Enjoy the January thaw while it lasts. The country may be headed for another deep freeze that could rewrite February’s record books and bring a repeat of the cold and snowy weather that froze half the nation in late December and early January.
“February is going to go down in memory as a month that was as cold and stormy as December,” predicts Joe Bastardi, chief long-range meteorologist for Accuweather. “It might turn out to be one of the coldest Februaries in the last 115 years.”
Bastardi’s frosty prediction is unlikely to warm the spirits of people living in the eastern half of the country, where some areas are still defrosting from an unseasonably frigid December – the 14th coldest in 115 years.
The blast of cold air was set in motion by a weather phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO), which entered a severe “negative phase” (the most negative since 1950) late last year, bringing a colder weather pattern to many regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Since the AO went negative, record-setting snows and frigid temperatures have gripped Europe, China, India and a large swath of the United States.
The brutally cold weather brought snow flurries to Florida while other parts of the country east of the Rockies shivered in sub-zero temperatures. The same freakish weather swept across parts of China last week, producing heavy snows and frigid temperatures and triggering a coal shortage and electricity rationing. In Britain, more snowy weather is expected following arctic-like conditions earlier in the month that buried parts of the country in heavy snow, snarling roads and stranding thousands of motorists.
More unseasonably cold weather could be just around the corner, says Joe D’Aleo, a meteorologist for the Intellicast weather service and the executive director of the International Climate Environmental Change Assessment Project (ICECAP).
“The latest GEM [Global Environmental Multiscale] and ECMWF [European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts] model runs are showing colder weather for the remainder of the winter. By the last week of January, we should see cold filling into Canada and then diving back down into the states,” he says.
Will the next arctic air mass make its way as far south as Florida? It depends on the strength and set-up of “blocking” high pressure ridges in the polar regions, according to D’Aleo. During the last big freeze, blocking highs re-directed the jet stream southward, funneling bitterly cold air across the Midwest and into the deep south.
“If the blocking highs are strong, and there is extensive leftover snow cover blanketing the northern states, we could see much colder temperatures in Florida,” D’Aleo says.
The early January outbreak of cold weather in Florida lingered for more than a week, breaking temperature records up and down the state and dusting Orlando and Tampa with snow.
Tom Terry, chief meteorologist for WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando, doesn’t think Central Florida will see a replay of those arctic conditions.
“We usually get another cold snap in February around the time of the Daytona 500, but the chances we’ll see frigid conditions again are low. If we get close to what we experienced in early January, it would be truly remarkable,” he says.
Bastardi says the surge of cold air into Florida later this winter won’t be as intense or as long as the polar express that froze the Sunshine State in early January. Still, he predicts temperatures well below normal.
“I think February in Florida will be much colder than usual, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed again in some places.”
This winter’s outbreak of cold across much of the northern hemisphere – and the decline in global temperatures in recent years – would appear to bolster the credibility of skeptics who claim global warming has ended and the planet has entered a period of global cooling.
So which is it? Is the earth warming or cooling? According to Bastardi, “We will get our answer in the next 20 to 30 years.”
In the meantime, he is predicting an “American Pie” February: “February made me shiver with each newspaper I’d deliver . . . .”
Kirk Myers’ Examiner column appears several times weekly. To receive alerts when a new article is published, click on the “subscribe” button at the top of the page. Upcoming topics: the carbon-credit game, melting ice caps/sea ice, and climate-change disinformation. For a comprehensive look at global warming, including research and video presentations, please see links on the right.
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