Remarkably dry and warm winter due to record extreme jet stream configuration

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:06 PM GMT on January 06, 2012

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Flowers are sprouting in January in New Hampshire, the Sierra Mountains in California are nearly snow-free, and lakes in much of Michigan still have not frozen. It's 2012, and the new year is ringing in another ridiculously wacky winter for the U.S. In Fargo, North Dakota yesterday, the mercury soared to 55°F, breaking a 1908 record for warmest January day in recorded history. More than 99% of North Dakota had no snow on the ground this morning, and over 95% of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover. High temperatures in Nebraska yesterday were in the 60s, more than 30° above average. Storm activity has been almost nil over the past week over the entire U.S., with the jet stream bottled up far to the north in Canada. It has been remarkable to look at the radar display day after day and see virtually no echoes, and it is very likely that this has been the driest first week of January in U.S. recorded history. Portions of northern New England, the Upper Midwest, and the mountains of the Western U.S. that are normally under a foot of more of snow by now have no snow, or just a dusting of less than an inch. Approximately half of the U.S. had temperatures at least 5°F above average during the month of December, with portions of North Dakota and Minnesota seeing temperatures 9°F above average. The strangely warm and dry start to winter is not limited to the U.S--all of continental Europe experienced well above-average temperatures during December.


Figure 1. Flowers sprouting on January 1, 2012 in Keene, New Hampshire, thanks to unusually warm December temperatures and lack of snow. Image credit: Wunderphotographer lovne32.


Figure 2. Departure of snow depth from average on January 6, 2011. More than 95% of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover (yellow and orange colors.) Image credit: NOAA/National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center.

December 2011 jet stream pattern the most extreme on record
The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic's portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe--the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865.) The AO during December 2011 had its second most extreme December value on record, behind the equally unusual December of 2006. These positive AO/NAO conditions caused the Icelandic Low to draw a strong south-westerly flow of air over eastern North America, preventing Arctic air from plunging southward over the U.S. and Europe.




Figure 3. December 2011 temperatures in Europe and the U.S. were well above average, thanks to a positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Compare the U.S. plot with the plot of typical departures of temperature from average due to the positive phase of the AO (Figure 4.) The two patterns are nearly identical. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.


Figure 4. The departure of temperature from average in Centigrade during the November - December - January period during various phases of the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Positive AO conditions lead to warm winters in the U.S., while negative AO conditions lead to cold winters. Image credit: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.

Wild swings in the December Arctic Oscillation
This winter's remarkable AO/NAO pattern stands in stark contrast to what occurred the previous two winters, when we had the most extreme December jet stream patterns on record in the opposite direction (a strongly negative AO/NAO). The negative AO conditions suppressed westerly winds over the North Atlantic, allowing Arctic air to spill southwards into eastern North America and Western Europe, bringing unusually cold and snowy conditions. The December Arctic Oscillation index has fluctuated wildly over the past six years, with the two most extreme positive and two most extreme negative values on record. Unfortunately, we don't understand why the AO varies so much from winter to winter, nor why the AO has taken on such extreme configurations during four of the past six winters. Climate models are generally too crude to make skillful predictions on how human-caused climate change may be affecting the AO, or what might happen to the AO in the future. There is research linking an increase in solar activity and sunspots with the positive phase of the AO. Solar activity has increased sharply this winter compared to the past two winters, so perhaps we have seen a strong solar influence on the winter AO the past three winters. Arctic sea ice loss has been linked to the negative (cold) phase of the AO, like we observed the previous two winters. Those winters both had near-record low amounts of sunspot activity, so sea ice loss and low sunspot activity may have combined to bring a negative AO.


Figure 5. The December Arctic Oscillation (AO) index has fluctuated wildly over the past six years, with the two most extreme positive and two most extreme negative values on record. Image credit: NOAA/Climate Prediction Center.

The forecast for the remainder of January
We will (finally!) get the first major storm of 2012 in the U.S. early next week, when a low pressure system will develop over Texas and spread heavy rains of 1 - 3" along a swath from Eastern Texas to New England during the week. This storm will pull in a shot of cold air behind it late in the week, giving near-normal January temperatures to much of the country, and some snow to northern New England. Beyond that, it is difficult to tell what the rest of winter may hold, since the AO is difficult to predict more than a week or two in advance. The latest predictions from the GFS model show the current strongly positive AO pattern continuing for at least the next two weeks, resulting in very little snow and warmer-than-average temperatures. If we don't get significant snows during the latter part of winter, the odds of a damaging drought during the summer in the Midwest will rise. The soils will dry out much earlier than usual without a deep snow pack to protect them, resulting in a much earlier onset of summer-like soil dryness. Water availability may also be a problem in some regions of the west due to the lack of snow melt. Fortunately, most Western U.S. reservoirs are above average in water supply, due to the record-breaking snows of the previous winter.

Jeff Masters

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Wiki states that Rita was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. Rita had 180 mph winds, but Camille had 190 mph winds. The pressure was lower in Rita than Camille. Rita was 26.43 and Camille at 26.61. It would be at least somewhat logical to say that Camille was actually more intense since it is the wind and the storm surge that do most of the damage, not the central pressure. The size and strength of the storm has more to do with storm tide then the low barometric reading...it is interesting.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22974
Yes, lots of heat in the deep tropics still.

Caribbean Jan 7, 2011.


Caribbean Jan 7, 2012.


Nearly 3C higher than last year in some shallow areas, while nearly 2C higher than last year in the northwest Carb.

The TCHP difference is quite impressive though.

Caribbean Jan 7, 2011.


Caribbean Jan 7, 2012.


If you look basin wide, this time in 2011 most of the heat was in the Eastern Atlantic, while this year it's mainly in the west. I'm only guessing, but it might be a more destructive year per storm than 2011 (not that it will be more destructive, as I doubt we will have the activity)

EDIT: Looking back in the archive another year, 2010 and 2012 seem to be very close at this time.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
Quoting hydrus:
How about a radar shot of 1985,s Gloria.?


Don't have a radar shot, but I found this...

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Rita in the formative stage..
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




...Anymore from anybody?
How about a radar shot of 1985,s Gloria.?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22974
This is what a lack of deep south cold fronts do to GOM SSTs. This was then (2011):
Uh-oh

...and this is now (2012):
Uh-oh

If things don't start cooling off soon--and they very well may--2012 could end up with a bit of a head start.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13920
Quoting Xandra:

THE WINNER OF THE 2011 CLIMATE B.S.* OF THE YEAR AWARDS IS:

Second Place: Disinformation from Fox News and Murdoch’s News Corporation


This guy better watch out, he included himself in his own list:

Peter Gleick "...has published many scientific articles. He serves as a major source of information on water and climate issues for the media, and has been featured on CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, NPR, in articles in The New Yorker, and many other outlets..."
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

This is the last radar image for Rita before the radar station was knocked out.



Rita wuz a monstah.....
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Quoting petewxwatcher:




Courtesy of the BBC Austria hit by heavy snow, major railway line shut

Sorry. Alps are getting heavy snow.


Courtesy of BBC:

Swiss ski resorts hit by drought

They had no snow in December.
Member Since: November 19, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 1286
Quoting WxGeekVA:
Man, does this blog need a good blizzard....
Last
Quoting WxGeekVA:
Man, does this blog need a good blizzard....
Last year got a lotta people hooked on blizz trackin. To me it is neat to watch them develop.
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Quoting CrozetDutch:
I just read that the AO index had a RECORD HIGH value in December of 2.5, explaining the extreme wetnss and warmth in Northern Europe (and no snow in the Alps).




Courtesy of the BBC Austria hit by heavy snow, major railway line shut

Sorry. Alps are getting heavy snow.
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I just read that the AO index had a RECORD HIGH value in December of +2.5, explaining the extreme wetnss and warmth in Northern Europe (and no snow in the Alps).
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Man, does this blog need a good blizzard....
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501. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Fiji Meteorological Services
Tropical Disturbance Summary
TROPICAL DISTURBANCE 03F
TROPICAL DEPRESSION 04F
TROPICAL DISTURBANCE 05F
9:00 AM FST January 9 2012
==================================

At 21:00 PM UTC, Tropical Disturbance 03F (1001 hPa) located at 22.5S 175.8W remains slowly moving. Position POOR based on multispectral visible/infrared imagery and surface observations. Sea surface temperature is around 28-29C.

Convection has been irregular near the low level circulation center for the last 12 hours.

Global models expect 03F to weaken as it moves south.

Tropical Disturbance will not develop into a tropical cyclone.

System #2
---------

At 21:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression 04F (1000 hPa) located at 18.1S 153.6W is reported as slow moving. Position FAIR based on GOES visible imagery and surface observations. Sea surface temperature is around 28-29C

Convection remains persistent in the last 24 hours. The exposed low level circulation center lies just to the west of the area of enhanced convection. Organization has increased in the last 24 hours. Cyclonic circulation extends up to 500 HPA. 04F lies just to the east of an eastward moving 250 HPA trough in a strong sheared environment.

Global models have picked up td04f and move it southeast with no intensification.

The potential for td04f to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours is LOW.

System #3
--------

At 21:00 PM UTC, Tropical Disturbance 05F (1002 hPa) located at 17.5S 169.7W is reported as slowly moving. Position POOR based on multispectral visible/infrared imagery and surface observations. Sea surface temperature is around 28-29C.

Convection remains persistent in the last 24 hours with the low level circulation center difficult to locate. Organization has slightly increased in the last 12 hours. 05F lies under the 250 HPA ridge axis with a good upper divergence and along a surface trough. Cyclonic circulation extends Up to 750 HPA. 05F lies under a weak sheared environment.

Global models have picked up td05f and slowly move it in the east-southeastward with some intensification.

The potential for td05f to develop in a tropical cyclone in the next 24 to 48 hours is LOW to MODERATE
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Quoting Articuno:
Did everyone ditch me or something??

...I guess so...
:(
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Did everyone ditch me or something??
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Hurricane Rita.

This is the last radar image for Rita before the radar station was knocked out.



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Miami NWS Discussion

AS THE AFOREMENTIONED SHORTWAVE PULLS INTO THE MISSISSIPPI VALLEY
LATE TUESDAY, IT WILL DEEPEN IN RESPONSE TO GOOD UPPER LEVEL
FORCING. HOWEVER, AT THE SAME TIME, A MID LEVEL RIDGE WILL BE
BUILDING OVER THE CARIBBEAN. THE ENSUING WEST TO SOUTHWEST FLOW
WILL KEEP THE BEST DYNAMICS WITH THIS SYSTEM WELL TO OUR NORTH
AND WEST, ALTHOUGH ITS TRAILING COLD FRONT WILL STILL PASS
THROUGH THE LOCAL AREA LATE WEDNESDAY WITH AT LEAST SOME ISOLATED
TO SCATTERED SHOWER ACTIVITY EXPECTED. THE LATEST OPERATIONAL
MODELS SHOW THE FRONT EXITING THE REGION EARLY THURSDAY WITH
TEMPERATURES DROPPING SEVERAL DEGREES BY FRIDAY AS DRY CONDITIONS
RETURN. WHILE DAYTIME HIGHS WILL BE IN THE UPPER 70S TO AROUND 80
IN MANY AREAS WEDNESDAY (AND POTENTIALLY THURSDAY), THE 12Z GFS
GUIDANCE SHOWS MAX TEMPS MAINLY IN UPPER 60S TO LOWER 70S FOR
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY WITH LOWS RANGING THROUGH THE 40S AND LOW 50S
(AND SOME UPPER 30S IN A FEW INTERIOR LOCALES). DESPITE GUIDANCE
TRENDING COOLER BEHIND THE FRONT, WE WILL NOT MAKE ANY CHANGES TO
THE EXTENDED FORECAST AT THIS TIME GIVEN THE INCONSISTENCIES OVER
THE PAST FEW MODEL CYCLES. EVEN IF THE COOLER SOLUTION WERE TO
VERIFY, RIGHT NOW IT STILL DOES NOT APPEAR THAT A MAJOR COLD AIR
OUTBREAK WILL ENVELOP THE REGION.

For West Palm Beach...

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Hurricane Rita.
Quoting Articuno:
Frances and Jeanne over Florida?

Ok.
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.
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Frances and Jeanne over Florida?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




...Anymore from anybody?

Hurricane Rita.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
TA13 could you do Isabel next too please....?




...Anymore from anybody?
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Quoting Ameister12:
TA13, how about Ike making landfall in Texas.

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2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards

January 5, 2011 – The second annual Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards were announced today on the Huffington Post and Forbes blogs by Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, and simultaneously on a number of environment and climate blogs. These “Bad Science” awards go to particularly egregious, notorious, or well-publicized examples of bad climate science that were produced, cited, or used over the past 12 months to try to influence or confuse the public and policymakers. Nominations for the 2011 “bad climate science” awards came in from around the world and were reviewed, analyzed, and voted on by a panel of climate scientists and climate communicators. For this year, nearly 20 nominations were received and judged.

THE WINNER OF THE 2011 CLIMATE B.S.* OF THE YEAR AWARDS IS:

All of the Republican candidates for President

Second Place: Disinformation from Fox News and Murdoch’s News Corporation

Third Place: Spencer, Braswell, and Christy

Fourth Place: The Koch Brothers for funding the promotion of bad climate science

Fifth Place: Anthony Watts for his BEST hypocrisy

Runners-Up in 2011 included:

Harrison Schmitt and the Heartland Institute for “Arcticgate” (documented errors in denying disappearance of Arctic sea ice); Rush Limbaugh for his consistent falsehoods about climate science; and Steve McIntyre for his smear of climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read the full Climate B.S. of the Year Awards details.
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-
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The other thing I wanted to point out KoritheMan is that, Katrina had a very similar structure to Georges at its Florida landfall.

Katrina:



Georges:



Quoting WxGeekVA:
TA13 could you do Isabel next too please....?

Yes, just as soon as I do Ike.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




Thanks bro.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Do Gustav when you can.


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TA13 could you do Isabel next too please....?
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Quoting Ameister12:
TA13, how about Ike making landfall in Texas.

Yes, I'm doing Gustav for KoritheMan and I wanted to show him something, but afterwards I will do Ike.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 33120
I don't know what happened around when Georges made landfall, but..

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TA13, how about Ike making landfall in Texas.
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Quoting SPLbeater:


i know about it cuz i seen Reed Timmers footage of it and i read the book he wrote. he wrote bout it thru the book. :D


Aren't you the one being home schooled?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Georges at Puerto Rico landfall:



Georges at Key West, FL landfall:



Whoa, didn't realize how lopsided the storm was at that point (Fig 2). That explains why it failed to intensify significantly before hitting the Gulf Coast.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Georges was a Category 3 when it hit PR, right?

Also, I found this loop of Irene making landfall in PR.

Yes, a minimal Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph.

Quoting KoritheMan:


Do Gustav when you can.

Will do in just a little bit.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Georges at Puerto Rico landfall:


Georges was a Category 3 when it hit PR, right?

Also, I found this loop of Irene making landfall in PR.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Georges at Puerto Rico landfall:



(Will add Florida Keys landfall and other USA landfall here)


Do Gustav when you can.
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Georges at Puerto Rico landfall:



Georges at Key West, FL landfall:

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Big, bad Bonnie:



Now tell me how that doesn't look like 93L earlier this year that they should have classified.....
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Hortense over Puerto Rico:


Jeanne over Puerto Rico:

I'll have Georges done in a minute...Takse a while to get radar data from Puerto Rico.
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weird dark spot
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Quoting Jedkins01:


How about that pitiful tropical storm that literally evaporated when it hit the Texas Coast earlier this year, does anyone remember that thing?

Seriously, I don't think tropical storms should be named. Yes there have been some destructive tropical storms, but there have been a lot of lame pitiful ones too. I just think because of that they should be named but only by in number like tropical depressions. I think tropical cyclones shouldn't get names till hurricane strength.

But then people wouldn't take the storm seriously...Tropical Storms can be destructive too.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Tropical Storm Bonnie 2010. Probably the worst storm to hit the US Ever. ;-)


How about that pitiful tropical storm that literally evaporated when it hit the Texas Coast earlier this year, does anyone remember that thing?

Seriously, I don't think tropical storms should be named. Yes there have been some destructive tropical storms, but there have been a lot of lame pitiful ones too. I just think because of that they should be named but only by in number like tropical depressions. I think tropical cyclones shouldn't get names till hurricane strength.
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Ah yes Bonnie. I remember her clearly. I actually deserve the "I Survived Bonnie" t-shirt, because that's the only tropical cyclone I've been in. I believe where I was I got an inch of rain, and our trip to the amusement park was canceled. <_<
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Hortense over Puerto Rico:


Jeanne over Puerto Rico:
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Tropical Storm Bonnie 2010. Probably the worst storm to hit the US Ever. ;-)

Big, bad Bonnie:

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Quoting SPLbeater:


how about you do Hurricane Ivan 2004 :D :D :D


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Chanda is expected to emerge over Madagascar and redevelop though (according to the models at least)....and then it will curve back into Madagascar.

I don't trust the models much anymore though, not after the disaster for them known as the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.
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464. Skyepony (Mod)
Chanda is about to make landfall. Land is already hurting it. T# already down to 2.6.

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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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