By David E. Hubler
December traditionally is a time to reflect on the past 11 months and look forward to the incoming year hoping that things will be better in the next 12 months. That perhaps has never been more true than this year of 2020, which has been marked by numerous highs and lows. But overshadowing it all of course is the still-raging, deadly COVID-19 respiratory disease.
It was just last December when this previously unknown coronavirus pandemic debuted in Wuhan, China, and spread rapidly to all corners of the globe. Since then, the spread of COVID-19 has struck more than 81 million people worldwide and killed almost 1.7 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
This December, There Is Hope That We Are on the Cusp of a Cure for the Coronavirus
Less than a week after the Christmas holiday, nearly half of England is under the nation’s strictest lockdown measures. According to the New York Times, “People have been ordered to stay at home, but the coronavirus is still spreading at an alarming rate.” Hospitals are treating more patients than at any time during the pandemic, and there is a growing debate about allowing tens of thousands of students to return to classrooms after the holiday break, The Times said.
On December 8, Britain began the largest nationwide vaccination program in UK history. The U.S. began distributing the vaccine six days later, as nearly three million doses went out to hospitals in all 50 states. The first shot was administered on December 14.
In the U.S., an independent panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that residents and employees of nursing homes and similar facilities be the first to receive coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers who are especially at risk of being exposed to the virus.
While the world is preoccupied with the pandemic, data released Wednesday shows that “it is now more likely than not that 2020 will also be the warmest year for the Earth’s surface since reliable records began in the mid-1800s,” according to Carbon Brief, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy.
Record Concentrations of Major Greenhouse Gases; Arctic Sea Ice at Record Low Levels
Carbon Brief reported that the first nine months of 2020 saw record concentrations of major greenhouse gases – CO2, methane and nitrous oxide – in the atmosphere. At the same time, Arctic sea ice was “at record low levels for much of the summer and the summer minimum clocked in as the second lowest on record after 2012.”
2020 Saw a Record-Setting Hurricane Season
Not to be outdone, the Atlantic hurricane season also set new records in 2020. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported, the 2020 season “produced 30 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 13 became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including six major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). This is the most storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.”
And for the 2020-2021 winter? NOAA is predicting cooler temperatures than normal in the northern U.S. and warmer temperatures across the southern half on the nation. For the moment, there appear to be no record snowfalls in sight.
But for anyone wondering about the latest snowfall in a year, snowy Minnesota may hold the record. The Minnesota Climatology Working Group says as it stands right now the latest recorded measurable snow in Minnesota was 1.5 inches in Koochiching County on June 4, 1935, and the “earliest documented snow in Minnesota was a trace that fell at the Duluth Airport on August 31, 1949.”