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I was intrigued to see a World Meteorological Organization (WMO) statement on extreme weather events (Eos, 15 July 2003, p. 262) issued during the peak of the northern hemisphere summer season, when parts of Europe were experiencing a heat wave and the U.S. Midwest experienced a rash of tornadoes. As a long-term resident of eastern North America—Toronto, to be exact—I was puzzled to note that WMO did not choose to issue such an “extreme weather statement” during the last winter season, January–March 2003, when eastern North America experienced one of the longest and coldest winters in many years.

Several communities in the Canadian Atlantic provinces experienced extreme cold spells and record-breaking snowfall amounts. In the interior region of Newfoundland, several communities were cut off for a few weeks because of ice jams due to frozen rivers and lakes. Further south, along the U.S. Atlantic seaboard, heavy snowfall amounts were recorded with some locales in the Washington-Baltimore area receiving up to 100 cm of snow in 24 hours! The unusually long and cold winter of 2003 was felt as far south as Bangladesh and Vietnam, where several hundred people died of exposure during a month-long cold spell. In northern Europe, the Gulf of Finland between Scandinavia and Russia was frozen over for the first time since 1947!