel of corn, way before we started raping Mother Nature like a Nigerian schoolgirl sex slave.

It’s almost like the planet didn’t care about us, or something.

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Meanwhile, back in the desert

This statistic is startling, not least because it has the ring of truth to it:

They’ve been saying on the local news that this has been the driest January to May period since 1936.

Since the Dust Bowl. That’s scary.

I’m a bit to her north. Let’s see what kind of numbers we have:

    January: normal 1.39 inches, actual 0.07.
    February: normal 1.58, actual 0.36.
    March: normal 3:06, actual 1.26.
    April: normal 3:07, actual 1.00.
    May so far: normal 0.85, actual 0.00.

So instead of the ten inches we should have had so far this year, we’re below three. This isn’t creating a water-supply issue yet — last year, we had over fifty inches of rain (normal is about 35), and we’ve had watering restrictions for over a year — but it’s probably just a matter of time. (Meanwhile, Wichita Falls proposes to recycle wastewater.)

What I find remarkable is that the winter of 2013-14 (defined as December through February by meteorologists) was the ninth driest on record — 1.69 inches — and yet we had over eight inches of snow. (Plus an inch and a half in March, which counts toward spring.)

This does not bode well. Drought depresses me, the long string of rainless cloudless days, and also the worry about what will happen to my trees (my lawn, I’ve given up on). The constant unending days of heat. I know people in northern climes complained about this winter, but honestly, for me, the four to six months of summer is worse than any winter — in winter, you can bundle up and go outside for 20 minutes or so and come back in and make tea and feel grateful. In summer, here, I can never get my house quite as cool as I’d really like it to be, and while it is a relief to come back into the house after being out in the heat, it’s not quite as GREAT a relief.

The wide swings perplex me. Wettest August ever was 2008 (9.95 inches); 2009 followed with 5.74, good for 7th place; and then 2010 dropped a mere 0.48 inch on us, tied for fifth driest, and just 0.02 inch above the entire summer of 1936.

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Easily impressed

Lynn tuned into one of those ubiquitous Nature Shows — this one about Alaskan wildlife — and was perplexed by a statement of presumed certified meteorology:

At one point, talking about the approach of winter, the narrator said, in the usual This Is Seriously Dramatic voice, “The temperature can drop as much as 15 degrees in just a few weeks.” And yes, I’m sure we heard him right. He enunciated very well. He said 15, not 50. We were too stunned to laugh. Fifteen degrees in a few weeks? We do more than that in just one day. In fact, I’ve seen the temp drop 15 degrees in less than an hour. Perhaps he meant the high temperature or the low, or the average. If so he should have said that but still, even if that’s what he meant we can still top it here in Oklahoma. Take yesterday and today, for example. Yesterday’s high was somewhere around 70°F. This morning at 6:30 it was only 40°F. Today’s high is supposed to be 80°. I have no doubt it will get there. How about that Mr. Serious Drama Narrator?

Maybe he was on loan from Canada and was quoting Celsius, in which case we’re talking 27 degrees as we know them.

Then again, caribou probably don’t look at thermometers, so maybe the guy is referring to the overall average, and 15 degrees is a pretty fair drop. Over September, October and November in Oklahoma City, the average drops 34 degrees: about 11 each month, before things start to settle down (and “down” is the key word) in December and January.

And of course, there’s that infamous daily record, set 11 November 1911, with a high of 83 and a low of 17. (It dropped to 14 before sunrise on the 12th.) A sixty-nine-degree drop in 24 hours should impress even Serious Drama Narrators.

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Captain, we are not being hailed

Everything you wanted to understand about Oklahoma weather was contained in a 30-second radio commercial yesterday, when Fiat of Edmond (which isn’t precisely in Edmond, but no matter) announced a Pre-Dent Sale.

Wait, what?

“The hail’s coming, everyone knows it, let’s just get the promotion cranked up and go with it.”

I’m sort of hoping this works the same way my snow pusher did: rendered itself unnecessary for two years just by my going out and acquiring it.

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Wind up

There’s got to be some reason why all the tornadoes around here head straight for Moore, and maybe this has something to do with it:

Areas where landscape shifts from urban to rural or forest to farmland may have a higher likelihood of severe weather and tornado touchdowns, a Purdue University study says.

An examination of more than 60 years of Indiana tornado climatology data from the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center showed that a majority of tornado touchdowns occurred near areas where dramatically different landscapes meet — for example, where a city fades into farmland or a forest meets a plain.

You mean, something like this?

Google Map of Moore, Oklahoma and points west

Those of us in the middle of the Big Town are even now emitting unseemly sighs of relief.

(Via Instapundit.)

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Speaking of trees

Tony Woodlief, on ice storms and their impact:

There is no predicting which trees will break, nor how they will falter. Some shed limbs as a rebirthing, others lose not a one. Some are sundered to their roots, as if a rotten core had crept up through the center of them, or had been birthed within them, had been inside them from the beginning, only to be revealed in the testing hour.

A pin oak behind my house cast down a dozen widow-makers, a proud magnolia fell into itself grotesquely. A pear tree shed half itself across my driveway. Branches speared the earth, some of them a foot deep, because when you stretch to heaven you have much further to fall, and your breaking is perilous to all around you.

To sum it up:

Sometimes the ones we thought strong topple, while the stoop-shouldered endure. They endure because they bend beneath the weight, they shoulder it as beasts of burden and within them is something like faith that it will pass.

Sometimes they get by with a little help from their friends, but they survive.

Two years of unrelenting drought killed off three of my trees, and surely weakened the others; yet the others are still standing, still green (or other color as appropriate), still keeping watch. It’s hard not to feel somewhat comforted by that, even as I mourn the departed.

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Snow is still a four-letter word

The winter of ’14, as seen from Chicago:

Sounds a little funny to my ears. But over these last few months, I have moved several thousand pounds of snow with my shovel and my back, and you don’t soon forget such things. I have also, I discovered yesterday, personally witnessed the five snowiest winters in Chicago history, according to this list. Four of which occurred during my schooling years, including the last two, in 77-78 and 78-79, when I was trudging around college campuses in frozen outposts in Illinois. Gosh, thanks, I just don’t know what to say …

Wait, yes I do. Where is that damn global warming everyone keep yammering on and on about? This is also one of the coldest winters ever — it was below zero on March 3rd, with the first day of Spring just three weeks away.

On the third of March down here in the tropics, we had a nice, toasty six degrees. (Second occurrence of 6° this winter; we got down to 4° in late January, though in classic Oklahoma fashion, the next day we had a high of 67°.)

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Don’t forget seat warmers

What was the defining factor in this winter’s auto market? New models? Deep discounts? How about frigid temperatures?

The harsh winter, during which many areas of the United States saw temperatures dip well below zero degrees, changed car shopping preferences, according to a new study from Swapalease.com, with utility vehicles replacing certain other car segments as a popular choice in several locations.

“While it makes sense to see the winter elements encourage a shift to larger utility-type vehicles, the most recent winters did not have this effect on shopping patterns,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Swapalease.com. “However, a consistent wave of arctic-type conditions may have contributed to this winter’s shift in shopping preferences in many parts of the country.”

Midsize sedans remained the most popular segment for consumers, but utility vehicles saw big spikes in interest over the course of this frosty winter. About fourteen percent of car shoppers preferred midsize crossovers (up from 9.2 percent last winter), 13.2 percent preferred full-size crossovers (up from 7.5 percent) and 11.8 percent preferred midsize SUVs (up from 6.9%).

Now that the roads are (mostly) clear, let’s get out there and burn some hydrocarbons!

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