Cutting Cold: The Sword is Back!

January 29, 2016
Alaskan Snowstorm
NOAA

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.

About This Blog

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

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