It Was So Cold That . . .

January 29, 2016
Polar Vortex

A Polar Vortex.


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It's been a cold one! Take Saturday, January 4. The the Earth’s orbit around the Sun put the globe the closest it gets to the Sun each year.

During the next two days, it was so cold that …

It was so very cold on January 6! (shiver)

  • Wind chills brought temperatures in parts of the Midwest to -70˚F! Without the winds, temperatures were a balmy -30˚F in parts of Minnesota and North Dakota.
  • An Arctic vortex—yes, air that normally lurks around the North Pole—swirled its way around the Midwest and headed toward the East Coast.
  • Americans got to watch flash-frozen football players in a Wildcard playoff. Not surprisingly, San Francisco withstood the cold and won. To quote Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer day in San Francisco.”

A polar vortex – when Arctic air comes south. Click to enlarge.

  • The roaring booms of frost quakes awakened Canadians. These frost quakes - or cryoseism, are caused by water seeping into the soil and then freezing so quickly that they cause the earth to shake with loud booms. They are common on glaciers, not Southern Canada.
  • Arctic snowy owls, (Harry Potter’s owl) invaded the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, and were even seen as far south as Florida. When an Arctic bird feels at home in Florida – it’s too darn cold.
  • While owls were flying around, thousands of air flights were grounded. Driving, when possible, was a frigid nightmare.

To quote meteorologist Ryan Maue, who watched it safely from Tallahassee, Florida, “If you're under 40 (years old), you've not seen this stuff before.”

Remember, in previous blogs, the Old Farmer’s Almanac noted that the Arctic air this summer was the coldest on record. The amount of polar sea ice in September was 60% greater than it had been last year. Normally the Arctic has 90 days with temperatures above freezing but this year it had less than 50!

This summer the Arctic sea ice was 60% greater than last year, but still below the 30 year average.

Winter is when the cold polar air masses expand south. This year the air that was swirling south was intensely cold. So bundle up and stay safe.

Also, if conditions were crazy, share it here with us. We are all (shivering) in it together.

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.

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It's so cold in Wisconsin

It's so cold in Wisconsin that the lakes froze up solid, but luckily just before they did the fish got out and went to Alaska where it's warmer. lol

I don't mind a day or two of this below freezing windy stuff, but after a day or two that'll do. Then it can go back to a warmer temperature in the teens. ;)

Every year we complain in the fall about temps in the 40's and even 50's, but by this time of year if we get a 40° day, a few people will even start wearing shorts. It's amazing how quickly the body adapts to temperature changes.

now that's cold ! we just

now that's cold ! we just bought some Wisconsin cheese the other day and had to leave it on the counter for three days to thaw out ! you know it's cold when you're cheezes freezes !

It was so cold that my

It was so cold that my sleeping gear included sox, bulky sweaters and fleecey sweats or Betty Boop fuzzy pj bottoms. To my dtr's disdain: NOTHING MATCHED! but I slept well. even used last year's Christmas gift of flannel sheets ...a fuzzy oversized throw and a light blanket made my "cave" comfy all night-even turned thermostat down. When overnight "big" snow predicted, I moved trash dumpsters to the patio,covered my car, treated driveway, patio and planned not to reappear for a while; checked every window, door, and outside wall for air leaks: stuffed newspaper, plastic bags when I found them; added rugs and blankets at bottom of all outside walls. Awoke Sunday to 12" (I measured it) of white stuff making opening the doors a bit of an effort: soft, fluffy and beautiful. And then had a sudden urge for SNOW ICE CREAM! made 2 small dishes: chocolate almond milk, vanilla and sugar in one; eggnog with a little Bordens condensed milk for the other. Nobody else was impressed-but I was 10 again.

where are you from ? sounds

where are you from ? sounds like the winters we had in ky , years and years ago !

I live in mid St. Louis

I live in mid St. Louis County-several blocks west of St Louis city limits. This last couple of weeks of up and down temps and sunny and precip days is not typical.
On that Sunday (Green Bay football day), the local weather guys were saying: "not in decades" or "haven't seen anything like this since I've been here" etc. We often have several "snows" each winter but few with that kind of accumulation-and are rarely incapaciting.
I have Palm Sunday pictures of the kids in boots and ski jackets next to my jonquils in full bloom about 3" above the snow.
About every 10 to 15 years, we get ice storms-sometimes 3 or 4 days of falling ice-really beautiful-but treacherous



21 days -- ouch! Heavy snow

21 days -- ouch!

Heavy snow is a nuisance, but heavy ice storms are far more damaging. May all your snow be fluffy and light.



Part of the price for living

Part of the price for living in such a green and lovely area is, as you noted, sometimes you have really heavy snow. This winter we have seen over 9,000 snowfall records broken.

I was working with the Ky

I was working with the Ky Small Grain Association and Corn Growers Association yesterday. Great people, warm hospitality and -- brrrr -- cold, cold weather!

where are you from ? sounds

where are you from ? sounds like the winters we had in ky , years and years ago !

I love it. You have outdone

I love it. You have outdone the "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” philosophy. Life gave you a blizzard and you made delicious snow ice cream. Congratulations.

Thanks for the suggestion. I

Thanks for the suggestion. I almost caved in to a craving for ice cream and will be making snow-cream today.

It is nice to hear of someone

It is nice to hear of someone who really enjoys winter weather and a good snow. I was born in January and it is a favorite month of mine. Most people hate it and miss the magic it holds.

It's so cold that I just

It's so cold that I just found myself looking at pictures of Hawaii. Who says I can't dream?! But its the dead of winter... so no matter how brightly the sun shines, the bare trees are still begging for their leaves back, the air is bitter and the ground is frozen. "As the days lengthen, so the cold does strengthen." definitely is a true saying. The winter solstice may be in December but January and February are almost always the coldest months of the year. What are the indications for the rest of the winter? I've been hearing that the doors will remain open from the arctic and arctic cold will continue to flow into the east and yield more brutal cold and snowstorms to the Mid-Atlantic region. I do hope that California will get some much needed rainfall, however. My heart goes to the people dealing with the drought in the west. If an el nino develops in the summer I think that could really help.

But one thing is certain; no Hawaii for me :(

Everything seems to indicate

Everything seems to indicate a continuing cold winter for most of the Central and Eastern US. At the same time, poor California continues to be warm and dry.

Meanwhile, Hawaii will continue to be warm and calling to a lot of us.

I have a few family members

I have a few family members who live in Pennsylvania and they came here to visit for a couple of weeks around Christmas and New Years. They were here during the cold snap! They were surprised that it got this cold because I live in North Carolina and they had claimed that this is a "warm tropical climate" but it got close to 0 degrees plus my neighbors pipes had froze! They were whining about how cold it was and I said "So you came to NC thinking you were going to escape the cold and you'll be in shorts and a t shirt, right?" LOL! Not shorts and t shirt weather here! Some snow would be nice though :D We haven't seen any so far but I'm hoping we can get a genuine snowstorm here in Winston-Salem metro area in late January or February, maybe March. How's it looking? If we can get a stormy pattern to set up while we have the cold air it'll surely snow. I couldn't imagine it not snowing this year. Its so much colder this winter.

To get good snow, you need a

To get good snow, you need a negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). It would slow down the fronts and let them really dump some snow. So far, most experts are saying the Arctic Oscillation will dump cold on NC but they can't agree when the NAO will go negative and add snow to the cold. Good luck -- miserable cold without snow is just boring!

Evelyn it was darn cold in

Evelyn it was darn cold in Pittsburgh as well. I remember the last time we got Polar weather back 1994. I love the snow during the Christmas season but after January 1st you can give me Spring. So do you think we will get an early spring since winter arrived early in The Burgh?

I wouldn't be surprised if,

I wouldn't be surprised if, after a stormy winter, you had a stormy spring that can't decide whether to stay warm or cold. That's what has happened in a lot of years.

It was so cold in Bessemer,

It was so cold in Bessemer, Al that the pipes in our bathroom faucets froze and the drain pipes in the kitchen sink froze. I had left the faucets dripping in order to keep them from freezing so there was water standing in the kitchen sinks. It took 2 days for the pipes to thaw. We don't often have weather this cold in the deep South, thankfully.

You might have it again --

You might have it again -- this winter is going to be a cold one! Good luck.

And here I was taking credit

And here I was taking credit for the cold winter because I made 33 lap robes last year for holiday gifts. Once the packages were opened on Dec 25th, here came the cold weather!! :-)

I remember many -30 days growing up in Vermont. School was never called unless there was too much snow for the plows or it was icy. We didn't know from wind chill. Oops! Now I'm really sounding like an old faht!!

I actually like a little cold weather here in Florida during the winter. We get plenty of warmth the rest of the year.

If it is your fault -- step

If it is your fault -- step away from those lap robes! Start knitting Bermuda shorts.

I'm glad somebody in Florida likes cold weather. My farmer clients have been crying. But I agree with you -- after Vermont (or my childhood Buffalo, NY) winters, Florida cold weather is a breeze for everyone not growing tomatoes.



I bet you froze your ice off!

I bet you froze your ice off!

Almost! But it wont be long

Almost! But it wont be long gardening time ! it's a good sign when all the seed books show up in the mail, then all is forgotten about those ol' ice sicles and more about the heat , huh ?

There is nothing like a seed

There is nothing like a seed catalogue to help you forget the cold and misery.

Giggle -- good one!

Giggle -- good one!

Winter has yet to arive in

Winter has yet to arive in north CA. We had one little snowstorm in early Dec. that left us a few inches of the white stuff. Since then just a couple of sprinkles in Jan. which is normally the wettest month of the year. It is going to be close to 80 degrees in the northern Sacramento Valley this week, which will be record highs. I believe 2013 was the driest year on record!

It has been. Poor California,

It has been. Poor California, especially the agriculture! I will blog about it next week!

Poor consumers! Water

Poor consumers! Water allotments will be drastically reduced and probably more costly for farmers. there will be fewer crops grown in the Valley which will cause the price for produce to rise dramatically. Plan on growing a nice, big garden this year to help offset grocery costs.
I have never seen Mt Shasta and Mt Lassen snowless in the middle of Jan.

Good observation. Some of the

Good observation. Some of the water rationing has gotten so severe that it is starting to hurt not just the vegetable row crops but also the fruit and nut trees, especially almonds.

It has been so cold and snowy

It has been so cold and snowy in the Keweenaw of Michigan, we had to have a back hoe/front loader move 50-some inches of compacted snow so we could park our cars. Total snow for the year 180 inches. This is more typical of what we would see at the end of Feb.

I do love having my front porch as an extra freezer. This bit of a warm spell, well I could have easily done without that. Hope it stays around 10F for the rest of the snow season and we get another 200 inches of snow (would be a record).

It would also be nice to have a few solar flares come our way or at least increased solar activity so we can see the Northern Lights. I know, I am being greedy.

It's not greedy to want the

It's not greedy to want the beauty. We are at the peak of the solar cycle and the next 2 - 3 years are the best years for Northern Lights. I hope they come your way.

As for the snow -- I will be glad to send any of my New Mexico flurries your way!

Here in central Virginia on

Here in central Virginia on the night of January 6, 2014 we hit a record low of 0 with wind chills as low as -30 degrees! I walked outside the next morning to try to start the car up and my car wouldn't crank and my pipes froze! It was THAT cold outside. After just 3 minute exposure to those frigid temperatures I realized it was too dangerous to be outside and I ran back inside to get warm.

Despite all of the cold, still no snow. The northeast & midwest has had plenty of snow this winter but we've really been missing out because we've only had traces. We average 18-22" per year so we're in a snow drought. I hope the rest of the winter will remain favorable for snow because I've never been through a year without it. We're going to have to get snow eventually! I dont want it to be THAT cold again to say the least but I'd hate to see our winter end in January. More cold in February please!

I think you'll get your wish

I think you'll get your wish for snow, but it might come with its evil twin -- miserable Arctic cold.

What about Northern

What about Northern California? We're having our own crazy weather--barely any rain this season, and thus very little snow. Is there hope for us?

There is not much hope for

There is not much hope for this winter. The best most experts expect is near average moisture -- which would not be enough to end the drought. Most expect a dry winter.



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