Oil prices are at their lowest levels since mid-2005. That's the good news - or is it?
Stronger typhoons, more flooding in low lying regions, deepening drought -- all possible, if not likely, according to a report from British climatologists. They say 2007 has a 60 percent probability of being the hottest year on record, citing high levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, and El Nino, now underway in the Pacific and expected to last until May.
Temperature studies for 2006 are not yet complete. But the new study, noting that the world's ten warmest years since 1850 have occurred in the past decade, says 2006 is set to be the sixth warmest year globally, and 2007 is likely to set a new all time high.
Even as dangerous winter storms blanket parts of the Western United States, much of the rest of the nation is unusually warm. For the first time in 130 years, New York City has had no snow. In Washington DC, the spring cherry blossoms are already poised to bloom and botanists note southern species of flowers are being found further north.
Meteorologist Bernie Rayno says, "We expected much of the country to be warmer than normal during the month of December. However, we also expect that scene to be turning around during the month of January." A benefit for many in the United States: crude oil prices are at their lowest levels since the middle of 2005.
Ira Epstein is a trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange. "Mild weather in the Northeast -- we’re having ample supplies in this country domestically, and we came off kind of a lackluster year in '06."
Whether lower oil prices will hold is unclear, but for many on America's East Coast this is a winter, at least so far, unlike any they have seen before.