Cutting Cold: The Sword is Back!

Alaskan Snowstorm


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Do you hear the swish of the Sword of Damocles overhead? Last winter I wrote about that ancient sword and compared it to the threat of winter cold.

Something scary is hanging overhead! (By Richard Westall. 1812)

Just as in the Greek legend, when a deadly sword hung suspended over Damocles throne (to remind him that with power came great danger and worry), so tremendous cold lies due north of the US. It is just waiting to crash in on us. It has already created the coldest November weather in decades. Wait until you feel it in January!


The Arctic sea ice at the end of August 2014. SOURCE: National Snow and Ice Data Center

While headlines have proclaimed that the October ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, what wasn't mentioned is that the Arctic was quite cold.

At the end of the summer melting season, the Arctic sea ice was 1.5 million square kilometers, (579,000 sq. miles) greater than two years ago. When it is that cold in the Arctic in summer, it usually leads to a chilly winter here in the US.

Just like Damocles’ sword, which was suspended by a horse hair, it doesn’t take much to cause that Arctic cold to drop. In October, it was a moderate volcano eruption in the northern areas of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, which changed air pressure and the pattern of the polar jet stream. This November, it was the combination of another Russian volcano and the remnants of the Pacific’s Super Typhoon Nuri. They combined to form a record-breaking storm off of Alaska, which traveled inland and encouraged the polar jet stream to drop south again. When it was over, every Canadian province and all but six US states had November snowfall.

From powerful Alaskan storm to snowing on 44 states, it doesn’t take much to encourage Arctic air to plunge south. SOURCE: NOAA

So keep the coats out. Like the legendary sword, sharp cold is waiting to fall on the US for the rest of this fall and winter.

~ By  Evelyn Browing Garriss and James J. Garriss

About This Blog

Evelyn Browning Garriss doesn't just blog about the weather forecast; she provides insight on WHY extreme weather is happening--and a heads up on weather to watch out for. A historical climatologist, Evelyn blogs about weather history, interesting facts about the weather, and upcoming climate events that affect your life--from farming to your grocery bill. Every week, we look forward to another great weather column from Evelyn. We encourage our weather watchers to post their comments and questions--and tell us what they think!


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Interesting! I remember

Interesting! I remember hearing buzz of the arctic being cold last year as well and last winter was very cold. Now that I think about it, the cold air that kept plunging south last winter never really stopped this year. The arctic air continued spilling into the lower 48 during the spring and even the summer. Last summer was the coolest summer in years in the eastern US. In July we had the same setup of what happened last January. As we got into the fall, the cold snaps continued. Now we're in November and records have been broken all across the country.

I have a hard time believing all of this arctic air is just going to magically disappear. Hasn't there also been warming in the stratosphere this month? If this is true, it could turn downright brutal in December!

Unfortunately, it really

Unfortunately, it really could. However, the Arctic cold this year was not as severe as last year, so it probably won't get as cold as last winter. (Hope! Hope!)

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