The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: A Cold Winter Has Come to the West
Dear Diary. After all of the hoopla over a record warm Christmas and week leading up to New Years across the United States, let’s not forget that there remains a frigid facet to climate change during winters. We saw this play out in spades during February when we had a stratospheric warming event, which led to a big kink in the jet, allowing record cold air to penetrate the south-central U.S. This winter’s unlucky area is the western third of the country, with the core of frigid anomalies taking up camp from the Pacific Northwest into British Columbia, the same unfortunate area that saw the core of record historic heat over this summer. In truth, these areas affected by near record cold are getting smaller, as noted by record statistics, but still can be health hazards. Yes, hypothermia and icy auto accidents are still a big thing as of 2021.
Here is a recently written article by my young, outstanding meteorologist friend writing for the Washington Post, Matthew Cappucci:
Extreme cold targets western Canada, Pacific Northwest into next week
Temperatures could plummet 40 degrees below normal, with snow possible in Seattle and Portland, Ore.
European modeling system simulation of temperature differences from normal on Wednesday morning. (WeatherBell)
By Matthew Cappucci December 23, 2021 at 2:17 p.m. EST
A blast of extremely cold air with anomalous readings up to 40 degrees below normal will surge into the Pacific Northwest next week, bringing frigid conditions and a chance of snow for Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
The incoming cold reflects a contrast against what has been a springlike month over most of the continental United States. At least four major pulses of warm air have brought record-high temperatures and severe weather to the nation, including a string of exceptionally potent and deadly tornadoes across the mid-South. Less than a week later, a destructive derecho brought violent winds to much of the Central Plains, Corn Belt and Upper Midwest.
Now a pattern shake-up could bring a clash of the air masses that lasts into the new year, with winter’s chill dominating in the West and sending periodic insurgences of mildness east. It’s a recipe for unsettled and active weather in the transition zone between the air masses, with storminess possible.
Writing on Twitter, meteorologist Bob Henson, a contributor to the Capital Weather Gang, noted the extraordinary temperature division across the continent. Edmonton, Alberta, may see a high of minus-8 degrees on Christmas Day at the same time that Dallas sets records in the 80s.
Where the cold is
The main frosty air mass has yet to gather, its consolidation predicated on events unfolding at the atmosphere’s mid-levels. A zone of cold air and low pressure several miles above the ground stretches from near Nunavut, Canada, to several thousand miles west of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. The lengthy disturbance in the atmosphere is thin and diffuse, but it will gather into a more potent upper-air disturbance off the coast of British Columbia on Christmas Eve.
The upper-level low-pressure area will intensify a surface disturbance, which will draw cool air southward. Those northerly winds will be reinforced by strong high pressure north of Vancouver. The sharp pressure gradient, or change in air pressure with distance, will reinforce a breezy bone-chilling flow. Then another surface low-pressure center will form over the Columbia River Basin toward Monday or Tuesday of next week, further tugging down additional cold from Canada.
How cold it will get?
The weather in Canada will do Canada things, with the coldest air set to park over British Columbia, Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. The duration of the cold, through much of next week, may be exceptional. “If you’re under the age of 50, this could be the longest cold-snap you’ve experienced in Southern B.C.,” tweeted Tyler Hamilton, a meteorologist for Canada’s Weather Network.
Freezing highs and periodic snow showers are predicted in Vancouver from Sunday through the middle of next week.
Exactly how much of this cold spills south into the United States is still uncertain, but it’s probable that areas along the northern U.S. border will see an icy kiss.
The cold looks to penetrate into Washington state on Monday, peaking in intensity Tuesday through Thursday before relaxing its grip and becoming more thinly strewn across the western Rockies and the Great Basin of Nevada by late week. Seattle, where the average late December high is around 47 degrees, is expected to hit only 26 or 27 degrees on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That would set a record low maximum temperature for Monday. Overnight lows could dip into the teens.
Portland, normally closer to the mid-40s in late December, probably won’t crack 30 on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday will be in the lower to mid-30s and could flirt with or tie records.
Farther inland, there will be no moderating marine influence, allowing temperature to drop even lower. In Spokane, Monday is forecast to have a high around 16, Tuesday 15, and Wednesday 13. That’s only two degrees shy of a record Monday. Overnight lows during the period will be near zero.
In Idaho, daytime highs will range in the upper teens to lower 20s, with minus double digits possible in northern Montana by Wednesday. Overnight lows there could reach minus-30 degrees or colder, with negative teens likely in parts of the Dakotas. Anomalously cold weather with overnight lows below zero also will reach Minnesota and Wyoming.
Snow on the way for some
The American GFS model simulates snow in the higher elevations of the Pacific Coast. Some may even make it to Seattle and Portland. (WeatherBell)
A pair of low-intensity atmospheric rivers will drop southeast from the Gulf of Alaska in the coming days, bringing mountain snow and some lowland rain to the Pacific Northwest intermittently through at least early next week. Portions of California’s Sierra Nevada may be buried beneath more than seven feet of snow with the next batch. Winds will gust up to 100 mph in the highest elevations through Sunday.
Snow showers are likely in Seattle on Sunday, with up to an inch of accumulation possible. A few flakes could fly as early as Saturday night, marking a festive Christmas decoration delivered by the atmosphere. Snow is likely Sunday and Monday in Portland, too, with flurries and snow showers a possibility through the midweek. Snow levels may drop as low as 200 or 300 feet above sea level.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for continued odds of below-average temperatures in the western United States; in fact, it lists chilly weather as virtually a guarantee for the next two weeks.
Jason Samenow contributed to this report.
By Matthew Cappucci is a meteorologist for Capital Weather Gang. He earned a B.A. in atmospheric sciences from Harvard University in 2019, and has contributed to The Washington Post since he was 18. He is an avid storm chaser and adventurer, and covers all types of weather, climate science, and astronomy. Twitter
Here is an outlook from Pivotal Weather for the first few days of 2021, depicting temperature anomalies across the United States:
Notice that the West stays cold with the South staying above average. We will see if this pattern holds well into January.
Here are some of Sunday’s “ET’s”:
Here is more climate and weather news from Sunday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”