Just when you think you've seen everything. A few days ago my wife spied fishing boats on a nearby lake. On Thursday, people were golfing up in Maple Plain. My lawn is still in need of a good mowing. Curious, head-scratching, downright unsettling, considering we should be knee-deep in snow right about now.

NOAA reports autumn was the warmest on record for the Lower 48 states. It was the second-warmest from the Dakotas and Minnesota into Wisconsin and Michigan. What is looking more and more like a record El Niño, even stronger than 1997-98, is overwhelming all other signals. Warmth is bubbling out of the Pacific and overpowering Canadian winds.

Case in point: Thursday's cool frontal passage dropped temps about 8 degrees today, but the atmosphere will still be warm enough aloft for rain this weekend; half an inch may fall. Any other December, that would have meant a half foot of snow.

Another, colder system may coat the ground with snow on Tuesday; a streak of 20s next week. Any cold-correction may be brief; models show another warm front arriving on Christmas.