I'm not kidding, despite the title of this blog post. This year I really am strongly leaning toward getting snow tires for my 2011 Mini Cooper S, and part of the reason is global warming.
Yes, the world is getting warmer. But this doesn't mean that winter weather everywhere is going to be milder. Actually, it's going to be weirder.
Does it seem as though your weather has become increasingly “stuck” lately? Day after day of cold, rain, heat, or blue skies may not be a figment of your imagination. While various oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El Niño, La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification. Directly related to sea-ice loss and earlier snowmelt in the Far North, it is affecting the jet stream around the Northern Hemisphere, with potentially far-reaching effects on the weather.
...There have been many examples of “stuck” weather patterns during the past few years. Deep troughs in the jet stream hung over the U.S. east coast and Western Europe during the winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011, bringing a seemingly endless string of snow storms and teeth-chattering cold. In the early winter of 2011/2012, in contrast, these same areas were under ridges, or northward bulges of the jet stream, which brought unusually warm and snowless conditions over much of North America.
...While it’s difficult to point the finger at Arctic amplification in causing any of these weather events, they are the types of phenomena that are expected to occur more frequently as the world continues to warm and the Arctic continues to lose its ice. Further research may find ways to predict which regions will experience which conditions. But in the meantime, it’s increasingly likely that the weather you have today will stick around awhile.
So likely the Pacific Northwest is going to see more weather extremes as the jet stream gets stuck in a certain pattern. This includes lasting cold in the winter, as well as snow.
I've owned several sets of snow tires over the years. Actually, they're better termed "winter tires" nowadays, because they're made out of materials which remain pliable under 45 degrees F., making for much safer handling in cold weather even when it isn't snowy or icy.
Last year I put Bridgestone Blizzaks on our Hybrid Highlander SUV, which previously had all season tires. Even though the Highlander is all wheel drive, usually we couldn't get up our fairly steep driveway when it snowed. But with the Blizzaks, no problem.
The Tire Rack is a quality online source of tires and wheels. That's where I bought a steel-wheel Blizzaks package for the Highlander. The tires arrived by UPS all mounted and balanced. Les Schwab then put them on the car at no cost, because we bought our all season Toyos for the Highlander there.
I'm leaning toward the Bridgetone Blizzak LM-60 Performance Winter Tire, which Tire Rack recommends for the Mini Cooper.
Maybe our Oregon winters will be milder than usual, thanks to global warming. There's a good chance, though, that we'll see some unusual cold and/or snow spells. If that happens, I'll be glad I have the Blizzaks on the Mini, since my wife will be using the winter-tire equipped Highlander to get around.
And now that I've learned more about the benefits of winter tires in our normal cold weather, getting Blizzaks for both cars seems like the thing to do even if we have a normal winter.