Wild weather events are a fact of life. But 2015 distinguished itself in at least one major way: overall, it was the hottest year on record. Along with a strong El Niño pattern, which tends to bring bizarre and extreme weather events, extra warmth in the atmosphere set off a cascade of record-setting weather phenomena -- from massive snowstorms to an oddly calm hurricane season in the Atlantic.
This week, according to some predictions, temperatures at the North Pole will rise 50 degrees or more above normal, toppling the freezing point for only the second time ever in recorded history. Meanwhile, a hurricane-force storm, named Frank, is moving into the United Kingdom, carrying 120 mph winds and torrential rainfall.
"Every year has extreme stuff that goes on," says Jeff Weber, an atmospheric scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "But 2015 was a highly unusual year."