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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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


LOL! Hey TB, here's some interesting early AM reading for you.

Link


Thanks!!
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view Yesterday's Weather
Lawrenceville-Vincennes Intl Airport
Lat: 38.76 Lon: -87.6 Elev: 430
Last Update on Dec 16, 1:53 am CST

Light Freezing Rain Fog/Mist

29 °F
(-2 °C)
Humidity: 89 %
Wind Speed: E 9 MPH
Barometer: 29.71" (1006.5 mb)
Dewpoint: 26 °F (-3 °C)
Wind Chill: 20 °F (-7 °C)
Visibility: 3.00 mi.
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Actually I usually smell that particular odor around my house more often than at work these days. I throw a lot of big parties so there you are. I do not understand the debate on that other junk and I don't care so I just normally ignore it!!


LOL! Hey TB, here's some interesting early AM reading for you.

Link
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Evening Trauma! You missed another dull night of GW debating.

My next door neighbor ELway just got back from the corner Tavern. He read some of the posts and said " f*** GW". He said the Earth's temperature feels fine to him. Then he passed out and I had to smell him as I dragged him home.

Do you have to smell the stale alcohol mixed with human body odor ever in your line of work?


Actually I usually smell that particular odor around my house more often than at work these days. I throw a lot of big parties so there you are. I do not understand the debate on that other junk and I don't care so I just normally ignore it!!
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Evening Trauma! You missed another dull night of GW debating.

My next door neighbor ELway just got back from the corner Tavern. He read some of the posts and said " f*** GW". He said the Earth's temperature feels fine to him. Then he passed out and I had to smell him as I dragged him home.

Do you have to smell the stale alcohol mixed with human body odor ever in your line of work?
Member Since: August 15, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1304
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


Hey there, our resident Paramedic. How's it going?


Very good soldier.....at work enjoying some of these homemade christmas goodies......working hard to maintain my panda bear shape!!!
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Quoting Orcasystems:
ROFLMAO... I just looked... exact same temp right now here...as it is in Tampa... now thats funnyNOT
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ROFLMAO... I just looked... exact same temp right now here...as it is in Tampa... now thats funny
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Done.



OK.
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Very interesting indeed.....Whatup Kori!!


Enjoying some sammiches.

You?
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Hey there, our resident Paramedic. How's it going?
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Done.
Member Since: October 30, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 707
Quoting KoritheMan:


Though not what your post was about, I must say that this is a rather nice example of vertical shear, which is usually not as easily apparent on radar as it is on satellite imagery.

Very interesting.


Very interesting indeed.....Whatup Kori!!
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Quoting Grothar:


Album??? You are giving your age away.


I say album...

and I'm 17. :P
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
Well if you want one you can ask. I didn't think you did though. I like giving hugs, it's fun and they're free!

The ones I'm scared of are atmoaggie and misanthrope. They have the big guns around here, when they fight I stay out of the way.

I don't think even Maxwell's Demon could cool either of them off!




Truce? I have no animosity for you. Wrong foot, perhaps.

I'll forgive and forget, if you will.
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
*gives DontAnnoyMe a big hug!

I don't get one? Dang.
Well if you want one you can ask. I didn't think you did though. I like giving hugs, it's fun and they're free!

The ones I'm scared of are atmoaggie and misanthrope. They have the big guns around here, when they fight I stay out of the way.

I don't think even Maxwell's Demon could cool either of them off!
Member Since: October 30, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 707
Quoting RipplinH2O:
I'm out. Art and science (yeah, I know, enough already!). Definitions might help too. I'll work on that tomorrow. Liked it all today. Thanks to the old guys for the much needed distraction. Night all...


LOL! Night.
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Sorry for the ad, it is what it is.




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Quoting atmoaggie:
Nope. you got the wrong idea about me.

I'm about what the data can tell you. Period. Without assumption. Without neglecting caveats.

You know that. This isn't the first time we've talked about that position, either. Another word for it would be objective.
;-)


BJ, I actually know my own mind pretty well and don't need you telling me what you think I know. What I know of you leads me to believe that you rigidly adhere to some core beliefs. Some might find that admirable but I find your subversion of fact and reality to try and lend credence to your ideology to be less than admirable. I know that others have conveyed the same message to you.

There's was a time, long ago, that I thought you were a reasonably together guy.

I'm willing to admit that I was mistaken.

BTW - Objective? I'm thinking delusional would be a better descriptor. Just my opinion, of course.





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Quoting RipplinH2O:
Thanks to the old guys for the much needed distraction. Night all...


You're welcome. Goodnight.
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Quoting Patrap:
NEXRAD Radar
San Juan, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI





* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPALITY

IN PUERTO RICO
FAJARDO

* UNTIL 130 AM AST

* AT 1150 PM AST...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
LIGHT TO MODERATE RAIN OVER THE WARNED AREA. HOWEVER PREVIOUS RAINS
WERE SUFFICIENT TO RAISE THE FAJARDO RIVER AT PARAISO TO FLOOD STAGE
OF 8 FEET. THIS LEVEL IS LIKELY TO RECEDE QUICKLY

NEVERTHELESS...DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF FLOOD WATERS. ONLY
A FEW INCHES OF RAPIDLY FLOWING WATER CAN QUICKLY CARRY AWAY YOUR
VEHICLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.
IF YOU ARE IN THE WARNING AREA MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY.
RESIDENTS LIVING ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS SHOULD TAKE IMMEDIATE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS
SWIFTLY FLOWING WATERS OR WATERS OF UNKNOWN DEPTH BY FOOT OR BY
AUTOMOBILE.



LAT...LON 1834 6568 1834 6564 1829 6564 1829 6571



SNELL


Though not what your post was about, I must say that this is a rather nice example of vertical shear, which is usually not as easily apparent on radar as it is on satellite imagery.

Very interesting.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
NEXRAD Radar
San Juan, Base Reflectivity 0.50 Degree Elevation Range 124 NMI





* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
THE FOLLOWING MUNICIPALITY

IN PUERTO RICO
FAJARDO

* UNTIL 130 AM AST

* AT 1150 PM AST...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
LIGHT TO MODERATE RAIN OVER THE WARNED AREA. HOWEVER PREVIOUS RAINS
WERE SUFFICIENT TO RAISE THE FAJARDO RIVER AT PARAISO TO FLOOD STAGE
OF 8 FEET. THIS LEVEL IS LIKELY TO RECEDE QUICKLY

NEVERTHELESS...DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF FLOOD WATERS. ONLY
A FEW INCHES OF RAPIDLY FLOWING WATER CAN QUICKLY CARRY AWAY YOUR
VEHICLE.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A FLASH FLOOD WARNING MEANS THAT FLOODING IS IMMINENT OR OCCURRING.
IF YOU ARE IN THE WARNING AREA MOVE TO HIGHER GROUND IMMEDIATELY.
RESIDENTS LIVING ALONG STREAMS AND CREEKS SHOULD TAKE IMMEDIATE
PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS
SWIFTLY FLOWING WATERS OR WATERS OF UNKNOWN DEPTH BY FOOT OR BY
AUTOMOBILE.



LAT...LON 1834 6568 1834 6564 1829 6564 1829 6571



SNELL
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I'm out. Art and science (yeah, I know, enough already!). Definitions might help too. I'll work on that tomorrow. Liked it all today. Thanks to the old guys for the much needed distraction. Night all...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
Quoting Patrap:
Wu-AGW Ping Pong..LIVE


:D
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Wu-AGW Ping Pong..LIVE
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Quoting misanthrope:


Always have been fond of those straw men, haven't you, BJ. I guess that, faced with having taken an untenable position, you need to create a phantom you can beat. Pathetic but that always has been your way.

If you read my comment you would know that I don't believe in absolutes. I'll leave that to the ideologues such as yourself.

Whatever. As compared to picking out only tiny slivers from my posts that you think you can beat on?
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54847
Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


REJECTED!!!!!


LOL!!
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
*gives DontAnnoyMe a big hug!*


REJECTED!!!!!
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Quoting misanthrope:


No actually, absolutists stay with the agenda and either try to twist the data to fit the the agenda or else simply deny the data exists if it doesn't prove malleable enough.

In short, absolutists have an agenda, good scientists don't.

Nope. you got the wrong idea about me.

I'm about what the data can tell you. Period. Without assumption. Without neglecting caveats.

You know that. This isn't the first time we've talked about that position, either. Another word for it would be objective.
;-)
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Quoting misanthrope:


No actually, absolutists stay with the agenda and either try to twist the data to fit the the agenda or else simply deny the data exists if it doesn't prove malleable enough.

In short, absolutists have an agenda, good scientists don't.

Then we agree to disagree...especially if you are trying to apply your definition of the term to Atmo. I've seen his definitions, I'm new to yours...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
*gives DontAnnoyMe a big hug!

I don't get one? Dang.
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Since you're all posting good songs, here's a classic fav of mine!

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One more for the night:

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*gives DontAnnoyMe a big hug!*


I think the report of 2 feet of snow in southern Louisiana in December 1895 is a mistake, but will welcome any correction.
Member Since: October 30, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 707
Quoting RipplinH2O:
Absolutists stay with the data and don't try to figure a way to apply it to an agenda...


No actually, absolutists stay with the agenda and either try to twist the data to fit the the agenda or else simply deny the data exists if it doesn't prove malleable enough.

In short, absolutists have an agenda, good scientists don't.

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."loco Choo Choo,....old schul"
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Oh one more thing.

Yesterday, the New York Times on it's weather page had that December 14 was the anniversary of Louisiana's heaviest 24 hour snowfall, 24" at Rayne LA, near Lafayette, LA.

In 1895

Most of us know about the Feb 1895 snowstorm that brought wild heavy snows to the western Gulf coast, on February 14-15.

24" in the same area 10 months later.

Looking at the Lake Charles office snow climatology page, I see no record of a heavy snowstorm in December 1895. Or even a light one.


Could it be that the New York Times made a mistake?
Member Since: October 30, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 707
Thought you might want to hear this from my adopted country.

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Quoting misanthrope:


There it is in a nutshell; atmoaggie is an oxymoron. There just aren't any absolutes in science. Certainly there's absolutes in religion, in politics and in ideology. But, bottom line, absolutes are generally a matter of faith and there's really not a place for faith in science.

Science has data, evidence, probability, hypothesis and theory. In science, we perform experiments and make observations. Science can tell you what happened yesterday but never exactly what will happen tomorrow - only what is most likely to happen tomorrow given our current state of understanding. Science is never the same two days in a row. Science is the eternal process of discovery as well as the documentation of that process. Science is never absolute. I love science.

Basically there are three rules of public policy: you can never know everything, you can never make everybody happy, and you should never delay action in the hope that you can do either. Waiting for perfect knowledge before making a decision is refuge of a coward.




Aww, couldn't talk about anything else in my post and had to resort to this? That's okay, I'm not mad. Nor will I attack, in kind.

True enough, though, some things will never be absolute. But, I stand by opinion on the science with absolutism, but a condition of extreme confidence works, too.

For example, there is no absolute forecast for a landfall location of a hurricane 2 days out. But, we are at a point where a 2 day forecast can, and often does, allow for significant confidence in the forecast track. Enough to warrant acting upon it. Current attribution and forecasts of AGW conditions? Nowhere close.

Some folks that only see what they hope to see and are more willing to neglect caveats, unknowns, and assumptions will disagree and claim that the AGW evidence and prognostications are iron-clad. Okay. Your opinion.

That does not make you nor others anti science, just a different acceptable amount of unknown and assumption exists between people. Additionally, that acceptable amount is infinitely variable.
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


And as he is detected, so shall he be exposed.


Bat-phone.
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Agreed, same person on the other end, I believe. SSI was perma-banned, yet has continued to try to creep back in, numerous times.


And as he is detected, so shall he be exposed.
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Quoting Grothar:


Album??? You are giving your age away.



LOL. Moving Pictures are still unaccustomed.
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This is a song that would go with every girl that we ever liked:

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Quoting misanthrope:


There it is in a nutshell; atmoaggie is an oxymoron. There just aren't any absolutes in science. Certainly there's absolutes in religion, in politics and in ideology. But, bottom line, absolutes are generally a matter of faith and there's really not a place for faith in science.

Science has data, evidence, probability, hypothesis and theory. In science, we perform experiments and make observations. Science can tell you what happened yesterday but never exactly what will happen tomorrow - only what is most likely to happen tomorrow given our current state of understanding. Science is never the same two days in a row. Science is the eternal process of discovery as well as the documentation of that process. Science is never absolute. I love science.

Basically there are three rules of public policy: you can never know everything, you can never make everybody happy, and you should never delay action in the hope that you can do either. Waiting for perfect knowledge before making a decision is refuge of a coward.




You had me...right up to the last sentence. I can't speak for Atmo, but I think he meant everything you said, right up to the last sentence. That is science. The problem is when scientists become politicians/agendists and stop going with data, evidence, probability, hypothesis and theory. Absolutists stay with the data and don't try to figure a way to apply it to an agenda...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:


A great album. LOL. Nice, Pat!


Album??? You are giving your age away.
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About

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