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Wacky winter warmth--no end in sight

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.

Jeff Masters
Breath of winter
Breath of winter
Polar Bears
Polar Bears
January 1, 2006 - Local "Polar Bears" enter Lake Geneva in Williams Bay to be the first swimmers of 2006!

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Yep still waiting for my first official freeze here in St. Augustine. Usually have at least 5 of them by now. Also starting to get alittle dry here as well. I am hoping we get some rain this spring so that we dont have a repeat of the horrible fires we had here years back..

Thanks for the info Dr.
2. F5
We're still waiting on rain down in the D/FW area of TX. The miniscule chance we had for this weekend seems to have evaporated and now we are hoping for something maybe next Tuesday.

Every day it seems there is a red flag warming and every day, the situation just gets worse. If we don't get a fair amount of rain this spring, we'll hit 100 in May and be above 100 just about,if not every day of the summer, possibly breaking the record set in 1980. I can't imagine what that will be like.

1998 was a terrible year for heat here, with about 58 days over 100 including 39 in a row, I believe. The only break was a day where it was 99. We also went around 100 days straight without rain. That was the first summer after I moved here. Our max high that year was 112. I truly hope we don't go through that again, but it's starting to look more realistic every day.
Looks like I better get to seeding my pastures. Ususally wait until end of February, 1st of March but afraid it will dry up early. I really have a bad feeling about this year that I just can't shake.
2005/2006 the winter that never came.

Where still hopeing for rain here in So Cal. Today 20% chance of rain toward the nnorth. Yesterday computer modles where thinking a cut of low would move over the area. All computers backed off today and replaced it with an inside slider. Cool dry wind event over the area. The trajectory know takes the storm over the land that doesnt help anyone know cause the storm will be mositure depribed.
I whish you all could take some of our rain. It seems like we have more than our share here in Nor Cal. Matter of fact it is raining reght now and has been for days.
Over all, it seems pretty typical here in East Central Florida for mid January.

We are getting a lot of wind, not unusual. They had to scrub the launch again because of wind.
if el nino years add extra heat to the globe, does that mean that la nina years take it away?
Here in SE Minnesota, weve had one below zero night(around Dec. 10) and around 15" of snow(which is below average)

Normal Low is around 5 and Average snowfall(for an entire season) is around 56"

Above average temps for the last 3+ weeks

It has been a crazy winter all over
*** Climate change Stats take notice ***

There's been a big rainstorm in southeast PA approx. every three days this month, the last one wrapping up now. Local weather guages reporting near SEVEN inches of rain. Almost two
weeks to go and a new storm slated every three days in the future maps. I would have to venture a guess it will be the rainiest January on record here.

October finished as the wettest october for Philadelphia on

Climate change indeed

10. Inyo
Lightning10, the models keep flip-flopping with that storm. Just based on how it has been so far this year, it will probably be pretty dry.. but you really can't say anything about it yet either way! I think it is right on the border between inside slider and 'wet' low, so 50 miles could be the difference between good rain (unlikely) and dry and cold (more likely).

At least temperatures have cooled down a bit. and i REALLY am hoping in 2 weeks to get up to Mammoth or Tahoe to enjoy the snow that we havent gotten here.
2005/2006 the winter that never came.

Winter came, just only for a few weeks. Remember the first 3 weeks of December? It was freezing. Teens and lower in the north Midwest, teens to twenties in the North East. It was cold everywhere except West coast and S West. That huge ridge that was over the West coast building into Canada and feeding the cold air from the north is gone. As long as Pacific Storms keep pounding the West Coast then we will keep the mild weather. If another strong ridge builds in the West then you'll see a return of winter. If not, then the first few weeks of December will be all you guys had as far as winter goes. (I say you guys because I live in S. Fla and we never have winter)
Here in east-central Iowa we destroyed the previous record for coldest first two weeks of December. We went below zero just about every night and bottomed out at around -19F one night. One day we only maxed out at 1F. In addition, we had about 18 inches of snow during those two weeks, more than we got all of last winter. Our normal snow is about 30 inches for the season.

Since then we have barely had a flurry and the temps have been very mild. I think only a couple nights have dipped below 20F and several nights have had >32F lows. So much for winter. A few days ago some of the models began suggesting a good snowstorm for the early weekend period and now today, just as the local weather guys catch on and start hyping it, the models are quickly transitioning to a weak, sheared-out system that stays farther southeast and gives us little or nothing.
Will it carry over to summer? Will it be hotter than usual?
Or does the pattern shift somehow? thanks!
Who knows if the pattern will shift. There are certain indecies that would tell you what is likely, but just like everything pointed to a cold winter(which it started out to be) things can change rather suddenly.
Like i been saying, analogging to past years what the pattern might be down the road is less usefull than ever with rapid climate change.

the NAO forcast is projected to go into a negative phase near the 28th-30th maybe this will spark a return of winter to the northeast.
F5, PLEASE don't even think about the summer of 1980! Seriously I think I would move if it happened again! We got some rain Monday out in Dike where my house is, but as we were driving into Dallas it stopped somewhere out near Princeton, that is where I have been taking those Lake Lavon photos, I didn't see any improvement over the prior week, in fact, it looked like it was worse.

The other odd thing about our weather in NE and Central Texas...the wind. Except with storms, before we NEVER had wind! But it has been day after day of constant blowing winds, and this has been going on for weeks if not months.

I don't know what the cause is, but as a long time resident of North Texas, I can only say I have never seen anything like this before. Yes, this could be the year without a winter...
The NHC has released its reports on Tropical Depression 10 & Subtropical depression 22. (www.nhc.noaa.gov/2005atlan.shtml?)
19. F5

I truly hope 1980 never repeats itself. I wasn't here then, but I was here in 1998, which is a close second to 1980. If we don't get a fair amount of rain this spring, I can't see how it wouldn't repeat. There's just little or no moisture left in the ground already, and you know how these things feed on themselves.

I'm surprised by the amount of wind this winter too. Very unusual. I know a few people who got rain the other day, but we sure didn't get any.

Keeping my fingers crossed and praying to God for some rain.

You are right. I was just takeing what has happend so far this winter and thought "Well more then likely the cold and dry scenario will happen because its been that type of winter."

I remember an inside slider a few years ago where it moved a little more to the west then thought. Where I live there was clouds all day and a little light rain here in the vallies on and off. But 25 miles west at the ocean it was sunny and Breezy all day.
I can relate to the unusually warm pattern that has been established this winter. Winter did make an appearance here in southwest Ohio from 11/16 to 12/22 as temps were 9 degrees below normal and 7.5" of snow had fallen. From 12/23/05 to 1/17/06 the average temperature has been 12.1 degrees above normal. Only a little snow fell late last evening (1/17) to register accumulating snow for the first time since 12/8/05. For a snow guy like me it has been tough. Somewhere along the line the pattern will shift, because i feel everything for the most part balances out in the long run. However it would be very interesting if the extra warmth carried through to the end of March. That way it would be truly the year without a winter. Just to give you a little more perspective, yesterday before a cold front went through it was in the mid 50s, today with light snow it was in the low 30s, but tomorrow will be in the mid too upper 50s again. Crazy stuff!!
In Pennsylvania the year without a winter(once past december)
was 1990. After many cities recorded their coldest all time December, that was all winter had to offer. 40's-60's dominated January and December with just four days in the 30's
the rest of the winter. That years March was so warm at one point five straight days in the middle eighties at mid month.

The winter was so warm i planted tomatoe plants on the last day of March when normally early May would see them in the ground.

Does anybody know if the Pacific northwest had much above precipitation that year?

Good Point I'll see if I can get that
Arcturus, I am originally from Warminster. I now live in Central Florida. My Mother told me that you guys are really getting wet. Where in PA you at?
correct that it should read January and February as warm
ARCT, Where in PA?
I am close to Warminster. On track to get at least ten inches of rain this month. Thats just crazy for January.

28. Inyo
Arcturas, the rainfall has been much above normal in Northern California and southern Oregon. I believe Washington is a bit over average but nothing out of the ordinary. Southern California, has been dry, warm, and boring.
A somewhat interesting cold-core low to the east of the windwards...unlikely to be anything, but this WAS the low shown by the CMC.
Hey everyone :)

Hope all of you are having a good night. On the topic of warm winters I can recall Valentines' weekend 1998 in England when I was living there being the warmest 2 consecutive days in any winter. The average for mid February where I lived in England was 39 and we hit 72 and 71 on 2 straight days.

All the winters (7 including this year) that I have been through here in Central Florida have been below average. I'm sure many that live here can remember 2002 where there were 9 nights in January alone where the low dipped below freezing. And, on January 25th 2003, Orlando recorded a record low of 23 degrees and a record low high of just 39, with flurries reported at Daytona Beach early in the afternoon. Last winter was 3 degrees below average, and that was after the warmest first week of January in recorded history. This winter has started off cold as well with a well below average December and a cold January. As I speak the temperature here is 38 degrees with a freeze possible tonight.
Yes December was 3 degrees below normal at both Jax and Orl..But so far January is 4 degrees above normal at Jax and about 3 degrees above normal at Orl..Just thought I would clarify that.
From Dr Master's pole of cold lind in his blog~

On February 6, 1933, an absolute minimum of −67.7 C was registered in Oymyakon, which is still 0.1 degree warmer than the Verkhoyansk record.

Caught my eye ~ 1933 being a real busy year for canes. Checked out some other years based on this from same page

February of 1869 I. A. Khudyakov made the discovery of the Northern Pole of Cold by measuring a record temperature of −63.2 C in Verkhoyansk. Later, on January 15, 1885 a temperature of −67.8 C was registered there by S. F. Kovalik, which became the new world record, and still holds the record for the northern hemisphere.

Both 1869 & 1885 seemed pretty active considering the reporting abilitys (made for a fun read)~ they were hitting land. The late 1880s were particularly active with 1887 being the year with the 3rd highest # of canes in a season with 19 that we know of.
Where are you getting the 3 degrees above for January? I live in rural Orange County and my average temperature this January as of today is 55 (average value for last 30 years is 60.4) Just curious. Sounds like I really am in a rural area if my average temperature is 8 degrees below OIA or wherever that value comes from. I only live 6 miles from OIA!!!
I get it from the NWS..Dont know about your personal averages sorry. Yes from JAX and ORL..Yeah Florida is funny like that, big differences from rural to city. But I just cant see you being that much colder this month. Oh well.
35. Inyo
On a somewhat related note, i have a cottonwood in a pot which i have had since 2000 or so. Every year it has lost its leaves but this year it is still green as ever, right now. Now, maybe it is staying green because sometimes i leave my porch light on for a few hours at night... but it was in nighttime light in other areas too with no such effect. i also have a tomato plant growing out of a pot (it came up itself) which is perfectly happy now. We will see if we get frost later to kill it
Just for reference..Jax normal for January 53, so far 57. Orl normal for January 59, so far 62.
atmosweather mail for you
For Melbourne looking at the trend of the last 12 months the daily highs are 5-10F higher than average high(least devient in summer). The daily lows were 5-25F lower than the average low(least devient in summer). Over all~ more extreme temperature changes from morning to night. Too many days this winter I've run heat at night only to run AC during day with temps near or at 80F.
I have a question

Will summer temps overall be below average cause of the La Nia?

I know in the west coast the cooler then average water temps promotes the Am clouds and fog well into July.

But I cant remember off hand wether it will make the whole cooler.
No snow, no snow, no snow. And lastly, no cold = no snow. I must curl up in a ball and die now. Not that bad but close. No snow.
Hey everyone.. Long time reader in the blogs but dont post a whole lot. Been fascinated with weather phenomenon since I was a kid and really enjoy thunderstorms. Anyhow enough about that on to my post.

Sorry to those of you in FL, TX, and SoCal looking for rain. Here in east central Michigan we have been seeing a warm wet pattern.

Like many people who have posted earlier tonight, we here in Michigan started out very cold the first few weeks of December with a couple nice snow events. Traditionally here in the central part of the state we get a few more snow events by now.

The past few weeks have been warmer and wetter than usual. The forcasters start out thinking snow but it's been mainly rain until the last few days.

Personally If it's going to be cold I like it to snow. Otherwise get me to spring! Because around here it can be gloomy, gloomy, gloomy this time of year. We have 18 days in a row recently with absolutely no sunshine.

This coming after a wonderful summer with above average temps and around average precip. I'm hoping for another summer of the same.

I enjoy reading all of your observations from around the country. Take care....
Wow lots of great comments here everyone!

Hey Arcturus, I'm in eastern Delaware County just a few miles from PHL (airport). Nice to hear about someone else local. Anyway you're right about the mild warm winter we're having. I'm not complaining, but it does seem unusual.

And 19054, is that your zip? If so you must be from right around here, not sure exactly where, but must be VERY close.

Hawkeyewx, your December temps were pretty cold! Ours were cold too but not quite like that. Back in late November one of our local Philly tv weathermen predicted a mild winter here, then December got drastically cold (by local standards), but now he ain't looking so bad! Arcturus I vaguely remember 1990 being very mild, also seems like there were some mild ones in the late 1990s/early 2000s but I don't have the info in front of me. But it does seem like a climate change is coming. In amongst the mild winters of some of the recent years were some other years with record snowfalls. That last 15 years or so have had more big snowfalls than I ever remember around here when I was growing up in the 1960s-70s.
Skyepony, that's very observant about a possible connection betw cold Siberian winters and frequency of hurricanes. If there's a link then this is making me a bit uneasy about the coming summer hurricane season.

Those Russian temps are cold! BTW I wish that the wikipedia article would give Fahrenheit versions as well as centigrade. I know that 40-below is the same in both scales but after that it gets hard to tell.
Wanderingtxgrl, one of your posts was a bit alarming, the one where you say that you have been noticing the wind more where you are than ever before. Coupled with the lack of rain, that's starting to look really bad. Especially on top of what Skyepony was observing about 1933.
You and F5 have my sympathy and I hope you get some decent rain down there very soon.

My last post of the night, hope you all have a great day tomorrow.
46. Inyo
Lightning 10, i am not sure if La Nina is linked with marine layer depth. (i think the biggest influence on summer temperatures in that area is how deep the marine layer and how far inland it goes) I know that colder than average ocean temperatures (something that isnt too common these days, it seems) and a high thermal gradient between the coastal and desert areas are linked to deep, thick marine inversions. I remember two summers ago during that relatively dry period the marine layer was unusually thick in June and July and was actually pouring over the Sierra Peloma into the desert on some days.
47. dcw
Check this out, TC Daryl near Australia - deepening pretty dang quick:

It was 28 last night in my neck of the woods (North Florida). That's a bit colder than usual for this part of Florida in January.
We're finally getting something resembling winter weather temperature wise, (or what /passes/ for Winter temperatures in Tucson) but still not a drop of rain. It looked really promising on Sunday and Monday, but I didn't even see virga.
snowday to day so i got a day off
phillyfan909 - i am north of the turnpike near the county line with Bucks.

Second storm brought wind gusts of 50mph wednesday morn, this
following the sat-sun storm that clocked 60mph.

52. dcw
Heh, was cold this morning but the effects of the front are already wearing off.
Here in Kansas City, the surprising thing has not been the warmth, but the persistence of the warmth. It's pretty common to get a nice spell in January here. In fact, the high temp has been 62 degrees on New Years Day for the last 3 years in a row. What's unusual is that it has stayed that warm. This very well could end up being the warmest January on record in KC.
FloridaBorn: Yeah, it got down into the 30s here last night, but it has bounced right back up to 70 now, and should be close to 80 tomorrow. I love Florida!

it's -63C in Curapca, Siberia right now.
that storm wud b all rain 4 philly and suburbs. hopefully the track shifts a little bit.
the coldest Curapca, Siberia got last year was -54C....interesting
Today I noticed mention by the HPC and CPC of a sudden stratospheric warming event that occurred last week over the artic, which may result in a pattern change to colder across North America. The CPC's Hazards Assessment web page mentioned that a much colder regime may be in place by early February across much of the U.S. as these events tend to result in higher heights over arctic regions and a strong negative Artic Oscillation. I guess this is not yet cut in stone, but it is interesting.
Texas is in a drought indeed. Toledo Bend REservoir is the largest reservoir in Texas and is on the Texas-Louisiana border. Its water level is shown below:

...while Lake Meredith is in West Texas near the New Mexico border. Its water level is shown below:

Data is from USGS

It's only January, but if this drought keeps up we may have serious problems this summer here in Texas.
WOW! That big blob of ICTZ convection actually made it across the atlantic in JANUARY!
GFS is pointing towards a strong negative NAO by the end of the month. snowy feb. possible
my blog is update and you can say wow is is a big long update
WOW...that's amazing stuff. Those are river/lake heights?
For those who like to track international storms, TC Daryl is raging in the South Pacific, off the coast of Australia.

Members of my site can discuss it here, and anyone can read:
Cool i can always looks at tropical developments.

Now if the recent GFS long range models can hold their ground, winter is going to make a wild comeback the first week of
february. I say that cause the GFS has teased several times
this month about happenings past ten days only to reverse course the next day.

Dont worry. Winter will be back.

Giants in 06
71. Inyo
the latest long range forecast i saw called for drier than average conditions across the whole Southern United Utates.. consistent with La Nina i guess.. but i hope this proves false.
Whoa! Daryl's kicking some major butt now, a minimal Hurricane on our scale and strengthening quite rapidly. New imagery posted in the thread on my site too.
ForecasterColby mail for you
I miss Winter time. Every day I wake up and turn the computer on around 5:30 AM and hope there is a major change in the Jet Stream. Every day so far since December I have been disapointed.
I'm sure some have seen this sat pic, but it is amazing how perfect this storm was

Thats an amazing shot of that amazing storm. Watching its progression in some of the IR videos, is very impressive. That was one sucker of a storm.
My first post EVER, but I must ask: has anyone ever experienced dirty rain? In Houston, TX on the night of 1/16 to 1/17, we had a line of thunderstorms roll through and the next morning ALL the cars parked outside were covered in a dusty film. I thought maybe it was a weird wind pattern in my neighborhood, but when I got to work, which is 20 miles away, there were a good number of cars in the parking lot that were equally covered in soot-like dust. I know the air is dirty out here, but why isn't anyone talking about this dirty rain? Any info is much appreciated.
Does the total ACE for a year include subtropical storms? If so, is it calculated the same way?
Interesting Question, Chances of Upper-Mid Low just south of the antillies developing?
Interesting to see a warm core system form this time of year.
Sorry, just east of the antillies.
CuriousCat- The extreme drought conditions combined with strong winds puts alot of dirt dust in the air so when a line of thunderstorms comes thru it can be dirty rain. Especially true if the rains are light. We get yellow rain in the spring
when the pollen is washed from the air during light showers after a long dry period.

84. Inyo
lightning, its a cutoff low. no one has any idea if it's gonna rain or not. it probably wont just because it's been dry... but it certainly isnt out of the question either.

it is definitely winter here, at least in the mountains. It was below 20 up in the high elevations with wind chills in the low teens or lower. Sandberg near the grapevine got some snow today. It's cold.. just not wet.
31.2 last night at my house in Mandarin, FL (just south of Jacksonville). Had to scrape ice this morning. Personally, I'd prefer it to be much warmer..I wouldn't care if I never felt below 70 degrees ever again..I hope we are entering a period of definite warmer winters.
86. dcw
Holy shear batman!

But midlvl...:

Its winter, shear is whats expected. If it wasen't there then Id be surprised.
Im actually surprised to see an area of relativly low shear extended across almost the whole carribean and into the mid atlantic. If that persits, I wouldnt be surprised to see a storm try to develope.
Upstate NY is not fairing much better. Its suppose to be almost 60 DEGRESS today, worse yet is thier has been alot of rapid warm ups and dives this season. The next 24 hours will be one of them with almost 60 today and then mid 30's and dropping like a rock tommorrow at this time.
I would just like to say I am in class. I need to spend more time doing my work and less time on this web site I got a D- on my test today.

Its also my Birthday today (turning 18 today)

CuriousCat Anyways back to weather talk. I remember back in 2003 durning all the fires here in mountains and foothills that lasted for a few weeeks it rained ash where I live for many days. When I woke up it looked liked it snowed. Then the first storm of the season came on October 31st it was a real light rain no more then a 0.10 of an inch of rain fell where I lived. Most of the rain fizzled out. Anyways it looked like there was mud on everything. I remember the streets where all slick and stuff.
Dirty rain...a year or so back I was in Davenport, Iowa, at a baseball game (minor league games are awesome). The stadium is right by the Miss River in a fairly industrial area. A severe t-storm moved in, but right before the rain hit, this massive cloud of dust descended on the stadium. They had to call the game before it even started raining b/c of the dust. Everyone who was in the outfield got a coating all over them.
Happy Birthday lightning10!!! WOW the big 18!! I remember the days! LOL! Don't worry, just do something extra and you'll make up for that grade!!
Happy Birthday Lightning. D- huh. If I had this back then, I would have had many more D-'s. Cold is making a comeback soon.

Been reading these awhile just haven't bothered to sign up until now.

I was hoping somebody would tell me that this whole negative Arctic Oscillation possibility could be wrong. After all I dread the thought of cold weather and I am loving this winter because it is this warm.

So is the negative arctic oscillation a certainty at this point?
Well, here in Salt Lake City we're actually supposed to be a bit below average all week (low-to-mid 30's), so it's not all bad here (it was really freaking warm at the beginning of the month).
Well, it's back to normal here in Tampa for this time of year...highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s...what I like to call "perpetual fall"...it usually lasts until April, and then it starts to get hot again...I love this time of year in Tampa...sunny, dry, and NO BUGS!!!