El Nino rocks winter weather worldwide with floods, twisters, blizzards

This spate of extreme late-December weather, attributable at least in part to El Nino, has been one for the history books.

Late-December weather sees tornadoes and snowstorms in Texas, widespread flooding in South America

Pam Russell, left, rescues her cat, Larue, from her damaged home on Delta Drive a day after a tornado hit in Rowlett, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (Nathan Hunsinger/The Associated Press)

From the one-two punch of tornadoes followed by blizzards, to unseasonably warm temperatures in Canada and Europe, to brushfires in coastal California and Australia, this spate of wacky late-December weather has been one for the history books. The extreme weather is being blamed, at least in part, on El Nino, a phenomenon that occurs when water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator.

California wildfires

A wildfire in Solimar, in southern California's Ventura County, burned more than 400 hectares of land, forced the closure of parts of two major coastal highways and caused evacuations over the weekend.

Fire photographer Tod Sudmeier gets hit with flying embers from strong winds at the Solimar brush fire that started early Saturday morning in Ventura County, Calif., Dec. 26, 2015. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)
Huge fire tornadoes form during the Solimar brush fire in Ventura County, Calif. (Gene Blevins/Reuters)
Charred bicycle parts stand in a makeshift encampment during the aftermath of a wildfire in the Solimar Beach area of Ventura County. (Patrick T. Fallon/Reuters)

U.K. floods

Flooding in England, Scotland and Wales plunged parts of the U.K. underwater, particularly northern parts of England, such as York, where the River Ouse was running more than five metres above normal summertime levels. More than 500 soldiers were dispatched to Yorkshire and Lancashire to assist in rescue efforts, according to the BBC.

Members of the emergency services ride a boat through floodwater on a residential street in York after the River Ouse burst its banks, in northern England, Dec. 28, 2015. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)
A woman looks out of a flooded property in the centre of York, in northern England, Dec. 28, 2015. (Andrew Yates/Reuters)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron greets soldiers working on flood relief in York after the River Ouse burst its banks, in northern England, Dec. 28, 2015. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

Wild U.S. weather

Tornadoes, snowstorms, floods and other severe weather events caused more than 40 deaths in the United States over the weekend. 

Damage of home buildings is seen after Saturday's tornado in Garland, Texas, on Dec. 27, 2015. At least 11 people died and dozens were injured in tornadoes that swept through the Dallas area and caused substantial damage last weekend. (G.J. McCarthy/The Associated Press)
Wind blown waves from Lake Michigan break around the Shedd Aquarium as a winter storm moves across Illinois Monday, Dec. 28, 2015, in Chicago, bringing high winds, icy precipitation and waves up to 7 metres high along the shores of the great lake. (Charles Rex Arbogast/The Associated Press)
Lightning illuminates a house after a tornado touched down in Jefferson County, Ala., damaging several houses, Dec. 25, 2015. (Butch Dill/Associated Press)
Andrea Simpson wades through water as she goes back to her house in Courtland, Ala., after checking if the barn was safe for her horses to spend the night in Saturday, Dec. 26, 2015. The barn turned out to be flooded, too. (Jeronimo Nisa/The Associated Press)
Brandon Dominguez makes a snow angel on Dec. 27, 2015, at McKinney Park in Odessa, Texas. Nearly all of Interstate 40 in Texas, the main east-west highway through the Texas Panhandle, was closed due to the snowstorm pummelling the area. (Mark Sterkel/The Associated Press)
A driver receives a helpful push to escape from a snowdrift on Dec. 27, 2015, in Lubbock, Texas. The average temperature for Lubbock usually hovers around the 12 C mark, with a few centimetres of snow normally reported each winter. (John Weast/Getty Images)

South American floods

Flooding in the area where the borders of Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay meet forced nearly 150,000 people to flee their homes last week. El Nino has brought torrential rains to the area, causing levees to fail and bodies of water to overflow.

A man rides his bike in the flooded city of Falcon, 42 km west of Asuncion, near the Paraguay-Argentina border, on Dec. 26, 2015. (Norberto Duarte/AFP/Getty Images)
Argentina's President Mauricio Macri (right) looks out of a helicopter during a flight over flood-hit areas in the city of Concordia, Entre Rios province, Dec. 27, 2015. (Argentine Presidency handout/Reuters)
A woman and her sons are seen in a makeshift shelter in Asuncion, Dec. 27, 2015. The area has been hard hit by December flooding. (Jorge Adorno/Reuters)
A man travels on a makeshift raft near flood-affected houses in Asuncion, Dec. 27, 2015. (Jorge Adorno/Reuters)
Graffiti saying 'Freedom and Dignity' partially seen above floodwaters in Asuncion, Dec. 27, 2015. With further rain looming, more families abandoned their homes on Sunday in Paraguay, the country hardest hit by the worst flooding in decades in the area bordering Uruguay and Argentina. (Jorge Adorno/Reuters)

Australian brushfires

Brushfires in Australia's Victoria state began Dec. 19 with a lightning strike and spread throughout the area around Melbourne. According to the BBC, the fire had burned nearly 2,200 hectares by Dec. 26, with fires burning out of control on Christmas Day. 

Bushfires near Melbourne and Victoria in Australia on Christmas Day destroyed more than 100 homes. (Keith Pakenham/EPA)
A fire-damaged car is seen at Wye River, south of Melbourne, Australia, on Dec. 27, 2015, after brushfires swept through the area on Christmas Day. (Julian Smith/EPA)
A female koala is given care by Judy O'Brien at Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary at Barwon Heads south of Melbourne, Australia, Dec. 28, 2015. The koala was found dehydrated with a burnt hind paw in the Lorne area after a fire ravaged the coastal towns of Wye River and Separation Creek on Christmas Day. (Julian Smith/EPA)

Unseasonably warm winter weather

In some parts of the world, including many pockets of Canada, unseasonably high winter temperatures made for a green holiday season. 

A skier takes a chairlift up a ski hill on Mont Rigaud, Que., on Dec. 26, 2015. Unseasonably warm temperatures have left lots of ski resorts without many runs open due to little or no snowfall. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)
An ice skater in short sleeves skates in Bryant Park during unseasonably warm weather in the Manhattan borough of New York, on Dec. 27, 2015. (Pearl Gabel/Reuters)
People enjoy the sunny weather by skiing on artificial snow in Fischen, near Oberstdorf, Germany, on Dec. 28, 2015. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)
In this photo from Dec. 27, 2015, a man walks out of the Adriatic Sea after swimming during an unusual warm day in Split, Croatia. Temperatures have been unseasonably warm across many parts of Europe in the past few days. (Amel Emric/The Associated Press)


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