The Russians Hacked our Winter Weather

March 23rd, 2017 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Now that winter has officially ended, I thought it would be useful to address the central role that Russia played in ending California’s drought, as well as in the unusually warm conditions over the eastern U.S. this past winter.

First, let’s address the record California rains and mountain snowpack. While such a wet winter usually requires a strong El Nino, we had just the opposite — a weak La Nina.

So, what happened?

California: The “Atmospheric River” Doesn’t Explain It

Blaming the wet winter in California on the “atmospheric river” effect is, in my professional opinion, rather lame. It’s like blaming a flash flood on “too much water”. Well, duh.

So, what caused the atmospheric river?

A persistent series of extratropical storms (low pressure systems) coming into California.

But what caused the storms?

An enhanced temperature contrast between the tropics and mid-latitudes, always required for the formation of such low pressure systems.

But what caused the enhanced temperature contrast?

It wasn’t El Nino, the usual culprit in stormy California winters, because we had the opposite — La Nina.

It was because our winter was hacked by the Russians

It all started back in October, 2016. (Before the election! A coincidence? I think not.)

October experienced an unusually rapid buildup of the cold season air mass in Siberia, as seen in this temperature departure-from-normal map (all maps courtesy of

By November, those unseasonably cold air masses were traveling across the North Pacific, cooling the upper layers of the ocean, and turning the previous Warm Blob of sea surface temperatures into a Cold Blob:

This set up a stronger-than-normal temperature contrast zone (“baroclinic zone” to us meteorologists), which is what’s necessary for extra-tropical storm formation. The temperature departures from normal for the winter months of Dec-Jan-Feb reveal the persistence of this feature, which then led to repeated formation of low pressure systems and the warm, moist flow of air out ahead of those lows as they tracked eastward:

The unusual warmth of the eastern U.S. was likely the result of this chain of events as well. The process has now ended, but not before the cherry blossoms in D.C. were fooled into coming out early, and then the Canadians with their own flavor of frigid air swooped in and ruined everything about a week ago.

So, I suggest it’s time for congressional inquiries into the pre-election Russian hacking of our winter weather.

63 Responses to “The Russians Hacked our Winter Weather”

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  1. Rick Kargaard says:

    A flood of migrants is pouring into Canada to escape a plague of diabetes caused by warming weather in the U.S..

  2. Massimo PORZIO says:

    Hi Dr. Spencer,

    I say yes, and maybe someone should call for a “La Nina” impeachment!

    Have a great day.


  3. martinkokus says:

    You made my day. You set the standard for climate blogs and satire.

  4. Russell Klier says:

    Thanks…I needed that!…and it was informative too…….

  5. benpal says:

    There in no doubt: the Russians. There is nothing on this planet that cannot be blamed on the Russians … It beats human-made warming.

  6. M.J. (Moe) Lavigne says:

    Do you have any thoughts as to why that cold air mass sat fixed over Russia for nearly four months?

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      Moe…”Do you have any thoughts as to why that cold air mass sat fixed over Russia for nearly four months?”

      Obviously, the Russians hacked all the meteorological climate models and imposed a cold spot over Russia. That forced the real meteorologists to amend the real data, just as NOAA does, to suit the cold spot. As a result, the weather gods got PO’d and made it real.

  7. Francisco says:

    As long as you keep threatening to send us your Hollywood ‘Stars’ because they can’t cope with whom you elected as president, we’ll keep freezing your cherry blossoms

  8. Mac says:

    Well, I for one am glad at least THAT question is answered. Thanks Roy!

  9. Chuck & Nancy says:

    The Russians are destroying the credibility of our climate processes.

  10. RW says:

    Good one, Roy!

  11. Kenny says:

    I hear the Russians are in full denial. They claim it was not their cold air that ran into California, but rather due to the rotation of the Earth, California ran into their cold air. They are awaiting an apology for this provocation.

  12. English Bob says:

    The only thing that upsets me about your analysis is that I didn’t think of it first!

    Thanks for making my day. Brilliant!

  13. Mau says:

    What caused the atmospheric rivers was a change in the upper and lower jet streams around Hawaii. The southern jet stream was pushed down, allowing the upper jet stream to drop down to California as opposed to Alaska where it normally enters north America.
    Analizing weather maps, it appears the build up of moisture over Russia staeted accumulating around October 2012 when the lower jet stream changed to a strong southwesterly pattern for the next 4 years.

    In Hawaii, rain is life, and humans evolved over time to be able to attract rain. I believe this is caused by the electromagnetic field that scientists tell us surrounds humans. Think about being on a small island, in the middle of a vast ocean, a thousand years ago. An extended drought means death.
    Governments use this technology. They use machines to change cloud formation and cause rainfall by attracting the metal that is in the condensed water. A well known one government weather modification program is H.A.R.P.
    I live in Hawaii where there are many of these weather modification bases and weather stations.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      Mau…”Analizing weather maps…”

      Get serious, that data has been corrupt for years.

  14. Mike M. says:


    You have brightened my day.

    But you have also raised a question in my mind. You wrote “By November, those unseasonably cold air masses were traveling across the North Pacific, cooling the upper layers of the ocean, and turning the previous Warm Blob of sea surface temperatures into a Cold Blob”. Given the relative heat capacities of the atmosphere and the well-mixed layer of ocean, I am surprised that a change in air temperature can cause that rapid a change in sea surface temperature. My guess would have been that a change in ocean circulation caused a change in sea surface temperature that then caused a change in air temperature. Are you sure of the direction of cause and effect?

  15. Obama says:

    California’s fight against climate change was successful through higher taxes and increased regulation. California’s cap and trade scheme ended the drought.

  16. pete says:

    So this must be a new US-Russia ‘cold’ war.

  17. Snowready says:

    Politics and science don’t mix. Neither does oil and water. What u have today is a science that mixes feelings with facts and people who look for facts to justify their BELIEFS.

  18. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    Just wait untill geoengineering takes speed.

  19. jacksmith4tx says:

    And this happened too:
    Sept. 2016

    “High in the stratosphere, winds whip around Earth’s equator, switching from westerlies to easterlies and back again roughly every 28 months. Although the length of the cycle varies from year to year, the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), as it is known, is as dependable as they come: It had not skipped a beat since scientists first reported its existence in 1960.

    Until now.

    Earlier this year, westerly winds did not yield smoothly to easterlies, as expected, sending scientists scrambling to understand both cause and consequences. One repercussion is already clear: The accuracy of seasonal forecasting could take a hit. But scientists don’t know whether the break in the pattern was a one-off thing, or a more ominous sign of the things to come in a warming world. One thing is for sure: One of atmospheric science’s most durable precepts has cracked.”

    • pete says:

      So what was it doing prior to the 1960s when nobody was looking? I mean 1960 is a second ago on the geological timescale. Are there proxy records for winds?

      • jacksmith4tx says:

        First I want to hear ideas why this specific event happened. Dozens of regular cycles and then…
        Since this was a stratospheric event I thought it was a good question considering our hosts pedigree. Just wondered if he noticed it. Might not happen for another 30 years but if it starts to happen more often then it will be important to understand it so we have better long range forecasts.

        Science is a thought process, technology can change reality.

      • aaron says:

        I think when the warm north pacific first became a sensation, capt. dallas at Judith Curry’s pointed out that very similar warm northern pacific temps happened in the late 50s.

        It’d be interesting to know what arctic ice and atmospheric temps did before 78.

        see more:

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      jacksmith…High in the stratosphere, winds whip around Earths equator, switching from westerlies to easterlies and back again roughly every 28 months”.

      “On the other hand, fluxes of wave-activity (Fig. 2A, arrows) averaged for February 2016 suggest that waves propagating from the Northern Hemisphere might be the most likely cause of the westward acceleration (planetary scale Rossby waves propagating from the extra-tropics can only transport westward momentum)”.

      Since this phenomenon has only been studies since the 1950s, may I suggest that the presumption made about it’s regularity may be premature.

      May I suggest further that we drop this pseudo-science about CO2 warming till we understand what the heck is going on in real climate science.

  20. Ken in Idaho says:

    Looking at the maps, the Mongolians were involved and gave me this City Weather…

  21. WizGeek says:

    Rumor has it that Putin and Gore are negotiating an exchange rate between Carbon Credits and Vodka Vouchers. 😉

  22. Bob Hoye says:

    Hi Roy
    Good piece.
    The term “atmospheric rivers” is appropriate.
    Vancouver gets them as well, but up and down the Left Coast, the media call them the “Pineapple Express” which is not accurate. No pineapples delivered at all.
    More accurate would be “Maui Monsoon”.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      Bob Hoye…”the media call them the Pineapple Express”

      We used to call it the Japanese current before the media became aware of it. It was our equivalent of the Gulf Stream.

      Same with the media turning Arctic Air into the polar vortex. Arctic air is far more descriptive.

  23. Norman says:


    I don’t think Rachel Maddow can use your discovery of the Russian link unless somehow you have evidence that Trump had some deal with Russia to “hack” the weather. If you come up with a Trump/Russia climate hack then it will be an explosive story she can count down the time till she airs it.

  24. Steve Case says:

    Couldn’t this have waited until April 1st?

  25. barry says:

    I’m not getting the joke. Maybe because I’m not up on US politics (which is I assume the underbelly of this post)?

    I’m sure it’s a bi-partisan joke, in keeping with the neutrality of science…

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      barry…”Im not getting the joke”.

      After the Democrats with Hillary Clinton had assured themselves of a decisive victory in the recent election, supported by the media at large, they were lambasted by Trump. In a fit of sour grapes they blamed it on Russians hacking US government systems and influencing voters.

      How hacking translates to losing an election performed in ballot boxes escapes me. Now the Russians are being blamed for everything, including the rain in California.

      Roy’s tongue in cheek reference to the cause of the rain emanating with an unusual cold spot in Russia started off the Russian humour.

  26. Mike McNichol says:

    I just received word that Obama is furious. He says this is also “Bush’s fault.

  27. Dr No says:

    Apparently there is a smell of treason in the air.
    And the smell does not come from Russia but closer to home accordion to the New York Times.

    • ren says:

      Anomalies of rainfall in Australia (1900-2016).

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      dr no…”Apparently there is a smell of treason in the air.
      And the smell does not come from Russia but closer to home accordion to the New York Times”.

      The treason is being committed by the media, not the government. I have never seen such back-stabbing of a sitting president, much of it lies created by the media.

      I am not even a Trump supporter but I laughed myself silly when he won. I could not contain my mirth to see Hillary Clinton get the stupid, smug grin wiped off her face when she thought she was a shoo in.

      I think the behavior of the media has been disgusting in it’s anti-Trump venom.

      • Dr No says:

        I laughed myself silly when his own republican colleagues sabotaged trumpocare.

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          dr no …”I laughed myself silly when his own republican colleagues sabotaged trumpocare”.

          Either way, the US does not have much of a health care system. It’s a shame really that their uber-capitalist mentality frowns on helping the poor and disenfranchised.

          Republicans are not my favourite people when it comes to social programs. The Democrats were not much better so it’s a toss up between Obamacare and Trumpcare. The surprising thing is that some Republicans actually voted against Trump’s version.

          Here in BC, Canada, the average single pays about $75/month for full coverage (there is no lesser coverage). Some provinces offer it free. Recently, the blithering idiots who run this province have been offering free Medicare to certain people. Those with an income less than $22,000/year get it free anyway.

          We have an election in May and they are throwing out these election goodies. I’m sure the federal government has offered to pay the Medicare since it’s supposed to be free in Canada. This load of right-wing louts would never give anything away for free.

    • RAH says:

      “according to the New York Times” kinda says it all. They said Trump was wire tapped and then tried to hide that story and claim he wasn’t. Typical of what one has come to expect from them.

      • Gordon Robertson says:

        RAH…”They [New York Times] said Trump was wire tapped and then tried to hide that story and claim he wasnt. Typical of what one has come to expect from them”.

        I now regard the NYT as any other British tabloid or the National Enquirer in the States. It’s sad when journalists go on personal vendettas and fail to produce the news objectively.

  28. ren says:

    Thank you, Dr. Spencer for reliable analysis.
    500 mb temp,hght,wind in the west of the USA.
    Circulation in the lower stratosphere.
    It’s not the end of the strong precipitation in California. High in the mountains still snowfall.

  29. LightningCamel says:

    The disturbing thing is that this makes more sense than much political commentary and more than all CO2 is the villain commentary.

    But nonetheless thank you for the laugh. I need one just now.

    I’m depressed because our State government (in Aus) is going to allow the shutdown tomorrow of a coal fired power station which produces 24/7 more power than all the wind farms in the nation produce occasionally on a good day. What’s more our gormless Prime Minister says this will have no effect on the security of our power supplies. Stupidity.

    • ian brown says:

      hi you have just joined the crazy world of eu and uk policies,since the 2008 climate change act,the uk is awash with windfarms paid for by the poor,latest folly is the part conversion of the drax power station to burn bio fuel instead of coal,it now produces more c02 than it did burning coal,and it is built on one of the largest coalfields in the uk,it now imports 3 million tons of wood pellets from the good old usa,our gov prefer chopping down trees in some one else”s country,all this after years of protest by friends of the earth greenpeace and our wonder full green party,you could not make it up , they should hang their heads in shame,would like Roys view on bio fuels, they dont seam very green to me.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      LightningCamel…”Whats more our gormless Prime Minister says this will have no effect on the security of our power supplies. Stupidity”.

      What a lie. I just read an article in which parts of Australia could not meet their power demands since wind farms had to be shut down due to high winds.

      Politicians don’t get stupid, they get stupider.

      The idiot will pay in the long run.

  30. ren says:

    The main spillway at Oroville Dam is riddled with design flaws and so badly damaged that an independent panel of experts hired by the state has concluded its probably impossible to repair the structure completely before the next rainy season begins in November.

    The panel of four engineering consultants, in a recent memo to the state Department of Water Resources, said it believes the concrete spillway can be made functional enough to release water from Lake Oroville during the next rainy season. But the panel noted its questionable whether the state has enough time to replace the badly damaged lower half of the 48-year-old spillway. The bottom of the structure is now split from the top by a gaping chasm that extends into the neighboring hillside.

    Above the crater, consultants described design problems in the intact portion of the chute that are so gross and obvious they will have to take priority this year, said J. David Rogers, a dam expert from Missouri, who reviewed the report at The Sacramento Bees request. Rogers said the problems the consultants described were so egregious he was surprised the spillway didnt fail decades ago.

    It calls into question the whole design of whats still there in the upper section, said Rogers, a professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

    The report contradicts DWR officials assertions that the 3,000-foot-long spillway can be completely repaired in time for the next rainy season. DWR Acting Director Bill Croyle has said he expects to announce a repair plan by the end of March.

  31. Finntj says:

    So you are saying that Russia somehow ‘created’ a sudden cold snap in Siberia?

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      Finntj…”So you are saying that Russia somehow created a sudden cold snap in Siberia?”

      Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

  32. ren says:

    Strong rainfall in a few days will reduce water shortages in eastern Australia.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      ren “Strong rainfall in a few days will reduce water shortages in eastern Australia”.

      Winter appears to be approaching in NSW. I recall a winter rugby match between Australia and NZ in Sydney a while back in which they were up to their ankles in mud. It poured rain the entire match and it looked cold.

  33. Snowready says:

    Republicans can’t make the climate warmer democrats can’t make the climate colder. Republicans hope for cooling and democrats hope for warming to prove a point the irony of it all.

  34. aaron says:

    Dr. Spencer,

    I remember capt dallas at Judith Curry’s writing that something similar to the warm blob happened in the late 50s/early 60s (he said the, then unnamed, north pacific temps that were driving higher global surface temps were barely higher than in the late 50s, IIRC), prior to the late 60s to late 70s cooling.

    Anything like this in the early 60s?

    I’ve wondered what artic ice and atmospheric temps did then, did we see an increase in ice and artic atmospheric temps?

    I suspect there was a short surge in sea ice in a few events over a decade to decade and a half just before the satellite record started. Warm artic atmosphere probably also went unobserved.

    It’ll be interesting to see what arctic ice does over the next decade. Maybe it already started and well see more multiyear ice this September.

    • aaron says:

      In addition to this sea ice sawtooth, I’ve wondered if there might also be a small CO2 sawtooth on multi-decade periods which would go unobserved in the geological records, perhaps indicated by the temporary slowdown in CO2 growth rate–particularly coinciding with increases in emissions.

      If this sawtooth pattern exist it would imply lower sensitivity to GHG forcing.

  35. ustas cramola says:

    If you find shit in your pants, then remember, it was not you who fucked up, it was the Russians who did it!

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