Record Cold in a Warming World

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:58 PM GMT on March 04, 2014

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An impressive blast of Arctic air has toppled more records for all-time March cold over the Eastern U.S., in the wake of the major snowstorm that brought 4 - 8" of snow from Missouri to Maryland. Fresh snow is very efficient at radiating heat to space, and the 3.8" of snow that fell in Baltimore on Monday helped drive the temperature down to 5°F on Monday night, tying the city's all-time March low temperature record set on March 4, 1873. The temperature eventually dipped down to 4°F Tuesday morning, breaking the March record. Atlantic City, NJ, which got 5.5" of snow on Monday, also set a new all-time cold record for the month of March on Monday night, when the temperature fell to 2°F. The previous all-time low for the month of March was 3°F set on March 4, 2009. Official records for the Atlantic City area date back to 1874.

At least five other cities have set or tied all-time March cold temperature records during the current cold wave:

Charlottesville, Virginia set an all-time March low of 1°F Tuesday morning (previous record: 7°F on March 4, 1943.)

Billings, Montana set an all-time March low of -21° on March 2, 2014 (previous record: -19°.)

Pierre, South Dakota set an all-time March low on both March 1 and March 2, dipping to -20° (previous record: -19°F on March 11, 1998.)

Flint, Michigan set an all-time March low of -16° on March 3 (previous record: -12°.)

Rockford, Illinois tied its all-time March record low of -11° on March 3.

At least five U.S. cities have set records for their coldest winter on record, as detailed by wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt in his latest blog post. He has not yet compiled a list of cities that have set a record for their warmest winter on record during 2013 - 2014, but I know of at least two: Las Vegas, Nevada, and Tucson, Arizona.


Figure 1. Departure of surface temperature from average as diagnosed by the GFS model at 00 UTC March 4, 2014. A negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) allowed cold air to spill southwards out of the Arctic over the Eastern U.S., bringing temperatures up to 36°F (20°C) below average. Compensating warm air flowed northwards into the Arctic underneath a ridge of high pressure over Europe. Data/image obtained using Climate Reanalyzer™ (http://cci-reanalyzer.org), Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

How can a planet that is warming experience record cold?
This week's impressive cold blast brings up the question: How can a planet undergoing "global warming" experience record cold? Well, it's a big planet, and the weather has naturally crazy extremes. We expect to see many locations experience all-time daily and monthly cold records each month. It's just that the number of these cold records will be outnumbered by all-time heat records, when averaged over the globe, and over decades. It is called Global Warming for good reason! A 2009 study led by Dr. Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO found that in the U.S., the ratio of the number of record daily highs to lows was near 1:1 in the 1960s and 1970s, but had increased to more than 2:1 during the decade of the 2000s, due to our warming climate. The ratio for the 2010’s was approximately 2.4-to-1 for daily records, for the four years 2010 - 2013, as explained in detail at Guy Walton's wunderblog. If "business as usual" emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide continue this century, this ratio of record highs to record lows is expected to increase to 20:1 by the year 2050, and 50:1 by 2100. So, even on planet experiencing extreme global warming, we will still see a few record low temperatures in the 22nd Century.


Figure 2. Ratio of record daily highs to record daily lows observed at about 1,800 weather stations in the 48 contiguous United States from January 1950 through September 2009. Each bar shows the proportion of record highs (red) to record lows (blue) for each decade. The 1960s and 1970s saw slightly more record daily lows than highs, but in the last 30 years record highs have increasingly predominated, with the ratio now about two-to-one for the 48 states as a whole. ©UCAR, graphic by Mike Shibao; data from a 2009 study led by Dr. Jerry Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.

Two Years Ago: Summer in March
When we do break all-time heat records in the current warming climate, we should expect that some of these new records will crush the old records in phenomenal ways. That was the case during the astonishing U.S. record-breaking "Summer in March" heat wave just two years ago, in 2012. It was the warmest March on record for the contiguous U.S., 8.6°F above the 20th century average for March, and 0.5°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. record began in 1895, only one month, January 2006, had a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012. Every state in the nation experienced a record warm daily temperature during March, and 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. All-time March records were broken at 290 stations, with some stations breaking their all-time March record four times. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date. Four stations broke daily records by 30°F or more.


Figure 3. "This is the kind of sunset that you can expect to see in July, not in March. 77°F when I took this," said the caption on this wunderphoto taken on March 17, 2012 in Windom, Minnesota by wunderphotographer sally.

Jeff Masters

Apostle Islands Ice (walcek)
You drive on 3-ft. minimum thick ice for a couple miles out to these islands on frozen Lake Superior. (Saves on kayaking workout)
Apostle Islands Ice
Frozen Silence (RevMac)
No one else was out walking a very popular Nashville park on a frozen ice and snow storm day in early March.
Frozen Silence

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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41845
It hit -1 at Dulles airport this morning.
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Even though it's cold, trees are gonna bloom to the increasing daylight.
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1/4 to 1/2 ice accumulations in NW Houston this morning, lots of trees down and power outages.

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Quoting Birthmark:

Are all forms of pollution equal then?

No. They are much worse than equal if you live in parts of China. How about addressing the issue I wrote about instead of a snarky comment.
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Quoting AlwaysThinkin:


Is the NCDC peer reviewed? In my best upper midwestern accent, You Betcha!

Oh man, I just had a flashback to Fargo. :-)
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Quoting 25. sar2401:

This is typical pollution displacement. One part of the globe can feel good about green power while another part of the globe suffers massive pollution to construct these things. The same story is true with large 12 volt batteries typically used to power electric and hybrid cars. 100% of these batteries are made in China and shipped here. The production of these millions of batteries cause a huge amount of pollution and poison in the cities in China where battery production is centered. All of this gets very little attention in Western media, and that's exactly the way China wants it. It's more than a little irritating reading some of the articles written by smug Tesla owners about how "green" they are when they have no idea about the real costs to the environment of owning their car.

Are all forms of pollution equal then?
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Quoting 17. luvtogolf:
Certain people post on here when we break all-time record highs citing GW. Right now and we're breaking all-time record lows and they completely down play it. Can't have your cake and eat it too when you live in fantasy land.

Oooh, aggressive. While some babble about the cold in the Eastern US, they seem blissfully unaware of the warmth in the Arctic this winter.



So even though it's cold where you are, it's very warm other places -like the Arctic.
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Quoting NCstu:
Link

We may want to reconsider those hurricane stopping wind farms!

"The reality is that, as Britain flaunts its environmental credentials by speckling its coastlines and unspoiled moors and mountains with thousands of wind turbines, it is contributing to a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China. This is the deadly and sinister side of the massively profitable rare-earths industry that the ‘green’ companies profiting from the demand for wind turbines would prefer you knew nothing about."


This is typical pollution displacement. One part of the globe can feel good about green power while another part of the globe suffers massive pollution to construct these things. The same story is true with large 12 volt batteries typically used to power electric and hybrid cars. 100% of these batteries are made in China and shipped here. The production of these millions of batteries cause a huge amount of pollution and poison in the cities in China where battery production is centered. All of this gets very little attention in Western media, and that's exactly the way China wants it. It's more than a little irritating reading some of the articles written by smug Tesla owners about how "green" they are when they have no idea about the real costs to the environment of owning their car.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41845
Quoting 9. ncstorm:
Thanks Doc..

this may sound like a stupid question to some but is the NCDC peer reviewed as I saw it in Guy Walton's blog as a reference?


Is the NCDC peer reviewed? In my best upper midwestern accent, You Betcha!
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41845
Quoting 13. jpsb:
Hmmmm, could Scotland's glaciers be coming back?

Not until the ski slopes stay open through summer rather than "until".
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SINGAPORE – The month of February has set a record for being the driest month in Singapore since 1869. In addition, it is also the most windy month in the last 30 years.
Link

Terra/MODIS
2014/059
02/28/2014
03:45 UTC

Fires and smoke on Sumatra
(morning overpass)
Link
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16 more days until Spring. 2 weeks away. Spring will save us don't worry.
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Quoting 6. sar2401:

All three of those periods also had severe to massive flooding in California and the Pacific Northwest. If we get another Super El Nino, California will have worries other than drought.
Those downhill from Mt. Rainier could see a lahar. That would be bad.
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Certain people post on here when we break all-time record highs citing GW. Right now and we're breaking all-time record lows and they completely down play it. Can't have your cake and eat it too when you live in fantasy land.
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Nice weather here today but you can just feel..something coming
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 41845
Quoting 12. Neapolitan:
It always struck me that trying to claim that global warming must have stopped because it's cold in some places is logically no different than trying to claim that since it's nighttime at your house, the sun must have been eaten by a giant sky dragon. Both claims are based on fantasy, not empirical science. Know what I mean?


"Know what I mean?"

I'd respond to your fantasy but being since you are a denialist it isn't worth the time or energy.

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13. jpsb
Hmmmm, could Scotland's glaciers be coming back?

Scottish ski slopes may open until summer

Scotland had a glacier up to 1700s say scientists
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It always struck me that trying to claim that global warming must have stopped because it's cold in some places is logically no different than trying to claim that since it's nighttime at your house, the sun must have been eaten by a giant sky dragon. Both claims are based on fantasy, not empirical science. Know what I mean?
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Thanks Dr. Masters !
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Thanks Doc...The cold sticks around a while longer.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22322
Thanks Doc..

this may sound like a stupid question to some but is the NCDC peer reviewed as I saw it in Guy Walton's blog as a reference?
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Thanks Jeff...
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Link

We may want to reconsider those hurricane stopping wind farms!

"The reality is that, as Britain flaunts its environmental credentials by speckling its coastlines and unspoiled moors and mountains with thousands of wind turbines, it is contributing to a vast man-made lake of poison in northern China. This is the deadly and sinister side of the massively profitable rare-earths industry that the ‘green’ companies profiting from the demand for wind turbines would prefer you knew nothing about."

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Quoting ARiot:
Here's a paper on "super" El Nino periods for those interested.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL 059370/abstract

A distinct class of El Niño events with extreme magnitude (termed “super El Niño” events in this study) is identified after removing decadal variation. These events occurred in 1972/73, 1982/83 and 1997/98. They are distinguished not only by their size but also by associated features such as a Southern Hemispheric transverse circulation that is not similarly robust in other El Niño events.


All three of those periods also had severe to massive flooding in California and the Pacific Northwest. If we get another Super El Nino, California will have worries other than drought.
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Thanks for update Doc! Gonna repost on Fb!
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Thanks Doc. Those are two beautiful pictures. I think (but don't know for sure) that the Reno/Carson City area must be near a record as well. My brother lives in Reno and has spent most of the winter in shorts while I've spent most of the winter shivering in SE Alabama. It's 41, overcast, and I'm still shivering. :=)
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Quoting 529. captainmark:
I would prefer that our generation was remembered as the ones that came up with a VIABLE solution for our energy needs rather than running around crying "the sky is falling" every day.



The first step in coming up with a solution is admitting there is a problem. Right now, half the country can't accept the FACT that there is a problem.

I won't get into the exact reasons why.... because political discussion is discouraged here.... but a certain group of selfish, idiotic, fact-denying lawmakers are holding the country hostage in terms of coming up with a viable solution.... because they refuse to accept facts and admit there is a problem to begin with


Heres one example of this going on in my very own state: http://www.wral.com/news/state/nccapitol/story/11 1 82683/
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Thanks Doc !
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Here's a paper on "super" El Nino periods for those interested.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL 059370/abstract

A distinct class of El Niño events with extreme magnitude (termed “super El Niño” events in this study) is identified after removing decadal variation. These events occurred in 1972/73, 1982/83 and 1997/98. They are distinguished not only by their size but also by associated features such as a Southern Hemispheric transverse circulation that is not similarly robust in other El Niño events.

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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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