It’s Cold—And Hot—in North America
January 4, 2018
<<It is frigid in much of Canada and the Midwestern and Eastern United States. Daily low-temperature records have dropped like snowflakes. New Year’s polar plunges have been canceled due to the cold, and many people in the Southeast are in a battle to keep their pipes from freezing.
In the Western U.S., Alaska, Europe, and Asia—not so much. December and January have been abnormally warm for most of the world. People in California have been worrying about wildfires in what should be the wet season, and Alaskans are ice skating in T-shirts.
This temperature anomaly map is based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It shows land surface temperatures (LSTs) from December 26, 2017 to January 2, 2018, compared to the 2001–2010 average for the same eight-day period. Red colors depict areas that were hotter than average; blues were colder than average. White pixels were normal, and gray pixels did not have enough data, most likely due to excessive cloud cover. Note that it depicts land surface temperatures, not air temperatures. Land surface temperatures reflect how hot the surface of the Earth would feel to the touch in a particular location. They can sometimes be significantly hotter or cooler than air temperatures. (To learn more about LSTs and air temperatures, read: Where is the Hottest Place on Earth?)
The map of North America underscores one of the realities of weather—when a cold snap hits one region, warmth often bakes another one. A giant meander (or Rossby wave) in the jet stream is the common thread that connects the warm weather west of the Rockies with the chill east of them. As the crest of a Rossby wave—a ridge—pushed unusually far toward Alaska in December, it dragged warm tropical air with it. In response, the other side of the wave—a trough—slid deep into the eastern United States, bringing pulses of dense, cold Arctic air south with it. The Rocky Mountains have boxed in much of the coldest, densest air, serving as a barrier between the cold and warm air masses.>>
It has been "comparatively balmy" here in Eastern Idaho. It is only 24F now and it got above freezing yesterday (rare for January I'm told). There's been little snow to have to shovel too. This has made our relocation much easier than we expected.
Winter storms don't always bring snow. Here along the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, the storm that dumped snow elsewhere over the northeast US and the eastern provinces of Canada was just a day of near-hurricane force winds with some rain. Of course, that can have consequences too. Here's two pics, the first from Google Maps, a satellite view of Conrad's Road atop a sandbar which forms the popular Queensland Beach. The second pic is what that road looks like after the storm.
Human beans love taking the easy way out, and paving a sandbar no doubt seemed sensible decades ago, but it makes no sense now to keep repairing this road for the convenience of a few locals who might have to drive an extra kilometre if it were blocked off.
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There's a lot of snow in most of northern Sweden right now. In the tiny picture at left you can see a 6-year-old girl playing in the snow outside her house. That big shiny globe right next to her is the streetlamp.
Weirdly, after nearly setting records for snowfall last year, Halifax, Nova Scotia has only 18cm so far this winter. Most peculiar, but very welcome. And that monster storm that just hit New England is staying south of us as it passes out to sea!