Florida shivers; Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern is back

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:36 PM GMT on December 14, 2010

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Cold air sweeping southwards behind the fierce snowstorm that roared through the Upper Midwest over the weekend is bringing record low temperatures over much of the Southeast this morning. However, preliminary indications are that Central Florida's orange groves fared better than expected, and there were no reports of widespread damage to the orange crop. Record lows this morning included 32°F at West Palm Beach, 50°F in Key West, and 20°F in Jacksonville. Cold air flowing over the relatively warm waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are creating heavy lake-effect snows, with 5 – 9 inches of new snow expected near Cleveland, OH today, and 2 – 5 inches near Syracuse, NY.

Hot Arctic-Cold Continents
I'm in San Francisco this week for the world's largest gathering of Earth scientists, the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference. Over 15,000 scientists have descended upon the city, and there are a ridiculous number of fascinating talks on every conceivable aspect of Earth science, including, of course, climate change. One talk I attended yesterday was called, "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents: Hemispheric Impacts of Arctic Change.” The talk was given by Dr. Jim Overland of NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, one of the world's experts on Arctic weather and climate (I spent many long months flying in the Arctic with him during the three Arctic field programs I participated in during the late 1980s.) Dr. Overland discussed the remarkable winter of 2009 – 2010, which brought record snowstorms to Europe and the U.S. East Coast, along with the coldest temperatures in 25 years, but also brought the warmest winter on record to Canada and much of the Arctic. He demonstrated that the Arctic is normally dominated by low pressure in winter, and a “Polar Vortex” of counter-clockwise circulating winds develops surrounding the North Pole. However, during the winter of 2009-2010, high pressure replaced low pressure over the Arctic, and the Polar Vortex weakened and even reversed at times, with a clockwise flow of air replacing the usual counter-clockwise flow of air around the pole. This unusual flow pattern allowed cold air to spill southwards and be replaced by warm air moving poleward. This pattern is kind of like leaving the refrigerator door ajar--the refrigerator warms up, but all of the cold air spills out into the house.


Figure 1. Conceptual diagram of how Arctic sea ice loss affects winter weather, from NOAA's Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts web page.

The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)
This is all part of a natural climate pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which took on its most extreme configuration in 145 years of record keeping during the winter of 2009 – 2010. 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 U.S. East Coast, but leads to very warm conditions in the Arctic, since all the cold air spilling out of the Arctic gets replaced by warm air flowing poleward.

The winter of 2009 - 2010 had the most extreme negative NAO since record keeping began in 1865. This "Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern", resulting in a reversal of Polar Vortex and high pressure replacing low pressure over the Arctic, had occurred previously in only four winters during the past 160 years—1969, 1963, 1936, and 1881. Dr. Overland called the winter of 2009 – 2010 at least as surprising at the record 2007 loss of Arctic sea ice. He suspected that Arctic sea ice loss was a likely culprit for the event, since Francis et al. (2009) found that during 1979 - 2006, years that had unusually low summertime Arctic sea ice had a 10 - 20% reduction in the temperature difference between the Equator and North Pole. This resulted in a weaker jet stream with slower winds that lasted a full six months, through fall and winter. The weaker jet caused a weaker Aleutian Low and Icelandic Low during the winter, resulting in a more negative North Atlantic Oscillation, allowing cold air to spill out of the Arctic and into Europe and the Eastern U.S. Dr. Overland also stressed that natural chaos in the weather/climate system also played a role, as well as the El Niño/La Niña cycle and natural oscillations in stratospheric winds. Not every year that we see extremely high levels of Arctic sea ice loss will have a strongly negative NAO winter. For example, the record Arctic sea ice loss year of 2007 saw only a modest perturbation to the Arctic Vortex and the NAO during the winter of 2007 – 2008.

However, the strongly negative NAO is back again this winter. High pressure has replaced low pressure over the North Pole, and according to NOAA, the NAO index during November 2010 was the second lowest since 1950. This strongly negative NAO has continued into December, and we are on course to have a top-five most extreme December NAO. Cold air is once again spilling southwards into the Eastern U.S. And Europe, bringing record cold and fierce snowstorms. At the same time, warm air is flowing into the Arctic to replace the cold air spilling south--temperatures averaged more than 10°C (18°F) above average over much of Greenland so far this month. The latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model predicts that the Hot Arctic-Cold Continents pattern will continue for the next two weeks. However, the coldest air has sloshed over into Europe and Asia, and North America will see relatively seasonable temperatures the next two weeks.

For more information
The NOAA web page, Future of Arctic Sea Ice and Global Impacts has a nice summary of the “Hot Arctic-Cold Continents” winter pattern.

NOAA's Arctic Report Card is also a good source of information.

Francis, J. A., W. Chan, D. J. Leathers, J. R. Miller, and D. E. Veron, 2009: Winter northern hemisphere weather patterns remember summer Arctic sea-ice extent. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L07503, doi:10.1029/2009GL037274.

Honda, M., J. Inoue, and S. Yamane, 2009: Influence of low Arctic sea-ice minima on anomalously cold Eurasian winters. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08707, doi:10.1029/2008GL037079.

Overland, J. E., and M. Wang, 2010: Large-scale atmospheric circulation changes associated with the recent loss of Arctic sea ice. Tellus, 62A, 1.9.

Petoukhov, V., and V. Semenov, 2010: A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents. J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos., ISSN 0148-0227.

Seager, R., Y. Kushnir, J. Nakamura, M. Ting, and N. Naik (2010), Northern Hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/10, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L14703, doi:10.1029/2010GL043830.

Jeff Masters

Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub (UnobtrusiveTroll10)
At my house. Their little heat has created a tiny viewing hole.
Peeking Christmas Lights in Snowy Shrub
Berry Cold Strawberries (lshunter)
Astin Farms in Plant City, FL waters their strawberry crop to prevent damage from frost as temperatures drop into the 20s overnight on December 14, 2010. More cold temperatures expected tonight.
Berry Cold Strawberries

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243. IKE
Somebody in trouble on here over the white beaches? Uh...2...uh...3....uh....4
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Quoting kellnerp:

I thought Florida was proud of their white beaches?


We're extremely proud to stand in the "white stuff" in our bare feet and with the "just right tempeture" to down our favorite refreshment. We don't need cold and snow to make our beaches white.
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Quoting kellnerp:

I thought Florida was proud of their white beaches?


We are Dam proud of our beaches!!
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Quoting kellnerp:

I thought Florida was proud of their white beaches?


We are! What's your point?
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AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MOBILE AL
524 AM CST WED DEC 15 2010

.SHORT TERM [TODAY AND TONIGHT]...LATEST RADAR LOOPS OVER LOWER AL
CONTINUE TO SHOW LIGHT PRECIP MOVING SOUTHEAST OVER NORTHERN
SECTIONS OF THE CWFA. WITH LOWER DEWPTS TO THE EAST BELIEVE MOST OF
THE PRECIPITATION IS EVAPORATING BEFORE HITS THE GROUND. LATEST
MODEL SOUNDINGS DEPICT THAT MOST OF THE PRECIP WILL BE IN THE FORM
OF LIGHT DRIZZLE OR SLEET IF IT MAKES TO THE GROUND FOR THE NEXT 1
TO 2 HOURS CHANGING OVER TO LIGHT DRIZZLE OR RAIN GENERALLY AFTER
SUNRISE. OTHERWISE FOR TODAY EXPECT INCREASING CLOUDS FROM THE WEST
NORTHWEST IN RESPONSE TO A DEVELOPING AREA OF LOW PRESSURE NEAR THE
SFC MOVING EASTWARD OVER THE MID SECTION OF THE COUNTRY. THIS SYSTEM
REMAINS RATHER PROGRESSIVE WITH ITS MOVEMENT THROUGH TONIGHT DUE TO
A ZONAL ALOFT...MOVING JUST EAST OF THE MS RIVER VALLEY IN EASTERN
TN BY 12Z THU. AS THE AREA OF LOW PRESSURE PASSES TO THE NORTH OF
THE CWFA A BETTER ONSHORE DEVELOPS GIVING WAY TO INCREASING LOW TO
MID LEVEL MOISTURE TO MUCH OF THE CWFA LATE THIS EVENING THROUGH
EARLY THU MORNING. FOR NOW WILL CONTINUE TO MENTION ONLY SLIGHT
CHANCE POPS IN THE FORM OF SHOWERS FOR ALL AREAS OF THE CWFA LATER
TONIGHT AND EARLY THU MORNING DUE TO LIMITED INSTABILITY AND FORCING
IN THE LOWER TO MIDDLE LEVELS. AS FOR TEMPS HIGHS WILL RANGE MID 40S
TO LOWER 50S OVER EASTERN SECTIONS OF THE CWFA AND FROM THE MID TO
UPPER 50S OVER THE WESTERN HALF...WITH LOWS IN THE LOWER TO MID 40
TO THE EAST TONIGHT AND THE LOWER 50S TO THE WEST. DUE TO THE POOR
PERFORMANCE WITH THE MAV/MET GUIDANCE IN THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS
HAVE DECIDED TO LEAN TOWARDS THE PHYSICAL SOLUTION FROM MOSTLY THE
GFS THEN TWEAK FOR CONSISTENCY WITH THE SURROUNDING WFOS. 32/EE

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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Also 06Z GFS brings us a christmas cold front.

I thought Florida was proud of their white beaches?
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Quoting traumaboyy:
Doug and Ike...the Main map shows some possibly frozen precip just north of u guys.

And Good Morning!!



Models missed this precip. Not really amounting to much, just an oddity.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
...The ongoing record heat in the West is, obviously, leading to a lack of snow; New Mexico is practically snow-free, as are large parts of usually wintry Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. ...

Blame is on the jet stream. I was watching it this last week. A huge narrow bulge southwards with snow on the leading edge and cold inside. That bulge is gone now so things should come back to normal.
Seems like there is an area of precip coming in from the west, at least the northwest. Looks like Utah and Colorado should be getting some precip today and tomorrow with more on the way.
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235. IKE
Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Might get an isolated sleet pellet over your way Ike!


Nothing for now. Just out there.

Temp up to 36.1.
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Doug and Ike...the Main map shows some possibly frozen precip just north of u guys.

And Good Morning!!
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Also 06Z GFS brings us a christmas cold front.
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Might get an isolated sleet pellet over your way Ike!
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I bottomed out at 28 just around midnite. Cold Snap, snapped!
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Hey, CI... I always find it amazing to think that CI would even get below 60.... certainly doesn't seem like a normal thing. I saw some of the interior areas of Cuba were reporting into the low 50s at one point last night....
It is not a regular thing for it to go below 60 but it does happen. I remember one year it was actually in the 40's down here.
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229. IKE
Quoting PakaSurvivor:
Good Morning Ike and all. Low is Crestview FL was 22 this morning (19 yesterday) so it appears the warm up has started. Hee. High of 58 forecasted for today and 70 tomorrow. Come on warmth.


I'm at 35.6 now.

One more from SRV....

Caught up in a whirlwind can't catch my breath,
knee deep in hot water broke out in a cold sweat
Can't catch a turtle in this rat race,
feels like I'm losin' time at a breakneck pace........

Lookin' back in front of me in the mirror's a grin,
through eyes of love I see I'm really lookin' at a friend
We've all had our problems that's the way life is,
my heart goes out to others who are there to make amends



Link
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Good Morning Ike and all. Low is Crestview FL was 22 this morning (19 yesterday) so it appears the warm up has started. Hee. High of 58 forecasted for today and 70 tomorrow. Come on warmth.
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227. IKE
SRV and Dick Dale.....the pipeline....this should wake yer tail up.....

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Right. Gotta head out for a while. Will check in later as time permits. I should actually have internet access today! lol
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Wow. 72 in Pueblo? That's as warm as it got here yesterday... lol

Sure hope they start getting some precip. soon. Most of WY's summer water comes from melted winter snow runoff...
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Good morning. It is 64 here now but I agree not as cold as last week when it dropped down in the 50's.
Hey, CI... I always find it amazing to think that CI would even get below 60.... certainly doesn't seem like a normal thing. I saw some of the interior areas of Cuba were reporting into the low 50s at one point last night....
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My little hand-held thermometer told me 52 degrees when I brought it back in just now... it's already up to 58 since I brought it in 3 minutes ago... lol

It's pretty calm out there, which IIRC tends to lead to more rapid cooling.

Meanwhile our airport is reporting 63 degrees...
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As predicted, the ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows in the CONUS has switched around after two more days of highs outnumbering lows. In the past 24 hours, there have been 53 record highs (58 in Woodland, ME; 72 in Pueblo, CO; 85 in El Centro, CA) but 90 record lows (22 in Quincy, FL; 1 in Woodbury, TN; -29 in Owen, WI).

The ongoing record heat in the West is, obviously, leading to a lack of snow; New Mexico is practically snow-free, as are large parts of usually wintry Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. That's bad for ski operators and hunters, but devastating for farmers, as less snow obviously means less water for next year. Here's hoping things turn around before the Spring thaw kicks gets underway in just a few months.

By way of comparison: there's more snow on the ground in northern Dalton, Georgia, than there is in, say, Cody, Wyoming. Strange days, indeed...
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221. IKE
Temp up to 34.9...warmer air moving in. Cold snap about over:)
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Morning all.

We're at 61 here right now, and I expect it to drop another degree or two before the sun comes up. Still is not as cold as last week, though it sure has FELT colder, due IMO to the heavier winds than last week....

Good morning. It is 64 here now but I agree not as cold as last week when it dropped down in the 50's.
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Morning all.

We're at 61 here right now, and I expect it to drop another degree or two before the sun comes up. Still is not as cold as last week, though it sure has FELT colder, due IMO to the heavier winds than last week....

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temp 28.0 °F

dewpoint 15.5 °F

pressure 30.42in

wind Calm 0.0mph

humidity 59%
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Quoting spathy:

Please excuse Spathy.
Just having fun.
That post was just too ironically funny.
Come on if I can laugh at myself so you and I can laugh together.:O)


It's all fun and good. Except for dover. No sense of humor. Sad.
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Quoting spathy:

I suspect alot of things and know very little.
Did you have anything specific in mind?
Just a note!
That was a rhetorical post please dont answer.


see wumail, spathy
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Good evening Trauma!. I hope everything is cool at Panama City General.

For any Treekies out there there is 4 hr of "new" stuff about the Star Trek series on the Bio channel now. "Captains of the Final Frontier" is playing. Kirk had the most lovers, beat up the most bad guys and phasered the most. Picard reasoned his way out of the most jams and Janeway had her hairdos changed the mos.Sisco had the worse temper.Cool stuff.


Hope to catch a replay....no TV at work!!
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Quoting spathy:
Slight jab :o)
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 941


We suspect, spathy. You know.
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
And I remember that I posted a video and it was you who was immediately rude when I did. And I haven't been back. I'm not participating in your grudgefest.%uFFFD



Sorry, but it was you who started the rudeness by revengefully posting a tasteless video.

And I am not quite sure why you think my replies were rude.

99. DontAnnoyMe 7:54 PM EST on November 30, 2010

Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Since winter is about to start, time to warm up

(tasteless video here)

Not watching the weather tonite, dover?



105. DontAnnoyMe 9:42 PM EST on November 30, 2010

Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Sure I am and posting wikileaks cables uncensored if you want to see.

And yeah, posting over 300 comments about movie lines on Dr. Masters blog was stupid. No reason for that to be there. And this at the bottom of his blog is a good reason for that NOT to be there.

When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself.



Ya right sure, like nobody else goes off-topic. I see you haven't been around too long, at least with that handle.

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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
We'll see if PSL posts the comment I responded too after I posted a video there.  And keep your grudges to yourself, I don't care and neither does anyone else reading this blog.

I come here for weather observations and seeing what others post about weather where they live. Not to read drama.  Or engage with people who like to start drama.  So I'm going to see how the ignore feature works. 


Congratulations, genius. Hope that works out for ya.
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Spathy, posting that someone needs professional help is insulting and rude. There's a lot of good info here, and some good bloggers but also a lot of rude behavior.  I'm not sure this is a site I want to participate in much, outside of weatherhistorian's blog.


No more insulting or rude than some of the GW posts on here. And I also remember you posting a rude comment on another blog. The old glass houses idiom applies.
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Bah humbug!!!
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Spathy, posting that someone needs professional help is insulting and rude. There's a lot of good info here, and some good bloggers but also a lot of rude behavior.  I'm not sure this is a site I want to participate in much, outside of weatherhistorian's blog.


This coming from someone who posted a rude comment on a blog I participate in. Shall I quote it for others to see?

If you don't like the atmosphere here, don't publish your thoughts. Simple enough?
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414

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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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