Think on These Things

January 22, 2014



Bitterly cold air is again settling southward from the Arctic into a large part of the Eastern states. Unlike the outbreak from early January, this time the cold will have more staying power.

Into the first part of next week, the polar vortex will hover just north of the United States border causing waves of frigid air to blast into the Midwest and much of the East.

The polar vortex is a commonly used term among the meteorological community to describe an intense storm with frigid air and strong winds that spends much of its time above the Arctic Circle. Occasionally, during the autumn, winter and spring, this storm can dip farther south, approaching the mid-latitudes.


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Christian Science Monitor:

While much of the United States has experienced a weather year with fewer extremes and an easing drought, the record-breaking California drought – the worst since 1895 – is not leaving the region anytime soon, according to climatologists.

The unseasonal balmy but dry weather is the result of an equally unprecedented high pressure ridge lurking offshore and blocking the typical winter storms needed to drop precipitation all along the West Coast.

This ridge has persisted for 13 months and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to leave, points out climatologist Brian Fuchs, from the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This high pressure ridge system is feeding on itself, “creating a sort of perfect environment for perpetuating the dry conditions” it creates, he says.

High-pressure systems are not uncommon, but it is abnormal for them to hang around uninterrupted for so long. “This makes it even harder as winter storms approach for them to break through and change that pattern,” he adds.

San Francisco Business Times:

Yes, 2013 was the driest year in California since the 1840s, when recordkeeping started. But Lynn Ingram, a climate expert at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks this could be the Golden State’s driest year in half a millennium.

“This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years,” said Ingram, a paleoclimatologist.

She studies fossilized records of earth’s climate going back millions of years — layers of rock or sediment, shells, microfossils — or other indicators, including rings in trees, seeking a long view.

Based on the width of old tree rings, Ingram concludes California hasn’t been this dry since 1580.

University of Maine via Jeff Masters


9 Responses to “Think on These Things”

  1. vierotchka Says:

    Sharing this on FB where I have a great many American friends who basically really need this information.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    I’m “thinking on these things” as I take a break from shoveling “presents from the polar vortex” (three inches this time, and so light and fluffy that I’m using the leave blower on the vehicles—-fast and easy). We have gone from 60+ degrees to 5 degrees in two days in VA, and it’s going to stay very cold for a week, as the article notes.

    We will survive, but the same jet stream anomaly that is giving the eastern 2/3 of the country such doses of cold is a much bigger worry for the western 1/3 and particularly CA. The “Okies” went to CA during the dust bowl era. Where will the Californians go when CA dries up and blows away? Back to OK? In Colorado, you can see many bumper stickers that say “Don’t Californicate Colorado”, so they likely won’t be welcome there (and CO is having it’s own water problems anyway—reference the Aspen article).

    My toes have thawed and stopped hurting and now my head hurts from “thinking on these things”. Think I’ll go back out and finish dealing with the polar vortex and “move the pain” back to appendages.

  3. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    What’s that big wall in the desert for?
    Might be time for a rename – Emptysom Lake.

  4. Nick Carter Says:

    Wish I could remember the date, but I recall last spring where Sioux City, Iowa went from having their latest measurable snowfall (couple inches in April), to having their earliest 90 plus temperature (98 degrees), only four days later. It never made big news, but I’d definitely call that “weather whiplash”.

  5. rayduray Says:

    Just as the drought was settling in in California about 13 months ago, Vice Media sent a reporter to California for an investigation into the perpetually proposed peripheral canal. As the classically calloused movie quote has it, “forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown”.

  6. rayduray Says:

    “Cadillac Desert” is another classic. Originally written by Marc Reisner and published in 1986, the book became the basis for a PBS documentary a decade later. This stuff still resonates for me.

    Book description:

    • MorinMoss Says:

      I recently saw this tool featured on Paul Douglas / Weather Nation videos – it’s very good.

      I notice that they are using the 1979-2000 period as a baseline but that’s only a 20 yr period.
      I thought the agreed-upon interval is 30 years. Is is because of the start of the satellite record?

      • greenman3610 Says:

        senior scientists are suggesting that the base period be changed to 1950-1980, which I think is what GISS uses.

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