- The Washington Times - Monday, December 10, 2012

Unless the mercury takes a significant dive in the next three weeks, 2012 is set to become the warmest year on record for the United States — a historic benchmark but the cause for more chaos than comfort for most people.

National Weather Service officials recently announced that November’s average temperature was 44.1 degrees, more than 2 degrees warmer than what was typical for the country past century. So far, 2012 has been the warmest year on record.

“It’s been strange, but I guess strange is becoming the new normal,” said John Connor, general manager for the ice rink at the National Gallery of Art. “Our crowds are great, we haven’t had any issues, but one thing the weather is propelling is that we’re getting more phone calls.”

As the general manager for the Mall’s outdoor ice rink, Mr. Connor’s job is to ensure business runs as smooth as a fresh coat of ice. And that includes informing the thousands of visitors to the rink that despite the shorts and T-shirts seen on some skaters, the facility is open and the ice is cold.

“The ice is great, fortunately. Even though the temperatures have been rather all over the place, we haven’t gotten much precipitation,” Mr. Connor said.

Mr. Connor said because his rink is kept cool by a cement floor beneath the ice, the thinner the ice, the easier it is to keep frozen.

People across the country have found it easy to enjoy seasonal events in unseasonable weather.

In Columbus, Ohio, which has seen nearly 20-degree fluctuations in temperatures in recent weeks, residents came out last weekend to attend the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Wildlights display.

Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said almost 30,000 people came out on Dec. 1 when the temperature hit a high of 61 degrees. Ms. Peters it was the largest group to come see the holiday light display.

“It was warm, it was clear and it was the weekend,” she said.

The zoo has penguins and polar bears, but even those animals haven’t been affected by the mild season.

“It’s not been so warm they’re not putting on winter coats,” she said. “It’s not been that much of a change for everybody — maybe people more than animals.”

Everyone isn’t seeing higher temperatures than usual. North Carolina just had its 10th-coldest November on record.

But Brad Moretz, general manager of Appalachian Ski Mountain in the northwest corner of North Carolina, says the colder weather hasn’t brought much snow.

“Maybe in other parts of the state,” Mr. Moretz said with a dry laugh. “We’ve had some ice skating, but the bulk of our business is skiing and our eyes are looking toward the winter weather getting here.”

While Mr. Moretz and his staff prayed for snow, some states in the middle of the country dug out from a weekend blizzard.

According to a Minnesota State Police Twitter feed, 1,300 cars skidded off the road during the weekend storm, which buried parts of the state under more than a foot of snow. The bad weather also caused more than 650 car crashes, one of them fatal.

Wyoming was also buried by snow Monday, though Larry Mautz was just fine with the forecast.

“We are getting so much that we can’t even imagine,” said the manager of Wyoming High Country, which boasts 400,000 acres of snowmobile trails.

“We’re probably not going to be able to dig out for three days.”

The resort, located in the Big Horn Mountains at the northern part of the state, is only accessible by snowmobile in the winter time.

Mr. Mautz said he’s seen the weather change over the years, but fortunately for his resort, “it makes our lives better.”

Meanwhile in Arizona, Natalie Bilandzija was wondering what her state did to deserve its weather.

“We didn’t have a winter last year at all,” the Desert Gardens Nursery employee said. “There were three or four really bad cold days, but we’ve had a lot of plants that typically bloom in the spring time, blooming in January.”

Certain plants can grow in a desert climate, Ms. Bilandzija said, but the warmer weather is even having an affect on the plants normally suited for hot environments.

“In June, I had people calling me telling me their rose bushes were on fire,” Ms. Bilandzija said. “A lot of plants are freaking out. Flowers are blooming that shouldn’t be blooming.”

In the Washington area, residents might see extra blooms in their garden, too, but U.S. Botanic Garden spokesman Ari Novy said people should not panic.

“With the mild weather like this … plants that would have stopped blooming because of cold weather have had an extended blooming.”

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