Frigid Week Ahead for Most of the U.S.

November 7th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Brace yourself for more “polar vortex” news stories by the middle of next week.

An unusually widespread and persistent cold air mass will grip all but the U.S. Southwest and Florida by late in the week.

It’s origins can be traced back to eastern Siberia a week ago, then it crossed the Arctic Ocean and northwest Canada. It will enter Montana and the Dakotas on Sunday, then gradually sink south and east as the week progresses.

The latest forecast for 7-day average temperature departures from normal shows widespread 10 to 15 deg. F below normal over much of the nation for the seven days starting next Wednesday (click for full-size, graphics courtesy of Weatherbell.com):

GFS model forecast of 7-day average departures from normal temperature for Nov. 12-19.

GFS model forecast of 7-day average departures from normal temperature for Nov. 12-19.

That’s a whole week of unusually cold weather, folks. Recent cold events have been very short-lived, sweeping through rapidly, lasting not much more than a day or so. This one is going to stick around.

The Arctic intrusion will be accompanied by a swath of snow across the Northern Plains and Great Lakes on Monday, then snow for Virginia and D.C. by Friday:

Eight-day total forecast snowfall from Friday Nov. 7 to Saturday Nov. 15.

Eight-day total forecast snowfall from Friday Nov. 7 to Saturday Nov. 15.

My friend Joe Bastardi at WeatherBell tells me the ocean temperature and weather patterns right now are reminiscent of the epic winters of 1976-77 and 77-78. I remember those winters. I was taking graduate meteorology courses at UW-Madison at that time, and the meteorology professors were all saying the early cold air outbreaks we experienced would surely end.

Except they didn’t.


26 Responses to “Frigid Week Ahead for Most of the U.S.”

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  1. sergeiMK says:

    nothing but frost fog rain ahead for the UK

    Must be winter then!!

    • Fonzarelli says:

      Dr. S., would it be correct to say that since the cloud cover is so small (area wise) spurious cooling (on the whole) is negligible?

      • Fonzarelli says:

        Never mind Dr. S., i just went back and read your (october 30) post. It’s taken a while for that all to sink in; I must have re-read it half a dozen times by now… (may have something to do with that dunderhead Locke confusing the issue)

        ossqss and others, key is this paragraph from Dr. Spencer’s recent posting: “…cloud systems in general: (1) do indeed cause a small average WARMING of the amsu5 measurements (by up to 0.1 deg. C); (2) less frequent precipitation systems cause localized COOLING of about 1deg. C; (3) how these effects average out to much SMALLER influences when averaged with non-contaminated data; and most importantly (4) the trends in these effects are near ZERO anyway, which is what matters for climate monitoring.”

        • Roy Spencer says:

          as far as we can tell, Weng et al. made some sort of error in their satellite data processing. I could not get anything close to their results after several days of investigating the cloud contamination issue.

  2. Norman says:

    Dr. Spencer

    From the CAGW group (not the AGW people, big difference) you will hear “That is the weather not climate!!” But if you listen to NPR or read Scientific American you get inference that really bad weather is because of global warming (Sandy, drought in California, wildfires, excessive snow in the northeast, every major flood in the world). They like to have it both ways. Your posts are a strong counter to the “having it both ways” approach of the CAGW people. We might even reach normal arctic ice this season. The water is cold and the ice is approaching the long term normal trend for winter sea ice levels.

  3. Eliza says:

    As most meteorologists (my father worked for the WMO) would agree there is probably nothing unusual about this. That why meteorology is quite boring in fact: Weather/temperatures are incredibly stable over human time.

  4. Norman says:

    Eliza,

    Around were do you live? I think maybe if you lived in Arizona your post could be correct. I live in Nebraska and there is very little stability in weather or temperatures. When a low pressure is approaching it will pump warm gulf air into the area and can raise temps 20F above normal and when it passes the colder north air moves in which can be up to 20 F colder than normal all in the span of one day! As for weather, one day nice then you can have strong winds, severe storms and tornadoes, floods, hail heavy snow or ice. It is all over the map where I live and nothing boring about it!

    • numberer says:

      I think she means “there is nothing new under the sun” not that the events are insignificant when they happen. I had a friend who was brought up in Central Alberta. One winter his school class was dismissed early because of a forecast of dropping temperatures. During a two-mile walk the temperature dropped from 35 F to -40 F.
      That is a 75 F swing in half-an-hour! Luckily his father came out with a tractor and found him before he froze to death.

  5. ren says:

    Let’s see how the waves associated with changes in solar activity cause a change in pressure over the Arctic Circle. The magnetic field of the earth and the sun is modeled polar vortex. Therefore, the pattern has changed.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/strat-trop/gif_files/time_pres_WAVE1_MEAN_OND_NH_2014.gif
    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PF-latest.gif
    That is why in Europe will be warm again, though The snowy winter.
    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/strat_a_f/gif_files/gfs_t30_nh_f00.gif

  6. H.B. Schmidt says:

    Is there enough discussion about the albedo effect from all the NH snow cover? That the more snow on the ground, the colder the temperatures can get? The lovely thing about NH winters is all the land which can retain snow that’s fallen, unlike the SH’s open waters. Yes, Antarctica had record sea ice this year, and yes, it retains its albedo effect through snow and ice cover year-round. But that’s “cooked” into the natural seasonal variance – essentially the same amount of area reflecting ISR. The NH is much different; snow begets more cold because it too is reflecting incoming solar radiance, but over a much wider area. How significant is this impact on both Arctic and global temperatures (since thermodynamics mandates heat must flow towards cold)?

    My first year deer hunting in central Wisconsin in 1984, the weekend before Thanksgiving, saw opening day temperatures of -20F and knee-deep snow. It was the most brutal hunting season I’ve ever experienced. Since that time, snow and cold has decreased and started later so that now it’s unusual to have either for the start of the season. Have we crossed a threshold and will be returning to those storied patterns? I sure hope so. From at least the 1950’s when my father, uncles, and grandfather all stood shivering in their red plaid flannel “warmies” through the early 1990’s that was what was to be expected for hunting season: cold and snow. Since “average” temperatures are a rolling 30-year average, it would be nice to revert to “below average” conditions as a return to historical normal.

    At least, the normal I grew up with as a kid, and which my father and grandfather before me as well.

  7. rah says:

    The Blizzard of 78! In my cousins jacked up Toyota Land Cruiser (I mean the real one that was a jeep like vehicle. We drove around delivering prescriptions to people that had to have then and couldn’t get out. We also rescued some dogs including 3 Great Danes from a back yard. In general we had a ball!

    • numberer says:

      Early 1947 was brutal in England. My elder brother said, “We’ll make a snowman!” I didn’t realise he meant he would make a snowman out of ME. “Stand still! You’ll be the core. Just a few more shovelfuls of snow…”

  8. ren says:

    Why in North America will be cold? The inhibition of the polar vortex over America at a height of about 27 km.
    http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/isobaric/10hPa/orthographic=8.82,94.00,481

  9. Thanks, Dr. Spencer, Joe Bastardi.
    This forecast will probably be right, the data will be recorded, it will become a week of climate.
    “Weather is climate. More specifically, aggregations of weather are climate. Means, averages, and distributions of daily weather comprise climate.”
    See “Actually, Weather Is Climate” (William M. Briggs, Statistician & Consultant. Jan. 22, ’10), at http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/actually-weather-is-climate/

  10. Aaron S says:

    My training in paleoclimate does not help me here… there is an apparent change in frequency between these polar vortex events in north america over the last few years. Does anyone have ideas why, or literature explaining the phenomenon?

    • ren says:

      Changing magnetic field of the Earth and the sun.
      The observed magnetic field is highly asymmetrical.
      Lines of inclination are highly elliptical, with the North Magnetic Pole situated near one end of the ellipse.
      The strength of the magnetic field is no longer a maximum at the North Magnetic Pole. In fact, there are now two maxima, one over central Canada, the other over Siberia.
      Magnetic meridians do not converge radially on the North Magnetic Pole.
      Magnetic meridians diverge from the direct path to the Magnetic Pole:
      http://www.geomag.nrcan.gc.ca/images/field/meridnorex.gif

    • Roy Spencer says:

      it seems we are back into a pattern more like the 1960s and 1970s. Possibly related to the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

    • One possible explanation is provided in the study by Kim et al., Nature (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms5646. They see a link between Arctic sea ice loss (which is caused by global warming), especially in the Barents-Kara Sea, and a weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex in mid-winter.

      Here is the abstract:

      “Successive cold winters of severely low temperatures in recent years have had critical social and economic impacts on the mid-latitude continents in the Northern Hemisphere. Although these cold winters are thought to be partly driven by dramatic losses of Arctic sea-ice, the mechanism that links sea-ice loss to cold winters remains a subject of debate. Here, by conducting observational analyses and model experiments, we show how Arctic sea-ice loss and cold winters in extra-polar regions are dynamically connected through the polar stratosphere. We find that decreased sea-ice cover during early winter months (November–December), especially over the Barents–Kara seas, enhances the upward propagation of planetary-scale waves with wavenumbers of 1 and 2, subsequently weakening the stratospheric polar vortex in mid-winter (January–February). The weakened polar vortex preferentially induces a negative phase of Arctic Oscillation at the surface, resulting in low temperatures in mid-latitudes.”

      In the conclusion of the study, the authors caution, though, that there are also other factors influencing the stratospheric polar vortex, and that the relative contributions of the various factors haven’t been systematically studied yet.

      • david dohbro says:

        so far 2013 arctic sea ice extent is higher than in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005… where were the polar vortexes all those years?

        IMHO, those authors should do their systematic studies of the relative importance of other factors first before blurting out this BS… Bad Science.. it’s like saying “road congestion is dependent upon time of day, but can be dependent upon other factors as well” while we all know those “other” and much more important factors then time-of-day are: the number of vehicles, the number of lanes, vehicle speed, the number of on/off ramps. etc. so the “congestion-time-off-day relationship” is like this Nature study an other example of: correlation is not causation…

        • david dohbro wrote:

          so far 2013 arctic sea ice extent is higher than in 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2005… where were the polar vortexes all those years?

          If you actually had read the study you wouldn’t have asked such a question. Then you would have known instead that exactly six out of the seven years, which you listed, plus five others are the years based on which the authors found the link between low sea ice and a weakened stratospheric polar vortex. And it’s not as much as the total Arctic sea ice extent, it’s rather the sea ice concentration in the Barents-Kara seas, for which they found this connection. The year 2007 has to be added to the list, but 2010 subtracted, since sea ice concentration was larger than 50% on average in the Barents-Kara seas in latter year. The concentration had to be lower than 50% to be included in the composite. The other years with lower than 50% are 1984, 1996 (if I see this right from Figure 1), 2000, and 2001. Actually, the authors see the largest effect of the reduced Nov/Dec sea ice concentration in the Barents-Kara sea on the polar vortex for the time of mid-winter.

          One also has to keep in mind that one only can establish statistical relationships for this. There are always many things going on in the Earth system at the same time. And no weather pattern repeats in exactly the same way. Thus, attributing a single event to a single specific cause is very difficult, if not impossible.

          IMHO, those authors should do their systematic studies of the relative importance of other factors first before blurting out this BS… Bad Science..

          You can’t possibly know whether it’s bad science, since you haven’t read this study. Your question above is evidence for that.

          is like this Nature study an other example of: correlation is not causation…

          You can’t possibly know that either, since you haven’t read the study.

  11. ossqss says:

    My apologies, I overlooked the post on the 30th. Thanks for the reminder Fonzarelli.

    Regards Ed

  12. david dohbro says:

    let’s see if the USHCN network will show this longer lasting cold blast, or if it will be adjusted and homogenized out of the data record. Here we have an unique chance to see the network’s performance.