My jingle bells are thawing nicely, tufts of green lawn showing through dwindling piles of slush. I may go for a boat ride. Just to say I went boating, in Minnesota, in early December. You may be relieved by this early-winter reprieve from windchill, but I find it all a bit disconcerting. The lack of (real) cold fronts leaves me a little uneasy.

And for winter weather fans, the glass is half empty: neighborhood hockey rinks without ice, feeble snowcover for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. Thousands of Minnesota companies depend on a reliable supply of snow and cold to make a living.

What's happening? Why is winter missing in action? El Niño, coupled with the warmest year on record, worldwide — 14 of the 15 warmest years since 2000. You might even call it a trend.

Unusual warmth spills into next week; a streak of 40s; ECMWF (European) guidance hinting at 50 by the end of next week, before a storm (rain event) pulls colder air back into Minnesota by mid-month. Live long enough and you'll see everything, even a year without a (real) winter. Santa isn't amused.