Ice and fire: extremes grip North America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:16 PM GMT on January 16, 2009

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The lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Maine occurred this morning, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. The temperature at Big Black River in northern Maine on the Canadian border bottomed out at -50F, besting the old record of -48°F. Here's the scoop from NWS:

At 0730 am EST this morning a USGS gage at Big Black River recorded a low temperature of -50F. This exceeds the current statewide record low temperature of -48F set on January 19th...1925 at Van Buren. This report is considered unofficial until a review of the equipment and data by the state climate extremes committee as to the validity of this report. If the committee ascertains that this is indeed a valid report...a separate public information statement will be issued at that time.


Figure 1. Temperature trace from the Big Black River, Maine USGS river gauge station, ending January 16, 2009. A record minimum of -50°F (-45.3°C) occurred. Image credit: USGS.

Figure 2. Minimum temperatures this morning for Maine. Image credit: National Weather Service, Caribou, Maine.


All-time state records are difficult to break. The last time a state record low was set was January 5, 1999, when Congerville, Illinois recorded -36°F. Only one state record high temperature has been set in the past the decade--the 120°F temperature measured in Usta, South Dakota on July 15, 2006.

This week's North American cold spell has been a notable one, with daily minimum temperature records falling in seventeen states, Sunday through Friday. A record low for the month of January was set Friday morning in Caribou, Maine, which recorded -37°F. This is the second coldest temperature ever recorded in Caribou, next to the -41°F recorded on February 1, 1962. Mason City, Iowa had it's lowest January temperature on record Friday morning, -31°F, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had its all-time lowest temperature for any month Thursday morning, a frigid -29°F. Bismark, North Dakota had its second coldest temperature ever, -44°F, on Thursday morning. This was only 1° from the all time low of -45° on January 13, 1916 and again on February 16, 1936. Bismark is also on pace for their snowiest season on record (61.2" so far).

Record heat in Alaska and California
The temperature swings this week in Alaska have been astounding. At Nenana, in central Alaska, the high was -42°F on Monday, with a low of -52°F. On Thursday morning, the temperature shot up 106°F from Monday, topping out at a positively tropical 54°F--the warmest January temperature ever measured in Nenana. Several other Alaska stations also set record highs for the month of January this week. Record highs for the month of January were also set at four California airports:

San Jose 75°F January 12
Sacramento 70°F January 12
San Francisco 72°F January 13
Red Bluff 78°F January 13, 15, 16

More record highs than lows have been set at the 381 major airports across the U.S. so far this week, through Friday. You can look up all the records at the National Climatic Data Center's excellent U.S. Records web site. Records for this week:

Jan 16
------
9 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA, WY)
20 minimum low temperature records (GA, IA, IL, IN, MI, ME, MN, NH, PA, VT, WI)

Jan 15
------
11 maximum high temperature records (CA, WA, NV)
11 minimum low temperature records (IA, ND, IN, ME, NE, NY, SD)

Jan 14
-------
14 maximum high temperature records (AK, CA, OR, NV)
8 minimum low temperature records (IA, MI, MN, ND, TX)

Jan 13:
-------
13 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, AK, FL)
9 minimum low temperature records (IA, MI, MN, ND)

Jan 12:
-------
9 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA)
2 minimum low temperature records (AK, ND)

Jan 11:
-------
7 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA)
1 minimum low temperature record (CA)

What's causing all this wild weather?
As usual, a sharp kink in the jet stream is responsible for the wild weather we're having. A ridge of high pressure over Alaska is forcing the jet to bow northwards into northern Alaska, allowing warm air from the Hawaii area to stream northwards over the region. Whenever the jet contorts into such a pattern, there must be a return flow of cold air from the pole that develops. That is occurring over the eastern half of the U.S., bringing us our Arctic air blast. The -17°F at my house in Michigan yesterday morning was the coldest it's been since 1994, brrr!

Jeff Masters

Icy Ferns (verlos)
Ice outside my window
Icy Ferns
January Sauna (pjpix)
Sunny bright at 12:30 P.M. and minus 7 degrees F. Some geese and mallards "enjoy" a January sauna in East Dundee, IL. The Fox River is about 38 degrees right now ... relatively warm when compared with today's frigid air temperature.
January Sauna
Very Cold Morning (Melagoo)
-18C or -1F in Burlington, ON ... and a beautiful sun-rise too!
Very Cold Morning

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Well, I would pay big money, NOT to see Press in a thong.
So its a win-win thing. Threaten them Press.
I just cancelled my subscription.........
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:
Thats great, Geoff.
What are Steelers ?
They are the football team all Pirates Endorse -STEELERS
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Keeper ...smart wife...Keep-her!

a cruise on the Black Swan would get the TREASURE chest filled
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting pottery:
Thats great, Goeff.
What are Steelers ?


I don't know.. but apparently they are in a bowl?
Sounds like some kind of drink?
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i dont even know why she said it
started by asking who press was explain then show her the piture
she said a thong would be a better draw then the bikini and people can donate to put clothes back on him starting with socks first all the way up to shirt and pants


She will fit in well here... good to see there is someone there who can control you :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Thats great, Geoff.
What are Steelers ?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey Pottery -- we ARE a very extreme bunch
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting pottery:
It is amazing how you guys have managed to keep "on topic" with this Blog.
"Fire and Ice: Extremes grip North America"


Yup :)
Always on topic and maintaining my S&I status
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
i dont even know why she said it
started by asking who press was explain then show her the piture
she said a thong would be a better draw then the bikini and people can donate to put clothes back on him starting with socks first all the way up to shirt and pants
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
.......or was that totally obscure ?
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Steelers are in the Super Bowl!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It is amazing how you guys have managed to keep "on topic" with this Blog.
"Fire and Ice: Extremes grip North America"
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Quoting Orcasystems:


---SPLASH---
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Orcasystems:


Trust me.. the thong did more to it then the cold water ever could.
You won... I'm momentarily speechless
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Keeper, your wife is sick, man.
Press in a thong? She needs help..........
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Quoting surfmom:
back to Blue body parts


----SPLASH---
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
We want to see you SPLASH Orca..... you go first LOL
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
back to Blue body parts
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting pottery:
315, Agree. Very Frustrating.
Orc is on thin ice. But then, he is accustomed.........


I thought I was flirting with the edge quite nicely :) Just staying on the thick parts... leaving the holes for someone else to fall in :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
press if ya really want to scare em my wife just said nuttin but a thong and orca should get the first piture
Whoooo HOOOO -- this could get HOt, HOT, HOT
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
if the word "bikini" didn't scare everyone....I suspect the word 'thong' did them in....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
315, Agree. Very Frustrating.
Orc is on thin ice. But then, he is accustomed.........
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Quoting pottery:
A neoprene bikini would be OK....
hummmm..Think I saw one of those in a Sports Illustrated Calender --Spring
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
press if ya really want to scare em my wife just said nuttin but a thong and orca should get the first piture



ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Your wife is a very mean person.. she will fit in fine with this bunch
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting presslord:
go ahead....keep it up....

...bikini season will soon be upon us....
press if ya really want to scare em my wife just said nuttin but a thong and orca should get the first piture
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting presslord:
y'all are giving me a treasure trove of material here....and I just can't use it...


I know what you mean.. it could get bad in a hurry. Had to go and get the extra strong Halo polish.. and I am still worried.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Chickens:
Big Black Mama - Black Australorps (1)
Zena -Rhode Island Red
Snowy -Red Star
Irene
Giget
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Alright y'all I am out. Mater needs to eat...and I don't even really want to be around this bikini discussion...Ughh...

Night all and please don't forget that we still need volunteers for the Spring Walk.

Going to watch ChuckTown's take on the potential for snow while Mater eats...
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y'all are giving me a treasure trove of material here....and I just can't use it...
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Quoting pottery:
KEH, thats Terrible.
Hope it has not left permanent, disturbing tendencies with you. Do you still eat duck?

Never quite figured out why she did it - suspect she was making some point

Love duck!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
Quoting KEHCharleston:
Evening all,

Surfmom - What kind of chickens do you have?

When I was a youngster we had a pet duck that kept eating the neighbors flowers, so said duck was banished to my grandparent's farm. We were visiting the farm, one Sunday - our usual supper was fried chicken. After eating our fill and expressing our appreciation, we were told we had just eaten QuackQuack


Watch out.. I am pretty sure Surfmom fries the eggs sunny side up.. or was it easy over...
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
A neoprene bikini would be OK....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting surfmom:
From your lips to the heavens Ears........ and Orca's talking snow... which do you prefer.... chick in neoprene or chick in bikini

wait a minute --there might be another hole here


This can't be good..... Neoprene... bikini's.. and now Surfmom's not sure where the holes might be....
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
KEH, thats Terrible.
Hope it has not left permanent, disturbing tendencies with you. Do you still eat duck?
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good evening all
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting presslord:
go ahead....keep it up....

...bikini season will soon be upon us....
From your lips to the heavens Ears........ and Orca's talking snow... which do you prefer.... chick in neoprene or chick in bikini

wait a minute --there might be another hole here
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
I think we should desist, Orca.
That bikini threat has me very concerned......
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Evening all,

Surfmom - What kind of chickens do you have?

When I was a youngster we had a pet duck that kept eating the neighbors flowers, so said duck was banished to my grandparent's farm. We were visiting the farm, one Sunday - our usual supper was fried chicken. After eating our fill and expressing our appreciation, we were told we had just eaten QuackQuack
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
Quoting presslord:



you're right....youth....and booze....shouldn't be wasted on the young....


Experience & Practice -- nothing like it
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
OMG..what a touchdown!!!!
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Quoting presslord:
go ahead....keep it up....

...bikini season will soon be upon us....


Shudder......
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting surfmom:

Methinks you are very capable of digging a hole for me to fall into....



True, but I would never push you into it :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
go ahead....keep it up....

...bikini season will soon be upon us....
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298.....
Thats Fantastic !
Oh MY !!
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Nope.. would I do that to you :)

Methinks you are very capable of digging a hole for me to fall into....

Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Quoting pottery:
Good point Orc. A complete Waste


Sort of puts that dress fetish into perspective now......
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Good point Orc. A complete Waste
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Quoting Orcasystems:


So technically.... you have been wasting perfectly good booze?

tsk tsk...



you're right....youth....and booze....shouldn't be wasted on the young....
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Quoting presslord:
She's still on my payroll...everything she 'owns' is mine....including her booze.....


So technically.... you have been wasting perfectly good booze?

tsk tsk...
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
She's still on my payroll...everything she 'owns' is mine....including her booze.....
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Quoting surfmom:
This feels like a trick question......


Nope.. would I do that to you :)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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