The Blob is Back! Will Winter Be Warmer?

October 26, 2016
Blob of North Atlantic

It’s Back! The “Cold Atlantic Blob” is once again haunting the North Atlantic. It may sound like a Halloween headline, but it could be great news for your winter heating bill.

Scientists were puzzled last winter and spring when the North Atlantic was so cold last year when most of the ocean was hotter than normal. Then everything cooled back to normal this summer. Just when the scientists started to relax, it mysteriously returned.


Now you see it, now you don’t. The Blob in April and this September. Source: NOAA

It’s more than just a pretty blue blob. The colder water cools the air above it and changes air pressure and wind patterns. Back in April, weather services noticed the churning pattern and warned it could alter conditions enough to create an early, active Atlantic Hurricane Season. (We’ve had one.) They warned it might cause 14 hurricanes and tropical storms, two more than normal. With Hurricane Nicole hitting Bermuda, we just had storm number 14. It was fortunate it faded to almost nothing in September.


With Hurricane Nicole, we have had 14 tropical storms/hurricanes. Thanks, Blob! Source: NASA

But like a Halloween ghost it has been coming back this October. This may not be good for hurricanes, but it might be good news for your heating bill this winter.

Remember, I’m blogging here and your official winter forecast is done by The Old Farmer’s Almanac. As a weather watcher, I notice that history usually shows a warmer eastern winter in “blob” years. The Gulf Stream, that flow of hot water that crosses from our side of the ocean to Europe, frequently gets backed up. This leaves a lot of nice toasty water off our East Coast. Most years the warm ocean air heats the East up nicely. 


The warm Gulf Stream flowing off the East Coast. Source: NASA

This is history, not science. It doesn’t mean we will have a warmer winter, but it suggests we might. Wouldn’t that be great! Remember, even warmer winters have storms, but a few less days cleaning ice off the car windows and a lower heating bill would be nice. If it happens, you might have to thank a big, blue blob.


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.