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 PrivateIdaho:
Here's a picture of Grothar waiting for the primordial Earth to cool.

IR


Now that was Global Warming.
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Quoting BigToe:
It's not "Global Warming" anymore, It's now called " Climate Change". Soooo, It's CC, not GW. "Hope and Change" we cleared up. (Puts hands on temples, tilts head , and stares at the camera) :-)

Nature doesn't give a fig what we call it: Global Warming. Climate Change. The Big Melt. Exxon's Gift To Man. Denier's Disaster. The Coming Climate Catastrophe. Fossil Fuel's Final Foolish Folly. Whatever. All nature knows is that things are getting rapidly warmer--and most scientists know that CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels is the primary reason why.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13252
HEY AMY!! Is the vision coming back?

At least we should all be safe from hurricanes!
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442. Inyo
Dr Masters: From the latest GFS model, it appears that a low pressure area originating in Nova Scotia may travel almost as far northwest as Alaska! This makes it appear that the point around which the jet stream rotates is actually centering around the continent rather than the Artcic! Is this possible?
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For West Palm Beach...Finally!

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hahahahaha!

:)
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438. NRAamy 11:48 PM GMT on December 15, 2010
434. BigToe 3:39 PM PST on December 15, 2010

I don't have to speak, she defends me, A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one....



can you hear me yodeling now?

:)


Oh Yeah!!
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434. BigToe 3:39 PM PST on December 15, 2010

I don't have to speak, she defends me, A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one....




can you hear me yodeling now?

:)
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Here's a picture of Grothar waiting for the primordial Earth to cool.

IR
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I don't have to speak, she defends me, A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one....
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
It's not "Global Warming" anymore, It's now called " Climate Change". Soooo, It's CC, not GW. "Hope and Change" we cleared up. (Puts hands on temples, tilts head , and stares at the camera) :-)
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Quoting NRAamy:
"Up on KrippleCreek, she sends me...."
"If I spring a leak, she mends me..."
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

That same storm dropped over a foot on Galveston Island (15.4"), 20" in Houston (1.90" liquid equivalent), and an impressive for anyone 30" on the coastal city of Beaumont!


30" on the coastal city of Beaumont! That's a lot of snow!!
Do anyone here think what caused this Deep South Super Snowstorm was caused by a huge transitioing hurricane to a huge Extratropical cyclone in the Gulf of mexico once it hit the already cold arctic air that was in place to the north it transitioned to a Extratropical cyclone Anyone have another idea what caused the Deep South Snow Storm of 1895?
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Quoting Dakster:


Ahh HA! Caught ya'.

lol... Just funning you Grothar. You always brag about how you remember when dinosuars roamed the earth and the dirt was new.


Ahh Ha, to you, too! I was right after dinosaurs and right before "Thinking Man" Too bad they couldn't have kept thinking; it would have helped. LOL
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Quoting Grothar:


The blizzard of 1888 was much worse. We couldn't, I mean I read they couldn't, get around for days.


Ahh HA! Caught ya'.

lol... Just funning you Grothar. You always brag about how you remember when dinosuars roamed the earth and the dirt was new.
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Quoting Grothar:


The blizzard of 1888 was much worse. We couldn't, I mean I read they couldn't, get around for days.

yes that one looks to be the worst one. but I guess the Great Blizzard of 1899 may be the coldest Arctic cold outbreaks. maybe I am wrong anyone here know foe sure? Fort Logan, Montana: −61 °F
Minden, Louisiana: −16 °F (−27 °C)
Sandy Hook, Kentucky: −33 °F (−36 °C)
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Dak is good at picking..... he even helped me pick the fork out of my right eye awhile back....
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Quoting gustavcane:
Does anyone have an idea of what caused the February 1895 Gulf Coast Snowstorm? Baton Rouge Louisiana had 12.5" Inches of snow!!! Lake Charles Louisiana has 22.0" Inches of snow!!!
Link
Link
Link

That same storm dropped over a foot on Galveston Island (15.4"), 20" in Houston (1.90" liquid equivalent), and an impressive for anyone 30" on the coastal city of Beaumont!
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Quoting NRAamy:
Groth!!!!!!!

:)


AMY!!!! Dakster is picking on me again.
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Quoting gustavcane:


here is one Great Blizzard of 1899.Link



The blizzard of 1888 was much worse. We couldn't, I mean I read they couldn't, get around for days.
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Does anyone have an idea of what caused the February 1895 Gulf Coast Snowstorm? Baton Rouge Louisiana had 12.5" Inches of snow!!! Lake Charles Louisiana has 22.0" Inches of snow!!!
Link
Link
Link
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Quoting Dakster:


Grothar and Floodman do. They were around in 1889.


Twit!
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What an unusual jet stream pattern, even for La Nina. The main jet rushes onshore North America at California, before moving toward Alabama, riding east of the Gulf Stream, before bending west. In Canada, it actually rushes across the Gulf of St. Lawrence in southern Newfoundland and Labrador, northwest across Quebec, into Hudson Bay, then north across Nunavut, just under the North Pole and diving into Europe!

This means that Western Greenland is under more of a warm air mass than southern Tennessee. In fact, Nuuk, the capital of Greenland in the southern part of the island sub-continental country, is only 1C cooler than Memphis, Tennessee, and both places are above freezing. Meanwhile, it's expected to rain tonight in Goose Bay, Labrador. This pattern is allowing for cold air to funnel off parts of Hudson Bay and bring more moisture to aid the snowsqualls in Southern Ontario. The Hudson Low is of course enforcing this pattern, and the usual La Nina CONUS warmth may resurface while western and central Canada stay cold. Warm Gulf Stream air is thus diverted over Arctic Canada, and to the west of Greenland resulting in that same diversive anomaly witnessed last winter.

This pattern should mean that the eastern half of Hudson Bay, at least, remains entirely unfrozen due to the influx of Gulf Stream and central Atlantic air. In fact, SSTs in the MDR and Caribbean are even warmer than this time last year, which does not bode well for the 2011 hurricane season given that El Nino usually cools the MDR region. Let's check the sea ice extent in Hudson Bay.

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Hey Neo - Did you read the Dec 15 2010 Media Matters article you linked? here is the Fox memo:
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data...

...we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

Note the date was more than a year ago. I see no problem. What is your big deal?
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Quoting KrippleCreekFerry:
I have a question? What cold snap is considered to be the worse in the modern history of the US in the last 150 yrs or so since records were kept?


here is one Great Blizzard of 1899.Link

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"Up on KrippleCreek, she sends me...."
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Groth!!!!!!!

:)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
everyone remembers 1989 the question is do you remember 1889


Grothar and Floodman do. They were around in 1889.
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Quoting misanthrope:

Hey BJ! You might want to wipe that little bit of spittle off of your chin.



I don't think that is spittle...
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everyone remembers 1989 the question is do you remember 1889
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Good thing I am a centrist. I don't like the extreme right or left...

Now, is there another cold blast coming down to Florida? Is this weekend going to still be "warm" as predicted? 80F is supposed to be the high on Saturday. (with rain of course)
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Quoting gustavcane:


That 8 °F (1989) on December 23 1989 was the coldest temperature that Baton Rouge Louisiana has ever had.


Now that one I remember.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
da dum, chhhhhh.
lmao.

Hey BJ! You might want to wipe that little bit of spittle off of your chin.

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Quoting gustavcane:


here is another cold one in the deep south two days before Christmas December 23 1989.
Link


That 8 °F (1989) on December 23 1989 was the coldest temperature that Baton Rouge Louisiana has ever had.
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Quoting Grothar:


I wasn't born yet.


here is another cold one in the deep south two days before Christmas December 23 1989.
Link
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
I get home from a hard day and expect to catch up on the latest winter weather and what do I get? More of the worn out GW discussion. Do you realize just about everything has been said about it already. I think some of you just like to run your mouths. You are changing NOTHING in the World with your crusade. Please ease off of it for the holidays. Besides GW is a big joke!

(sarcasm flag ON)
I'm sure glad you cleared that up. I was worried that GW was for real.

Why don't you go to a non-GW blog then if you're so fed up?

Heck, you can go to Accuweather's blog and consort with all the like minded anti-GW people there! Then you wouldn't have to listen to all of those people who agree with all those stupid PHD scientists. They are clueless compared to the almighty Joe Bastardi.

*ROLLS EYES*
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2895


Quoting Grothar:


I wasn't born yet.

here is another cold one in the deep south two days before Christmas December 23 1989.
http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KBTR/1989/12/23/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state =NA&req_statename=NA
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Quoting gustavcane:
Hey everyone, How about a cold weather event like this in the deep south like it was on Christmas Day December 25 1983 where I live. Link I still remember that bitter cold Christmas Eve night and Day after all these years. I was 13 years old then and that was the coldest Christmas Day that I can remember. Anyone else remembers that cold 1983 christmas?


I wasn't born yet.
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Good evening.
Plenty of rain here today, and will continue into the night.
Flash-flood and landslide warnings are up, all over....

But, at least it is not Cold!

Orca told me- privately. so dont say I said anything- that he was going to do this to you all.
But I did not believe him, at the time.
He seems to have some Powerful Mojo of a Northern kind.
heheheheh
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Hey everyone, How about a cold weather event like this in the deep south like it was on Christmas Day December 25 1983 where I live. Link I still remember that bitter cold Christmas Eve night and Day after all these years. I was 13 years old then and that was the coldest Christmas Day that I can remember. Anyone else remembers that cold 1983 christmas?
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Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
I don't see Media Matters as a joke. People who think so have had all day and haven't come up with one false post they've made.

I think they did a very good job in publicizing that memo at Fox News requiring their people to state the denier viewpoint.


You don't have to! We're all entitled to our opinion. It's my opinion that the left tries to cram theirs down everybody elses throat.
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Quoting Dakster:
Ripplin - I like your avatar...
Thank you!! Now get off my lawn...
Member Since: July 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 491

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About JeffMasters

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