Monday, December 19, 2016

That Was One HELL Of A Cold Wave

Lots of people were thinking this in the Northern Plains
and Midwest over the weekend. H/T to John
Howland for posting this cartoon on Facebook
An epic cold wave over the Plains and Midwest will start to fade today after breaking numerous rlow temperature records.  

A lot of the record lows were broken by large margins.  

Some examples, according to the Weather Channel:

First, Saturday:

Pueblo, Colorado, -19, old record -10.
Garden City, Kansas: -13 degrees, old record -1
Aberdeen, South Dakota: -32 degrees, old record -24
Bismarck, North Dakota, -31 degrees, old record -27.

On Sunday, things in some areas got worse.

South Dakota seemed to be the epicenter of the record low temperatures, but a lot of other areas set records as well.

The Weather Channel says record lows in South Dakota included -37 degrees in Aberdeen and Watertown; -31 at Huron, -27 in Sioux Falls, -26 at Mobridge and -25 at Mitchell. (The actual temperature of -37 in Aberdeen was accompanied by a wind chill of 58 below.)

Other record lows within shouting distance of South Dakota were -20 at Sioux City, Iowa and -31 at Valentine, Nebraska,

The cold spread south, bigly, as Donald Trump might say, all the way to Oklahoma and Texas Saturday night.

Kansas City, Missouri got down to 9 below, the city's third coldest reading since 2000.

Record lows including 3 degrees at Tulsa, Oklahoma, 4 degrees at Oklahoma City, minus 3 at Amarillo, Texas and 10 degrees above zero at Abilene, Texas

A  fascinating part of this was watching the Arctic front press rapidly south through the southern Plains.

The front led to some pretty extreme statewide extremes.

This weekend's Arctic cold front approaching Kileen, Texas.
Photo by Cancels Serrano, via Twitter. 
Meteorologist Matt Mahalik noted on Twitter that at one point in Texas, there was a 42 degree temperature distance over 13 miles, or basically a degree per 1,600 feet, which is absolutely amazing.

As the cold front bisected Texas, there was an 84 degree temperature difference between the panhandle in the North and the humid Rio Grande valley to the south.

The apparent temperature - wind chill or heat index and not the actual temperature - Saturday morning in Oklahoma ranged from 17 below in the northwestern Panhandle to 70 degrees in the southeast corner of the state.

One thing that might be confusing to people is that scientists say the Arctic is having an incredibly warm stretch of weather. So how is it able to send record cold air down to the United States.

Two things: One, the  Arctic is much warmer than normal overall, but much warmer than normal up there is still damn frigid by our standards.

Plus the warmth up there isn't uniform, just like it's not uniform everywhere else. There are pockets of colder air as there always is. The jet stream was able to configure itself just perfectly to directly channel a pocket of frigid air directly south into the United States.

So  yes, it's all the jet stream's fault.

Relief is definitely on the way as that weird jet stream pattern quickly breaks down.

True, several more record lows are occuring this Monday morning in the Midwest, but there probably won't be as many extremes as over the weekend.

The cold wave has spread east, but is weakening. Temperatures across the East will be well below normal today and Tuesday morning, but I expect few, if any record lows there.

Here in Vermont early Monday, temperatures were within a few degrees either side of zero in most plaees. Some of the colder areas in northern New York were in the upper teens below zero. Definitely chilly, but not record breaking.

Things are going to warm up drastically in the cold zone this week. By midweek, temperatures in most of the nation, including the areas in the northern Plains that were in the core of the frigid cold, will warm up to near or above normal readings.

For instance, Aberdeen, South Dakota, which suffered through those minus 37 degree temperatures Sunday morning is expecting a high temperature of 25 degrees today, 27 degrees Tuesday, and 34 degrees Wednesday.

That's above zero. Sweet relief for them, I'm sure.

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