Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:29 PM GMT on January 18, 2006
The bizarre winter of 2005-2006 continues unabated this week, with record warm temperatures continuing across North America. Drought continues to plague many areas across the southern half of the U.S., and the hoped-for rains across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas this week have mostly failed to materialize. January temperatures have ranged from 5 to 20 degrees above normal across most of the U.S. and Canada, and Canada's usual plentiful supply of Arctic air is absent. There are no signs that winter will return to North America anytime soon--the long range forecast from the GFS model continues to show far above-normal temperatures persisting into the first week of February. With the emergence of a full-fleged La Nina episode this month (see my previous blog), we should expect the jet stream to maintain a more northerly position, which will continue to keep this winter unusually warm.
How strange is this winter's warmth? Duluth, Minnesota, whose average low temperature is 0 F in January, has not recorded a low temperature below 3 F this month. The record fewest January days Duluth has had a sub-zero temperature is three days (1898). I wouldn't be at all surprised if Duluth winds up with no sub-zero temperatures this month.
Is all this due to global warming? Well, one cannot blame a single weather event--or single anomolous season--on global warming. However, the continued warming of the globe makes warmer winters more likely, as well as strange weather patterns that we're not used to seeing. The climate is changing, and we should expect to see unusual weather patterns increase in the coming years. Preliminary figures indicate that globally, 2005 was the warmest or second warmest year on record. This is pretty remarkable, since 2005 wasn't even an El Nino year. Previous record warm years have all been El Nino years, due to the extra heat these events add to the globe.
But it is really cold in Siberia!
Siberia, and indeed all of Russia and Asia, are experiencing one of their coldest winters on record. As is often the case when one part of the globe is experiencing record warmth, the jet stream is kinked in a way that funnels exceptional cold air to another region of the globe. The high temperature in Curapca, Siberia today was -58 F. The temperature hasn't risen above -26 F this year, and the low temperature has hit -64 F four times this January. This reading is still a ways away from matching the coldest temperature ever measured in the Northern Hemisphere--the astounding -67.8 C (-90 F) set at Siberia's notorious Pole of Cold in 1885. I doubt this winter's cold in Siberia will approach that record.
Still, in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, temperatures fell to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit--the lowest in 100 years. In the city of Krasnoyarsk, celebrations for the Russian holiday known as Old New Year's Eve were canceled Friday after temperatures were also predicted to fall to minus 40. I'm sure the talk of the threat of global warming is at low ebb across Russia this winter, as the cold has caused unusual hardship.
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