Hot + Cold = Blizzard

November 28, 2016
Blizzard 2016

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What happens when all this warm November air meets a cold front? The potential for fierce storms and crazy weather!

So far, fall 2016 has been toasty. Of course, there have been occasional storms, but overall, October and November were unusually warm in most of the US


Most of the United States has been warmer than average this fall. Source: NOAA

This is hardly surprising. The Atlantic Ocean has been very warm this year, especially over the past few months. The Pacific Ocean waters off the West Coast are extremely hot. Look at one of the more recent satellite maps of ocean water temperatures.  Literally, the US is in a lot of hot water.


North America is surrounded by hot water. Source: NOAA

The prevailing winds have carried this hot, moist air inland. This has heated up most of the Central and Eastern US. Since warm air holds more moisture, this meant that we had enough summer rainfall for good crops and enough fall warmth for comfort. Unfortunately for the South, it has also meant that the warm air has held the moisture as humidity and there have been fewer rains, causing over 60% of the Southeast to experience dry or drought weather. 


Hot air holds more moisture. Just look at the air over a geyser. Source:

Potential for Storms

Unfortunately, as the mid-November storms that hit the Midwest and Northeast showed, all this warm air with high humidity has the potential to create some real storms when it is hit by a cold front.

The result is fierce, high-energy, fast-moving storms. Within 24 hours temperatures can drop from above-normal to frigid as the storm’s wind chill factor makes the weather feel colder than it really is. Then, when the storm has passed, unusually warm air replaces it.


Unusually warm air means fiercer storms when a cold front hits.

The Atlantic Gulf Stream shows signs of continuing to pour hot water along the Gulf and East Coast for quite a while. When damp, warm air from the Gulf and Atlantic meets a cold front from the north, a fierce storm breaks out. Repeat. The result, schizophrenic weather. 


Conditions are right for a crazy winter! At least it won’t be as snowy as 1966 when this picture was taken. Source: Wikipedia

So prepare for warmth, cold, storms, drought, and general weather insanity. Wheeeee!

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.