The U.S. and European cold blast: blame the NAO

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:00 PM GMT on January 07, 2010

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The Deep South shivered through another frigid morning today, with low temperature records crumbling again over much of Florida. Lakeland hit 27°F, smashing the old record of 34°F; Melbourne hit 28°F, eclipsing the old record of 32°F; and West Palm Beach bottomed out at 37°F, besting the old record of 38°F. The cold wave is being driven by an unusual sharp and persistent kink in the jet stream that is being blocked from moving by a strong ridge of high pressure over Greenland. As a result, an exceptionally strong surface high pressure of 1055 mb over the North Central U.S. is pushing large amounts of cold, Arctic air southwards from Canada. No coldest January temperature records have been set yet from the cold blast, but the 500 largest U.S. cities have been averaging about 11 new daily low temperature records per day the first five days of January, according to the National Climatic Data Center. The cold will ease Friday in the Deep South, but return with a vengeance Saturday night though Monday morning, as another push of cold air descending from Canada promises to bring a cold wave that will approach the December 1989 and January 1977 cold waves in intensity, and may being some new all-time January low temperature records to the South.

Colder in Florida than Alaska and Greenland
The sharp kink in the jet stream has brought record warm temperatures to a few stations in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest this week, making much of coastal Alaska warmer than Florida. Cold Bay, Alaska, set a record high yesterday of 47°F, after recording a low temperature of 30°F. This made Cold Bay warmer than Pensacola, Florida, which had a high of 47°F and a low of 24°F. In fact, most of Florida--including Jacksonville, Tampa, Melbourne, and Tallahassee--recorded lows at or below the 27°F low recorded in Anchorage, Alaska yesterday. The jet stream kink has also brought temperatures more than 30°F above average to Greenland. The temperature in Narsarsuaq, Greenland at 10am EST today was 46°F, far warmer than most of Florida.


Figure 1. Departure of the surface temperature from average for the first three day of 2010 shows much colder than average conditions were present over the Southeast U.S., much of Europe, and Central Asia. Much warmer than average temperatures were present over the Northwest U.S., Greenland, the Arctic, and Southern Asia. A sharp kink in the jet stream was responsible for the temperature anomaly pattern. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

Snow in Florida?
It doesn't snow very often in Florida, and the Wikipedia list of snow events in Florida lists only seven such events over the decade of the 2000s. This weekend's cold wave may be able to generate some snow over isolated regions of Central Florida, though it appears that the odds of this happening are less than 30%. The most widespread snowfall in Florida history occurred on January 19, 1977, when snow fell over much of the state, with flurries as far south as Homestead. Snow flurries also fell on Miami Beach for the only time in recorded history.


Figure 2. North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index for September 9, 2009 - January 6, 2010 (black line) and forecast from the GFS model (red lines). The NAO index was strongly negative, near -2.0, for much of December and January. Image credit: NOAA/CPC.

The winter cold blast: blame the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
Why has the winter been so cold over Eastern North America and northern Europe? Well, don't blame El Niño. El Niño winters are rarely this cold. Instead, blame the the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The NAO is a climate pattern in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. It is one of oldest known climate oscillations--seafaring Scandinavians described the pattern several centuries ago. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic Low and the Azores High,the NAO controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic. A large difference in the pressure between Iceland and the Azores (positive NAO) leads to increased westerly winds and mild and wet winters in Europe. Positive NAO conditions also cause the Icelandic Low to draw a stronger south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward. In contrast, if the difference in sea-level pressure between Iceland and the Azores is small (negative NAO), westerly winds are suppressed, allowing Arctic air to spill southwards into eastern North America more readily. Negative NAO winters tend to bring cold winters to Europe, and the prevailing storm track moves south towards the Mediterranean Sea. This brings increased storm activity and rainfall to southern Europe and North Africa.

The winter of 2009 - 2010 has seen a very strong negative NAO, causing much of our cold weather over Eastern North America and Europe. The NAO index for the month of December 2009 was -1.93, which is the third lowest NAO index since 1950 for a winter month (December, January, or February). The only winter months with a lower NAO index were February 1978 (-2.20) and January 1963 (-2.12). January 1963 was one of the coldest months on record in the UK and the Eastern U.S.. February 1978 was the coldest February on record for five U.S. states, and featured the historic blizzards in both the U.S. and UK. The NAO so far for January 2010 has continued to stay strongly negative, ranging between -1.5 and -2.1. However, the blocking ridge over Greenland is forecast to weaken next week, allowing the sharp kink in the jet stream to straighten out. This will increase the NAO index to more typical values, allowing a return of more ordinary winter weather to the U.S. and Europe.

Jeff Masters

From The Porch 1 (suzi46)
from our porch view of sunrise this morning..totally different from the 'splendiferous' shots 1-8 taken from the top of our field overlooking the mountains
From The Porch 1
First snow (Rowdyblue)
of winter in South Mississippi.
First snow
Wind blown snow (bikesnapper)
Like sand dunes or Antelope Canyon
Wind blown snow

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3229. atmoaggie
3:26 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
3228. nrtiwlnvragn
3:21 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
New Blog
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11274
3227. TampaSpin
3:16 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
We could really see one heck of a Snow Storm from this in the Tennessee Valley and NorthEast. And very severe Weather in the South!




Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
3226. atmoaggie
3:13 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting tornadodude:
Happy birthday Atmo!

Thanks, dude.

Hope yours was swell (at your age, you might have to look up that word...j/k)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
3225. atmoaggie
3:11 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting ElConando:
Just making sure is the N gulf storm still shown as nasty on the models?

The latest GFS run keeps it offshore until FWB, which the models having been trending to.

This could keep the severe threat to a minimum...that and a lack of surface warmth.

And it isn't as deep in the models as before. We used to have solutions of a sub-1000 mb low, now closer to 1005mb. Still will have rain, near-TS force winds, and the scattered T-storm, but will be a far cry from a 998 mb low tracking along, but just inland or, the GoM coastline.

We will know there is a solid low, but likely not a damaging system for a lot of folks.

SPC recognizes a threat will exist, but not all that impressed, either.

...
HOWEVER...CONSIDERABLE VARIABILITY LINGERS CONCERNING THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS FEATURE LIFTS OUT ACROSS THE GULF OF MEXICO AND SOUTHEASTERN U.S...AND THE STRENGTH/TRACK OF AN ASSOCIATED DEVELOPING SURFACE CYCLONE. ENOUGH INDICATIONS ARE PRESENT TO SUGGEST THAT AT LEAST LOW SEVERE PROBABILITIES WILL EXIST ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE CENTRAL/EASTERN GULF COAST... INCLUDING THE FLORIDA PENINSULA...PERHAPS NORTHEASTWARD THROUGH THE SOUTH ATLANTIC COAST...THIS COMING FRIDAY INTO SATURDAY. BUT...BOUNDARY LAYER DESTABILIZATION OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO SUPPORTIVE OF A MORE SUBSTANTIAL THREAT IS FAR FROM CERTAIN. WITH SUBSTANTIVE MOISTENING OVER THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO NOT LIKELY TO COMMENCE UNTIL LATE THIS WEEK.../POTENTIAL TOO LOW/ CATEGORIZATION FOR THE RISK OF A REGIONAL SEVERE WEATHER EVENT IS BEING MAINTAINED.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
3224. tornadodude
3:04 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
I'll be back later guys, time for math :P

loved my Communications class tho!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3222. tornadodude
3:00 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Happy birthday Atmo!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3221. WaterWitch11
3:00 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting presslord:
hhhmmm...killing the fruit is bad...killing the tree would be catastrophic...


we had a couple days of freezing here about a month ago. for one day we did not cover our lemon trees. it made the fruit pull away from the peel on the inside and there was no juice left in the fruit. even though it takes them awhile to figure out if the crops are damage, i would have to say that they are probably damaged for this this season. grandpa has a citrus orchard in so. california and when it freezes if they don't run those smut pot things their crops are toast for that season. JMO
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1681
3220. atmoaggie
2:59 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Warming up fast here after bottoming out at 14 F:

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
3219. HurricaneHunterGal
2:58 PM GMT on January 11, 2010

More mini icicles from the sleet in Orlando on Saturday
Member Since: August 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 249
3218. HurricaneHunterGal
2:55 PM GMT on January 11, 2010

Icicle on a leaf that formed from the sleet in Orlando on Saturday
Member Since: August 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 249
3217. HurricaneHunterGal
2:53 PM GMT on January 11, 2010

Icicles that formed from the sleet in Orlando on Saturday!
Member Since: August 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 249
3216. tornadodude
2:53 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
I run out of ideas for my blog :p
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3215. AussieStorm
2:52 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting AussieStorm:

I haven't been to my blog for ages... might go now

Yep, my blog is still there, and still automatically updating. Gotta love technology,
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
3214. ElConando
2:51 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Just making sure is the N gulf storm still shown as nasty on the models?
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3778
3213. tornadodude
2:50 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting lickitysplit:
Re:3209

Nah. I'm just here to read Dr. Masters.

Maybe his PC did freeze. Unless he was in Greenland where its in the 40s!


oh ok, I was gonna say you could work on your blog if you were getting bored, just a suggestion :p
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3212. lickitysplit
2:49 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Re:3209

Nah. I'm just here to read Dr. Masters.

Maybe his PC did freeze. Unless he was in Greenland where its in the 40s!
Member Since: May 17, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 631
3211. AussieStorm
2:49 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting tornadodude:


do you update your blog often?

I haven't been to my blog for ages... might go now
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
3210. ElConando
2:49 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
we've had below freezing low temps since jan 2. And predicted to have below freezing low temps through wed night. Fri and Sat are gonna be nice lows in my mid 40s mmmmm.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3778
3209. tornadodude
2:47 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting lickitysplit:
I'm ready for a new Dr. Master's post. No offense to you guys but...


do you update your blog often?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3208. AussieStorm
2:46 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting lickitysplit:
I miss Dr. Masters.

It's only been 4 days since this Blog was started. maybe his PC has frozen.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
3207. lickitysplit
2:46 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
I'm ready for a new Dr. Master's post. No offense to you guys but...
Member Since: May 17, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 631
3206. StormChaser81
2:45 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
32 degrees in St. Petersburg, FL. Had a thick layer of Ice in the back on my truck this morning from the sprinkler system.

Lots of reports coming in about little ponds or standing water being frozen with thin coat of ice.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
3205. IKE
2:44 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting lickitysplit:
I miss Dr. Masters.


?

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
3204. lickitysplit
2:42 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
I miss Dr. Masters.
Member Since: May 17, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 631
3203. AussieStorm
2:41 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Good Morning all... 1:40am and still toasty warm, I am going to have fun trying to get to sleep tonight.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
3201. StormChaser81
2:39 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting presslord:
Question: does the freeze kill the entire citrus tree...or just the fruit?


Damages the inside of the fruit.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2315
3200. tornadodude
2:37 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting Chicklit:
Bob's P.C. Connection, Kodiak, Alaska (PWS)
Updated: 8 sec ago
34.7 �F
Overcast
Windchill: 30 �F
Humidity: 81%
Dew Point: 30 �F
Wind: 3.6 mphfrom the East
Wind Gust: 10.5 mph
Pressure: 28.70 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Scattered Clouds 1500 ft
Mostly Cloudy 2600 ft
Overcast 3100 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 84 ft
Max Temperature: Min Temperature:
Normal (PADQ) 35 �F 25 �F
Record (PADQ) 45 �F (1984) 6 �F (1972)
Yesterday 43 �F 41 �F

Have a great day everyone.


that is really low pressure
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
3199. ElConando
2:36 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Bitterly cold last night went out in 24 degree weather cuz I was really hungry and ate subway. Then I went to a circle k for chapstick which they ran out of... Have to venture off of campus to get some I guess.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3778
3198. ElConando
2:19 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Quoting IKE:
Record Report

Statement as of 8:04 am EST on January 11, 2010

... Record low temperature set at Tallahassee...

A record low temperature of 14 degrees was set at Tallahassee this
morning. This breaks the previous record of 15 degrees set in 1982.


Finally a record was broken lol. Missed tieing records 2 other days by 1 degree.
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3778
3195. nrtiwlnvragn
2:02 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Excerpts from the Preliminary Extended Forecast Discussion

...ANOMALOUSLY STRONG SOUTHERN STREAM SYSTEM NEAR THE GULF COAST
LATE THIS WEEK...

SYSTEMS MOVING THROUGH THE SOUTHERN STREAM SHOULD BE MORE POTENT.

A LARGE AND ANOMALOUSLY DEEP CYCLONE MOVING THROUGH SOUTH TEXAS
AND THE GULF OF MEXICO DAYS 3-5 SHOWS GOOD AGREEMENT ON TRACK AND
INTENSITY...INCLUDING THE LIKELIHOOD OF HEAVY RAIN ACROSS PORTIONS
OF EASTERN TEXAS THE CENTRAL GULF COAST STATES.

ONCE THE SYSTEM LIFTS
OUT ALONG THE GULF COAST/DEEPENS NEAR AND OFFSHORE THE EAST
COAST...PRECIPITATION COULD START AND END AS FROZEN ACROSS THE
MID-ATLANTIC/NEW ENGLAND STATES THIS WEEKEND INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK.
STAY TUNED.


Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11274
3194. MikeHydrosoils
2:01 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
The North Atlantic Oscillation is merely an approximate and inaccurate description of changes noted over the zone during years
It is not a physical phenomenon explainable in science.

It is a Consequence of Russian European blocking highs which affect us at date
In association with north USA and Canada Rocky Mountain Arctic shifts of air, depending on how low pressure is from heat in the Caribbean and North Africa which allows cold dense air to drift south into the Mediterranean, forming winter rains.
The Jet stream is more complex and may be more effective and at this time the jet has taken air south,
So much so we had the US cold weather complex in a line across to the south North Atlantic bringing US snow to Europe south, which then curved back across Europe and brought cold snow air in from the north east upon us. North Africa has been very hot, so it would better to say the US weather on the East coast and offshore has been controlled by Africa and European has been controlled by Africa and Russian winter which is very deep cold, but then of course if you go that far across, the north Russian is the same as the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. The Japan China events have also been interesting. Mathematicians !! when will they do some physics?
This gives the air time to absorb moisture on Atlantic crossing and pick up Sahara dust for nuclei to form particles : ideal. Korea days and the same as snow in Israel presumed at the time of Jesus birth, from limited descriptions of shelter need. We seem to be moving back toward more normal weather on the 60 year shifts noted in rain data and Africa is receiving more rain which is needs to collect in reservoirs and start soil conservation to save its people. This drift and high pressure system in 1982 following cold resulted in drought dry wind state in England that took all the leaves off the trees by August, rattling dry, this would be common and the question is, will it again, while SW USA of course is heat and drought affected with scrub fires, partly enhanced by barbecue populations. Usual life again.
3193. IKE
2:00 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
6Z GFS @ 120 hours...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
3191. Chicklit
1:57 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Bob's P.C. Connection, Kodiak, Alaska (PWS)
Updated: 8 sec ago
34.7 F
Overcast
Windchill: 30 F
Humidity: 81%
Dew Point: 30 F
Wind: 3.6 mphfrom the East
Wind Gust: 10.5 mph
Pressure: 28.70 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Scattered Clouds 1500 ft
Mostly Cloudy 2600 ft
Overcast 3100 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 84 ft
Max Temperature: Min Temperature:
Normal (PADQ) 35 F 25 F
Record (PADQ) 45 F (1984) 6 F (1972)
Yesterday 43 F 41 F

Have a great day everyone.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
3190. Chicklit
1:52 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Daytona Beach (Ponce Inlet), FL, Daytona Beach, Florida (PWS)
Updated: 4 sec ago
35.0 °F
Clear
Windchill: 35 °F
Humidity: 64%
Dew Point: 24 °F
Wind: 2.0 mphfrom the WNW
Wind Gust: 10.0 mph
Pressure: 30.44 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 12 ft
Source for Current Conditions:
PWS & Airport Airport Only
The coldest it was today is 31.0 degrees between 7:20 and 7:40 this a.m. Looking for a heating trend to continue though me and the cat have never been so close!
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11390
3189. mara0921
1:49 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Want to report from Oakland Park. Widespread frost throughout Broward County this morning, mostly west of I-95 and especially west of the Turnpike. At my house the morning low was 31.2 degrees F. Frost covered all the cars in the parking lots and due to the spriklers coming on in the complex I live in automatically at 4 AM, a very crunchy lawn and icicles hanging from plants, cars, even the pavement froze over in spots. I love the cold, but I think 11 days of this is quite enough. Looking forward to the weekend when we should approach 80. Oh to be able to walk my dog in the morning in shorts, tank top and flip flops again..
Member Since: November 23, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 19
3188. Orcasystems
1:48 PM GMT on January 11, 2010


AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
3187. IKE
1:36 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Record Report

Statement as of 8:04 am EST on January 11, 2010

... Record low temperature set at Tallahassee...

A record low temperature of 14 degrees was set at Tallahassee this
morning. This breaks the previous record of 15 degrees set in 1982.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
3186. severstorm
1:35 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
jeff9641, weather still looking ugly this weekend
Member Since: November 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 959
3185. IKE
1:31 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Record Report

Statement as of 7:21 am EST on January 11, 2010

... Record low temperature set at West Palm Beach...

a record low temperature of 33 degrees was set at West Palm Beach today.
This breaks the old record of 34 set in 1927.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
3183. severstorm
1:21 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Hey biff, i agree with you on the freeze. Last year my orange tree got hit hard and the fruit this year was smaller and really sour.
Member Since: November 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 959
3182. biff4ugo
1:16 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
P.S. it can also kill the fruit producing part of the tree above the graft, and what grows back is sour orange stock. :-(
But hopefully the trees have been ice protected, smudge pot heated, or something.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 115 Comments: 1591
3181. biff4ugo
1:13 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
I beg to differ on the crop thing, I was here for the hard freezes in the 80's that wiped out the big orange groves in Marion and Lake county. It only took 3 days of hard freeze for that. I think this is day 5 or 6. The only difference is that it was much windier then.
Oh, and the trees are further south now.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 115 Comments: 1591
3180. severstorm
1:09 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
Ok guys I'm at work in Tampa and we have a pond out back and there is ice covering 1/2 of the pond crazy.
Member Since: November 25, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 959
3179. IKE
1:05 PM GMT on January 11, 2010
20.5 my low.

Sun is shining brightly now...warmer weather ahead!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860

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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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