Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Extreme Weather Pattern Brings Another Blast Of Incredibly Cold Air

Guess what? It's cold again
The expected jet stream pattern for later today
Weather systems move paralel to the lines you
see on the map. As you can see, air comes
straight down from the North Pole into the upper
Midwest before curving into the Northeast.  

If you're in the Upper Plains, Midwest or Northeast, you're screaming "DUH!" at me, but, well there you go.

Blame it on the jet stream, again. The jet stream is a high altitude, fast moving river of air that encircles the northern hemisphere and steers weather currents.

The jet stream is usually wavy, with curves to the north or south bringing cold snaps or warm spells to particular areas.

The problem is, this winter, it's been really, really wavy. It has often curved up high to the North Pole, grabbed some frigid air and blasted it down on the eastern half of the United States.

(In the places it's gone way north, like Alaska, they've had record warmth this winter)

We're in that extreme weather pattern now. In fact, weather and climate blogger Dr. Jeff Masters quoted meteorologists in Buffalo, N.Y. as saying the jet stream pattern is the most extreme for late February in 30 years or so. The air is coming straight down from the North Pole.

Once again, this bitter cold pattern is focusing on the Midwest. Because of the repeated blasts of icy air this winter, Chicago is set to have its third coldest winter on record.

It's not that Chicago and surrounding areas had cold snaps that brought temperatures to the lowest ever seen. In fact, there weren't all that many record lows. It's the persistence of the cold that has made for a long, frigid Midwestern winter this year.

There's little relief in sight. Temperatures will remain 20 or more degrees below normal across the Midwest and Northeast for a few days.  I actually don't see signs of a major warmup for more than a week, especially in the Midwest

As has been the case all winter, although the Northeast will stay very cold, the most frigid weather will stay in the Midwest for the most part.  The Northeast might catch semi-breaks in the cold next week. It won't be warm, per se, but some days might go up to about normal for the beginning of March.

So far, this late February pattern hasn't been that stormy. True, there's a blizzard warning up for parts of Minnesota, but that's mostly due to strong winds picking up the snow that's already on the ground.

A series of small storms has been coming in from Canada, across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast, giving bouts of light snow every other day or so.  Most places hit by these little storms pick up a dusting to just a few inches of snow each time one of the little systems comes through.

A stronger storm, possibly with a lot of snow and ice, looks like it could affect the Midwest and East sometime early next week.

Since we're getting toward spring, the surges of warm air from the south are getting stronger. The increased contrast between the warming air to the south and the cold air to the north could help set off some severe thunderstorms or tornadoes with next week's storm in the South. Maybe.

We have to wait a few days to really come up with a good forecast of who gets what type of precipitation and when next week.  Stay tuned.

And yes, someday, spring will come to the Northeast and Midwest. Someday.

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