Hot Water and Cold Blizzards

January 29, 2016
Commuting in Blizzard

Late in January, two winter storms are tag-teaming to flatten the East Coast. Ugh!

Ironically, this cold miserable weather will be brought to you by hot water!

Three late January stormstwo blizzards in the East and El Niño moisture in the West.

Further west, another cold wet storm will pound the US. However, drought-stricken California and Texas will welcome the rain and mountain snow.

This welcome rainfall is also brought to you by hot water.

Whether you are talking about the blizzards in the East or drought-breaking moisture in the West, the moisture originates with the moist water-retaining air coming off the ocean.

North America, surrounded by hot water. No wonder we’re having storms!

In the East, the Gulf Stream is pouring hot tropical waters along our shores. When the cold Arctic air flows south, as it does in wintertime, it first hits the relatively warm Great Lakes, then the warm moist Atlantic air. The cold air cools the lake and ocean air, causing blizzard conditions. In late January, two storms in one week hit the lakes and Atlantic, giving four storms one long, protracted snow event.

In the West, look at the equator. It is not an official El Niño, which is a precise scientific term. However, the conditions are like an El Niño and producing El Niño type weather. Officially, it is only an El Niño Watch. It needs to last longer to officially be an El Niño event. Meanwhile, while we wait for the scientists to make their pronouncement, we are getting the type of wet, drought-breaking weather in the Southwest, that is typical of El Niño. Warm, wet Pacific air is blowing inland and bringing rainfall from California to Texas.

An El Niño Watch condition creates the type of weather typical of weak El Niños. Copyright: Browning Newsletter

So, as you shovel your driveway or grab your skis, just remember: this cold wet weather was brought to you by warm, balmy water!


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.