The real reason behind this year's warmer winter weather. (It’s not just global warming.)

It’s been a hot year — the hottest year on record, according to climate experts.

I know I’m not the only one thinking this doesn't feel like normal winter weather.

I spent Christmas Day this year wearing shorts. Shorts! And when I was packing for the holidays, I didn’t even bother throwing a jacket into my suitcase because the forecast showed a full week of balmy days with highs in the 80s.

The records show it, too: It's been a hot winter.

In fact, it’s been a hot year — the hottest year on record, according to climate experts. That can be a little scary for those of us following the quick progress of climate change.


It’s pretty easy to feel like Jake Gyllenhaal in "The Day After Tomorrow" when you have a bigger risk of getting heatstroke than seeing snow in late December.

The good news, though, is that global warming isn’t solely responsible for the warm weather this month.

Climatologists say we’re in the middle of El Niño right now, which happens every few years. And this time around, it’s been particularly strong.

How does El Niño work? Every few years, the water in the Pacific Ocean gets a little warmer than usual during the winter. Greenhouse gases warm the Earth, oceans absorb that heat, and then El Niño drives up the temps a few extra degrees.

A summer beach day? Nope, just people enjoying the beach on Dec. 13, 2015, in Fairfield, Connecticut. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

That little change in temperature patterns can spiral into massive changes in weather around the world, making certain areas (like the northern U.S.) drier and warmer while other places get a lot more rainfall.

Climate change has played a role in making our weather more extreme, though.

Some climate scientists are saying that global warming has "supercharged" El Niño, making this year's weather patterns waaay more intense than they'd usually be.

So we're seeing summery days in the middle of the winter — and worse. Across the globe, there have also been droughts, flooding, hurricanes, and fires.

In short, El Niño is the reason behind most of these weird weather events. Global warming is making that weather more powerful and destructive.

So no, you don’t have to worry about never seeing a snowy Christmas ever again because El Niños come and go.

It was almost 70 degrees in New York City on Christmas Eve this year. Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images.

But unless we can rein in greenhouse gases, you should probably expect to see more erratic, extreme weather in the future, too. Here's to a northeastern winter full of mittens, scarves, hot cocoa ... and shorts.

More
via The Guardian / YouTube

Beluga whales are affectionately known as sea canaries for their song-like vocalizations, and their name is the Russian word for "white."

They are sociable animals that live, hunt, and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales. However, they are naturally reticent to interact with humans, although some solitary belugas are known to approach boats.

Once such beluga that's believed to live in Norwegian waters is so comfortable among humans that it played fetch with a rugby ball.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Many of us are too young to remember the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 of 1986, much less any details about it. But thanks to a viral Facebook post from Misfit History, some attention is being shed on an incredible heroine who saved many American lives in the standoff.

The post reads:

Keep Reading Show less
popular

The truth doesn't hurt for an elementary school teacher in California who's gone viral for teaching her class an empowering remix of one of Lizzo's hit songs.

Ms. Mallari — who teaches at Los Medanos Elementary School in Pittsburg, east of San Francisco — took the singer's song, "Truth Hurts," and reworked the lyrics to teach her students how to be great.

Lizzo's song made history this year for being the longest running number one single from a female rap artist. The catchy original lyrics are about boy problems, but Mallari's remix teaches her students about fairness, helping each other out, and embracing their own greatness.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via Newsy People / Twitter

The internet was ablaze after notoriously private actor Keanu Reeves, 55, walked the red carpet at the LACMA Art + Film Gala on Saturday with his new girlfriend, artist Alexandra Grant, 46.

It was refreshing to see a man in Hollywood dating a woman who's age-appropriate. Older actors are notorious for being with women half their age.

Keep Reading Show less
popular