What a Stuffy Nose Teaches Us About A Heat Wave



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Are you celebrating winter with the dreaded common cold? It may be miserable, but it is showing you something about the weather.

Just as your stuffed nose blocks relief and makes your sinuses swell (Ouch!), so a warm Atlantic Gulf Stream can get blocked, building up heat. All that hot water then warms the Eastern US and parts of Canada. 

Remember, 70% of the Earth’s surface is the oceans. Heat from the oceans flow into North America. So, heat from a hot Atlantic pours into North America.

In December, 2015, the East got 30°F (22°C) hotter than normal.

Blame it on the blob and the Gulf Stream. The Atlantic Ocean has a cool blob of water south of Iceland. (No one knows why, but it is south of where a huge sulfur-spewing volcano erupted for 6 months and sulfur in the atmosphere cools things off.) The ocean also has the mighty Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream flows from the equator to the North Atlantic, carrying hot tropical water. The water normally carries the warm water through the Gulf of Mexico, past the East Coast and sprays Europe before sinking into the cold Arctic waters. The heat from the ocean pours inland, heating the US, Canada and Europe.

The flow off the warm Gulf Stream is being blocked by the cold “Atlantic Blob” Source: NOAA

Now think of your poor aching nose during a horrible cold. (We will now pause this blog so that you can moan!) The cold blob in the Atlantic is slowing the eastward flow of the warm Gulf Stream. Like your sinuses during a cold, the pressure is building up. More hot water is stuck on the western side of the Atlantic off the East Coast. It’s getting hot out there.

Not only is the Gulf Stream hot, put the El Niño in the Pacific is creating warm temperatures as well. Talk about piling on the heat.


Warm Atlantic waters = Warm Eastern US Source: NOAA

So be prepared. You are doomed to be relatively warm and cozy. Now that is better than a cold, isn’t it?


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 article about jet streams and blobs!

Just found this article to be very interesting! Thank you for your work, I'm learning a lot!!!

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