Six more weeks of non-winter

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:35 PM GMT on February 02, 2012

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Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this magnificent Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2012
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of all Prognosticators,
was summoned from his burrow in the old oak stump
by the tap of President Bill Deedly.

He greeted his handlers, John Griffiths and Ron Ploucha.

After casting an appreciative glance towards thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil proclaimed
As I look at the crowd on Gobbler's Knob
Many shadows do I see
So six more weeks of winter it must be!


That's the official word posted at groundhog.org from Punxsutawney Pennsylvania's famous prognosticating rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow this morning. According to tradition, this means that a solid six more weeks of winter can be expected across the U.S. When the sun rises in San Francisco, this morning, wunderground's Alan T. Groundhog can give us an additional shadow-based forecast for the coming winter (video here.)


Figure 1. Wunderground's prognosticating groundhog, Alan T. Groundhog, prepares to go in front of the blue screen with wunderground meteorologist Jessica Parker.

How did this this crazy tradition start?
It all started in Europe, centuries ago, when February 2 was a holiday called Candlemas. On Candlemas, people prayed for mild weather for the remainder of winter. The superstition arose that if a hibernating badger woke up and saw its shadow on Candlemas, there would be six more weeks of severe winter weather. When Europeans settled the New World, they didn't find any badgers. So, they decided to use native groundhogs (aka the woodchuck, land beaver, or whistlepig) as their prognosticating rodent.

What winter? The non-winter of 2011 - 2012
Considering winter hasn't really arrived in the lower 48 states yet, I'm not sure how much validity we can give to fearless Phil's forecast. Here in Michigan, like in most of the U.S., we've basically had three straight months of November weather. There have been no major snowstorms, and frequent sunny days with highs in the 50s--twenty five degrees above average. January 2012 is in the weather record books as the 3rd least-snowy January for the contiguous U.S. since snow records began in 1966, the Rutgers Snow Lab reported yesterday, and December 2011 ranked as the 11th least snowy December on record. With the latest 2-week forecast from the GFS model showing a huge ridge of high pressure dominating the Western U.S. and no major snowstorms over the U.S. through mid-February, the winter of 2011 - 2012 has a chance to end up as the second least snowy winter in U.S. history. Temperature statistics for January will not be available until next week, but I expect the month will end up being a top-five warmest January, with temperatures about 4 - 5°F above average. We won't be able to beat the 8.7°F above-average temperature posted during the warmest January in U.S. history, which occurred in 2006. If U.S. temperatures remain 4 - 5°F above average during February, the winter of 2011 - 2012 will be the warmest in U.S. history. The five warmest U.S. winters since record keeping began in 1895 have all occurred since 1992, with the winter of 1999 - 2000 holding the record for warmest winter. Winter average temperature in the contiguous U.S. has been increasing by about 1.6°F per century since 1895 (Figure 2.)


Figure 2. Winter temperatures in the contiguous U.S. during the period 1895 - 2011 increased at a rate of about 1.6°F per century. The warmest winter was 1999 - 2000, and the coldest was 1978 - 1979. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

What's going on?
This January's remarkable warmth and lack of snow contrasts starkly with what happened during the previous two winters. January 2011 was the 5th snowiest and 35th coldest in U.S. history, and January 2010 was the 7th snowiest and 55th coldest. Wunderground meteorologist Angela Fritz had this to say in her blog post yesterday about what's been going on this winter: In December, we were reporting that the lower-48's unseasonably warm weather and lack of snow was due to a particularly positive Arctic Oscillation (AO) index. The Arctic Oscillation is a measure of the jet stream's strength. A positive AO is a stronger than average jet stream, and it tends to keep cold air bottled up in the Arctic. During a positive AO, the Arctic is colder than average, and the mid-latitudes are warmer than average. In December and early January, the AO was positive. In mid-January, the AO went negative, which we expect to have the opposite impact. A weak jet steam means cold, Arctic air can escape to the south, and that's what we've been seeing in Europe this week. This cold air has yet to spill southwards into the Eastern U.S. like it usually does during a negative-AO period, since the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)--the component of the AO over the North Atlantic--has not gone negative, and is close to normal right now. However, the long-range GFS model is predicting a modest cold air outbreak will occur over the Eastern U.S. around February 15.

Jeff Masters

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Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
That line has grown considerably in the past 5 seconds..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
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Quoting TampaSpin:




Top one is a black drum while the bottom one is a RED Bull.
You,ve made me hungry..This blog does this to me quite often.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Hey, Gro! We just got a discount! ;-)
Oh no,...Please tell me that your not a trillion years old too..The blog is currently being invaded by beings older than some of the mountain ranges we have on this planet. Its like Rowan and Martin all over again..Jk...really jk...:) pfft..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
I'm out.
Need some sleep.
Jesse
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Top one is a black drum while the bottom one is a RED Bull.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Out, for the night. I enjoyed the conversations. ... Someone keep Grothar in check. I cannot do everything. ;-)
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240. MTWX
Lovely evening on the Blog! Night all! Nice shark Tampa!
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Tampa, real men hold catches like by the other end. ... Well, they do so once. ;-)

Nice catch!


Hehe....You got that right....some would be jumping of a boat bringing that over still kicking too....especially with no shoes on....LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting hydrus:
Especially minds that are 100,000 years old....he he


Hey, Gro! We just got a discount! ;-)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Sick minds think alike.
Especially minds that are 100,000 years old....he he
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting ScottLincoln:


In what regard?



It does... it's not exactly a matter of belief. Is there any earth scientist that you know of that disagrees that virtually all of the energy of the earth's climate system originates with the sun?

Scott
I have all the math and a graph developed for this.
The problem is that I have no idea how to post this info.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TampaSpin:



LOL.....well guess it was close to being correct....I love our boat...


Boats were the very foundation of our lives back then. We had run abouts, speed boats, sunfishs, flivers and regular fishin boats like the one you showed. We did not own them all. People at the marina had no problem lending them out if you were a live aboard or worked the forklifts or at the gas and bait dock.It was a lot of fun and I miss it.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting TampaSpin:



LOL.....well guess it was close to being correct....I love our boat...




Tampa, real men hold catches like by the other end. ... Well, they do so once. ;-)

Nice catch!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Whoa! Somebody is really getting good with the weather explanations!! We may have to start calling you Levi Sr. I didn't know you were born in Miami? I knew you were from down here, but I don't remember that. But that doesn't mean much, because I still look for the Jack Benny show on TV sometimes.
I borrowed most of that from Wiki..:o..But that is o.k. When it comes down to the heavy stuff, this brother can type some excellent weather info for ya..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting hydrus:
Mount Sinai Hospital at Miami Beach. I lived on a 1951 Chris*Craft and a 1923 Aldin Schooner for many years. Maybe not born on a boat, but definitely raised on one..:)



LOL.....well guess it was close to being correct....I love our boat...


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


You were born in a boat?


Sick minds think alike.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting hydrus:
La-Nina does not allow for much rain in Florida. The exception is during the summer months when the rain machine is cranking.El Nino has the following effects on Florida climate: above average rainfall in the spring. This is followed by wildfire threat when rain dries up. Northern Florida is more susceptible to severe weather; below normal temperatures, increased number of low pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico during the winter, and "almost always" reduces the frequency of storms and hurricanes.

La Nina has the following effects: often dry conditions prevail in late fall, winter and early spring, increased risk of wildfires in spring and summer months, the temperatures average slightly above normal, and the chance of hurricane activity increases substantially.

Long term forecasts are made based on these effects. However, they are easily overridden, in winter, by the Arctic oscillation and North Atlantic oscillations, which can only be predicted about two weeks in advance. These can drop the temperature noticeably from seasonal norms. .I love and miss Florida.. Here is where I came into this world.


Whoa! Somebody is really getting good with the weather explanations!! We may have to start calling you Levi Sr. I didn't know you were born in Miami? I knew you were from down here, but I don't remember that. But that doesn't mean much, because I still look for the Jack Benny show on TV sometimes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


You were born in a boat?
Mount Sinai Hospital at Miami Beach. I lived on a 1951 Chris*Craft and a 1923 Aldin Schooner for many years. Maybe not born on a boat, but definitely raised on one..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting hydrus:
La-Nina does not allow for much rain in Florida. The exception is during the summer months when the rain machine is cranking.El Niño has the following effects on Florida climate: above average rainfall in the spring. This is followed by wildfire threat when rain dries up. Northern Florida is more susceptible to severe weather; below normal temperatures, increased number of low pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico during the winter, and "almost always" reduces the frequency of storms and hurricanes.

La Niña has the following effects: often dry conditions prevail in late fall, winter and early spring, increased risk of wildfires in spring and summer months, the temperatures average slightly above normal, and the chance of hurricane activity increases substantially.

Long term forecasts are made based on these effects. However, they are easily overridden, in winter, by the Arctic oscillation and North Atlantic oscillations, which can only be predicted about two weeks in advance. These can drop the temperature noticeably from seasonal norms. .I love and miss Florida.. Here is where I came into this world.


You were born in a boat?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


I saw one a few days ago. They have it then drop it then add it again. I know the GFS had one. We really do need the rain.
La-Nina does not allow for much rain in Florida. The exception is during the summer months when the rain machine is cranking.El Nino has the following effects on Florida climate: above average rainfall in the spring. This is followed by wildfire threat when rain dries up. Northern Florida is more susceptible to severe weather; below normal temperatures, increased number of low pressure systems in the Gulf of Mexico during the winter, and "almost always" reduces the frequency of storms and hurricanes.

La Nina has the following effects: often dry conditions prevail in late fall, winter and early spring, increased risk of wildfires in spring and summer months, the temperatures average slightly above normal, and the chance of hurricane activity increases substantially.

Long term forecasts are made based on these effects. However, they are easily overridden, in winter, by the Arctic oscillation and North Atlantic oscillations, which can only be predicted about two weeks in advance. These can drop the temperature noticeably from seasonal norms. .I love and miss Florida.. Here is where I came into this world.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting TheoJesse:
Patrap
The earth transitioned from a warming phase to a cooling phase in November 2003.


In what regard?

Quoting RitaEvac:


I believe the sun controls everything on this planet, hence, weather


It does... it's not exactly a matter of belief. Is there any earth scientist that you know of that disagrees that virtually all of the energy of the earth's climate system originates with the sun?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting emcf30:


Everything is decent. Day by day thing but it is getting better. We do need the rain. Fires are starting to creep up in the area now. Last count around me is 27, not counting the controlled burns that are going on causing havoc for everyone


I've been watching them closely. I am surprised we haven't had any here yet. As they say in Australia, I have NEVUH seen it so dry down here. I honestly do not remember the last rain we had. (Glad to here everything is OK)
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Quoting RitaEvac:


I believe the sun controls everything on this planet, hence, weather

You have a + on that one.
Jesse
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, emc. Glad to see you. I was trying to find that thing. We really need the rain. Is is still dry by you (And how is everything else????)


Everything is decent. Day by day thing but it is getting better. We do need the rain. Fires are starting to creep up in the area now. Last count around me is 27, not counting the controlled burns that are going on causing havoc for everyone
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Quoting emcf30:


Hey Gro. How ya been. This is after the 2 lows cross the state. The first on over South Florida and the second 2 days latter over North Florida.



Hey, emc. Glad to see you. I was trying to find that thing. We really need the rain. Is it still dry by you (And how is everything else????)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


I saw one a few days ago. They have it then drop it then add it again. I know the GFS had one. We really do need the rain.


Hey Gro. How ya been. This is after the 2 lows cross the state. The first on over South Florida and the second 2 days later over North Florida.

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Quoting TampaSpin:



The GFS continues to show a storm developing in the GOM...HUM! I just don't see it happening with all the shear in place yet!


Actually, I don't see anything happening at all on that map!!!!!!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:



The GFS continues to show a storm developing in the GOM...HUM! I just don't see it happening with all the shear in place yet!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting hydrus:
Its messy out there. This will be something to reckon with now, because whatever it does, it will do rather slowly. Plus there are two lows forecast. If I can find the model that shows this I will post it.


I saw one a few days ago. They have it then drop it then add it again. I know the GFS had one. We really do need the rain.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, T. Are you behaving or still stirring the old pot? How you doing? Looks like a little weather is headed your way.


Bro, i am getting like you too old to stir. I need an updated electric mixer to do much anymore......LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
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Quoting RitaEvac:


I believe the sun controls everything on this planet, hence, weather


My belief as well.....If one understands the concept of how heat is stored and released the conclusion it hints. Its not a one year deal but, a combination of many years of stored heat.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:



Geoff, get to bed. You have to work early tomorrow.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Heck NOT EVEN CLOSE......LMAO....hey Groth


Hey, T. Are you behaving or still stirring the old pot? How you doing? Looks like a little weather is headed your way.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting TampaSpin:




I believe the sun controls everything on this planet, hence, weather
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:


GFS the past 2 weeks was showing a major arctic outbreak at this time, and nothing happened
This is true..LOL..I still think the eastern third has a shot...CMC in 90 hours..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
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Quoting TheoJesse:

Tampa
You're right.
I remember many comments you made. It's the sun.
Add water as the storage medium of heat and you have a go.
Jesse


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
Quoting hydrus:
Well I happen to be a listener, and a good reader. You post something and I will read it Jess. The CMC wants to pump alot of cold air into the U.S...114 hours.


GFS the past 2 weeks was showing a major arctic outbreak at this time, and nothing happened
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
205. MTWX
Quoting RitaEvac:
Cell looks like its rotating south of Tyler


Showing slight rotation. Link
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Quoting TheoJesse:

There are a lot of stories that can be told. The problem is that there is no one around any more to listen.
Jesse
Well I happen to be a listener, and a good reader. You post something and I will read it Jess. The CMC wants to pump alot of cold air into the U.S...114 hours.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Cell looks like its rotating south of Tyler

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Quoting Grothar:


Theda Bara was my first pinup picture.
Something like this?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting Grothar:


Not even close. :)


Heck NOT EVEN CLOSE......LMAO....hey Groth
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20439
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Quoting Grothar:


Greetings. I see we may some activity in the Gulf. I posted an image earlier.
Its messy out there. This will be something to reckon with now, because whatever it does, it will do rather slowly. Plus there are two lows forecast. If I can find the model that shows this I will post it.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20547
Quoting hydrus:
Your the same age as my Dad..He has some cool stories from way back..:)

There are a lot of stories that can be told. The problem is that there is no one around any more to listen.
Jesse
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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.