Atmospheric Scientist here at Weather Underground, with serious nerd love for tropical cyclones and climate change. Twitter: @WunderAngela
By: angelafritz, 8:17 PM GMT on January 31, 2012
Deadly cold weather has spread across central and eastern Europe, and is expected to continue through the end of the week. At least 60 people have died from the bitter cold overnight temperatures, which reached as low as -20°C (-4°F) Monday night. The BBC is reporting that "more than 600 people have sought treatment for frostbite and hypothermia." Typically, the elderly and low-income population are hardest hit by extreme temperatures (cold or heat), and such is the case in Europe this week.
Alaska has also been in weather news, after a wave of extremely cold temperatures over the weekend (even for our northern-most state). This past Friday and Saturday nights were record-setting for Alaska, as Jeff writes in his blogs:
Friday night and Saturday night, temperatures plummeted to -50°F and -51°F in Fairbanks, marking the first time since 1999 the city had seen back-to-back minus fifty nights. The low temperature so far today at the Fairbanks International Airport has been -44°F, giving the city sixteen days of -40°F temperatures so far this month. Since 1906, there have only been three years (1906, 1934, and 1971) with more 40 below days during the month of January. At forty below zero, the air is so cold that the water vapor condenses out into ice crystals, which float in the air creating a low-visibility fog.
According to the Fairbanks weather office, here are the likely final rankings for January temperatures at select locations in Alaska during 2012:
Kotzebue: 2nd coldest
Barrow: not in top ten coldest
Fairbanks: 5th coldest (coldest since 1971)
By: angelafritz, 10:03 PM GMT on January 03, 2012
The Northern Hemisphere is in for a meteor shower show tonight around 3 a.m. local time, after the moon sets. Assuming your area is cloud and light pollution free, you'll have a good chance of seeing this meteor shower. After you head out into the dark, it will take 15-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust, so be patient!
Jason Samenow sums up the viewing potential in the U.S. in his Capital Weather Gang blog this morning:
For the Quadrantids, unlike the longer lasting Geminid and Perseid showers, if you snooze, you lose. Viewing will only be possible between about 2:30 and 5 a.m. with an expected peak around 3 or 4 a.m.
You’ll want to look to the northern sky to see the meteors, between the constellation Bootes and the handle of the Big Dipper.
Across much of the Midwest and eastern third of the U.S., sky conditions should be sufficiently clear to allow viewing. Partial cloud cover may partially obscure the view in the northern mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Where skies are clear, sky watchers will need to brave frigid overnight lows in the single digits and teens in many locations.
Peaking in the wee morning hours of Jan. 4, the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour, varying between 60-200. The waxing gibbous moon will set around 3 a.m. local time, leaving about two hours of excellent meteor observing before dawn. It's a good thing, too, because unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours -- it's the morning of Jan. 4, or nothing.
Like the Geminids, the Quadrantids originate from an asteroid, called 2003 EH1. Dynamical studies suggest that this body could very well be a piece of a comet which broke apart several centuries ago, and that the meteors you will see before dawn on Jan. 4 are the small debris from this fragmentation. After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth's surface -- a fiery end to a long journey!
The Quadrantids derive their name from the constellation of Quadrans Muralis (mural quadrant), which was created by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande in 1795. Located between the constellations of Bootes and Draco, Quadrans represents an early astronomical instrument used to observe and plot stars. Even though the constellation is no longer recognized by astronomers, it was around long enough to give the meteor shower -- first seen in 1825 -- its name.