The Prospect of a Cold Guarantee is a Stone Cold Lock
January 23, 2011

Does This Look Like the Coldest Place in the United States?

Alaska Jan. Mean Min Temperatures 1971-2000

On This Date in History:  At this point in the winter season, data from the National Snow Analysis reveals that 49% of the nation is covered in snow.  Last month, that total was 44.8% but, in between, I’ve noted some days where the snow cover was as high as 70%.  We are in a weather pattern that has been persistent with a general ridge in the west and a trof down through the front range of the Rockies or through the midwest.  While there have been some big storms on the West Coast, most of the action seems to be riding up the northern part of the Rockies and then down deep, often way deep, into the South with the base of the mean trof generally in the heart of Dixie.  The mean long wave has been such that it tends to take storms just off the East Coast.  The East Coast has dodged a bullet for the most part because, while there have been a couple of big boppers nail New England, much of the Eastern Seaboard has missed out on several systems that, had they been about 100 miles further west, would have buried the I-95 corridor from North Carolina to Maine.  It’s pretty cold now but a super cold outbreak has for the most part been avoided.  While some records have no doubt been set, certainly no one has come close to all-time low temperatures recorded  in history.

Back in late 1970, there was a big high pressure ridge situated over Hawaii but, by early 1971, that big ridge shifted to the East.  A new mean ridge set up over the Bering Sea and created a strong blocking pattern over the Central Pacific. Northerly flow across the Bering Sea remained persistent but the southern part of the December trof moved east to set up a strong, broad cyclonic circulation across the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic.  All of Alaska was much colder than average that January with Fairbanks, Alaska not getting above 22 F degrees below zero for 18 consecutive days, which is a record for such cold of such duration.  The record-setting cold month in Fairbanks resulted in an average temperature for that month in that city of 31.7 F degrees below zero. 

The Prospect Creek Camp was located down this road at the bottom of the valley

About 200 miles Northwest of Fairbanks and 25 miles Southeast of Bettles, AK, one will find tiny Prospect Creek, Alaska.  It was first settled as a mining camp in the gold rush days.  Most notably, a camp was built there for the builders of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 1974.  The near ghost town was transformed into the residence for some 27,000 workers and to serve pipeline station number 5.  There is not much at the location and the camp was little more than housing with some washrooms.  When the pipeline was completed in 1977, Prospect Creek was once again abandoned, though in 1992 it did serve as a base of operations for some people working on the rebuilding of a bridge along the Dalton Highway.  Not only did it serve to house workers but also their families and I’m sure that mom was happy to bring the kids along to live in the wilderness north of the Arctic circle at about 67 degrees North Latitude.  It’s so far north and so cold that it’s really more or less a desert as it only gets between 0 and 10 inches of precipitation per year.  June and July aren’t too bad with average highs of 71 and 73 respectively.  But, January and February average highs are 2 and 10 degree respectively and 6 months out of the year, the average high is below freezing.  In spite of the cold, you can find Black and Brown bears in the area as well as Bald Eagles.  But, you probably won’t find Sarah Palin wandering about as it’s about 530 miles North of the former governor’s home town of Wasilla.

Airstrip at Snag, Yukon Territory Where Lowest North America Temperature was Recorded

Aside from all of this, it’s tough to find much about Prospect Creek and most likely would not be found anywhere on the internet or in encyclopedia’s if it were not what happened there on January 23, 1971.   The big fat ridge that parked itself over the region in January 1971 and brought Fairbanks such frigid conditions affected the entire state.  I suspect that the center of the high pressure ridge must have moved directly over Prospect Creek because, on this date in 1971, the mercury at Prospect Creek, Alaska fell all the way to 79.8F degrees below zero, giving it the record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United  States.  For all of North America, the low that day is second only to Snag, Yukon Territory, Canada that hit minus 81F degrees on February 3, 1947.  But, Snag’s elevation is 2100 ft while Prospect Creek is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 feet above sea level. 

It's Cold at Amundsen Scott but the Aurora Can Make It Worth the Trouble

 Mt. Washington, NH has the distinction of having the lowest annual mean temperature of 26.5F and the lowest mean summer temperature (51.6F) in the lower 48.  In 1954, a big old 1070mb high settled in over Montana and on January 20, the temperature at Rogers Pass in Lewis and Clark County fell to -69.7F to set the coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states. Rogers Pass sits about 150 feet below the Continental Divide at around 6000 ft in elevation.  It’s interesting that just 11 days before, the lowest temperature on the Greenland Icecap was recorded at -86.6 degrees. That is nothing compared to the all-time planet low temperature of -128.6F on July 21, 1983 at the Amundsen-Scott Station,which is just a few hundred yards from the geographic South Pole in Antarctica.  With all of this, it’s no wonder that Prospect Creek has zero population today.  But, you can mail a letter there, if you like.  The zip code is 99726.  I suppose the postal carrier that gets that mail-route is being punished because “nor rain, nor snow, nor dead of night” does not include “nor 79 degrees below zero.”  By the way, in case you are interested, you can take a tour that includes Prospect Creek.  I might suggest June or July.

Weather Bottom Line:  Well…after reading all of that, you should feel down-right warm.  Maybe not.  We have a hint of a warm up in the week ahead but it’s not much of a hint and it won’t last long.  First, we have a little disturbance wandering across that is damping out, or weakening so we may have some snow showers today and tomorrow.  Then another system comes across the south and an accompanying disturbance coming out of the midwest will also get damped out so we may have some snow showers Tuesday and Wednesday too but I don’t think it will be all that terrific.  We warm up slightly to the mid 30’s by the end of the week and may even hit 40 on Saturday but that’s about it because on Sunday, we’re back down to highs in the 20’s.  Break out the tanning butter on Saturday.

Global Warming VS US Snow Storms: No Conclusions Please
February 11, 2010

Tough To Convince These Folks About Global Warming

I have heard radio talk show hosts and politicians make all sorts of jokes about Global Warming as much of the United States get slammed by snow storms.  They could be right but, then again, it might be a good idea for them to check out the facts before they speak.  See, our opinions are limited on what we know and for people in the eastern United States, what we know is that it has been colder and snowier than normal which runs counter to what most people consider global warming.  Philadelphia, Washington DC and Baltimore all have not only exceeded their average annual snowfall totals but also have broken annual records.  The midpoint of winter was just passed about 10 days ago and spring time often produces big snowstorms.  Louisville is probably fairly representative of much of the northeastern quadrant of the US if not parts of the South as well in regard to temperatures. 

Nearly 2/3 of US buried under Snow On Feb. 11 2010

According to the National Weather Service’s  National Snow Analysis, the snow cover of the United States as of February 11 was about 63.5% of the nation with an average depth of over 8 inches.  If you look at the Louisville archived climate data, you find that Louisville has been much cooler than average going back to July 2009 when for the first time in recorded history, Louisville did not have a 90 degree day.  Keep in mind, that 3 years ago Louisville moved the official recording site from the National Weather Service to the airport after over 30 years and the airport routinely has higher temperatures.  There were bureaucratic reasons for the change but it generally will skew temperatures warmer and unless a climatologist is aware of the switch, then they might conclude that Louisville is a great example of global warming.  Nevertheless, in spite of the switch, no 90 degree temperatures in July 2009.  every month since then has been colder than average except for September 2009 and November.  In most cases, the degree of colder monthly temperatures has been pretty dramatic, such as the July 2009 departure from normal coming at at negative 5 degrees.  January 2010 featured 13 days of consistent below freezing temperatures but a week long warm up resulted in January’s departure from normal only coming in at negative 2.9 degrees.  So far, February has been some 5-6 degrees below normal with no real warm ups in site for at least 10 days. 

Arctic Sea Ice Growth of Recent Years Slowing?

What is going on is that the long wave pattern has been generally stuck.  There has been a consistent ridge over the Atlantic extending all the way to Greenland.  The result has been the eastern part of the US has been in a generally persistent trough that allows the Arctic air to spill down at times to the Gulf of Mexico and there are not the normal fluxuations.  Now, this is an El Nino year so we expect some variations to the norm.  But, here’s the interesting thing:  According to the Univeristy of Alabama at Huntsville’s data,  January 2010 was the warmest month globally was the warmest January since they began making records using satellite sourcing.    How can this be?  Europe has also been in the grips of a deep freeze and heavy snow all winter.  Dr. Roy Spencer of UAH has never been accused of being a Global Warming chicken little.  He has worked tirelessly to analyze the climate from a non-political view and so he has been the target of much criticism from the left.  So, his January report should not be dismissed by anyone.  Spencer explains that the long wave pattern has been such that the cold pattern has been over land masses while the oceans have largely been dominated by a warmer pattern.  The North Atlantic ridge I described is an example.

More Ice On Pacific Side of Arctic, Less on Atlantic Side

 I have been critical of “pro global warming” news reports based on data from the National Sea and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in recent years that always say that the Arctic ice was the 2nd or 3rd lowest when, in fact, the sea ice at the North Pole has been growing.  Yes, it’s low but it has been coming off its recorded historic lows so the headlines could say that its growing but instead they take the negative angle.  I’ve been tagged derisively as a “denier” when, in fact, I am looking for truth not trying to join a team.  In that spirit, I should note that the ice growth trend seems to be slowing for the moment.  In January, the total ice cover was greater than the lows of 2006 but, it is less than 2009 which is a break in the trend of growth since 2006.   To be sure, one month does not a trend make and nothing can be construed one way or another from this single month.  But, it is interesting in that the Pacific side of the Arctic really has an ice extent beyond the long term average.  But, it’s the Atlantic side that has come in low.  That same ridge that has given Louisville and the rest of the east colder and snowier conditions has resulted in warmer conditions, thus reduced ice growth.

Trend Has Been Down but is it Mother Nature's doing or Man's Fault?

What does all of this mean? I dunno.  And, as I’ve pointed out before, the correct response should be I Don’t Know rather than taking a position one way or another.  Because no one does know.  The earth temperatures have been rising in recent years, but they’ve done so in the past.  Is man contributing to the warmth?  It’s so hard to say especially after revelations that some of the books have been cooked.  If man is the cause can we do anything about it?  And perhaps more importantly, should governments try to do something about it?  Would the amount of difference from any treaties really make enough of a difference to justify the costs and could that money be used better for a fight against disease or world poverty?  I have suggested that perhaps we are neglecting a bigger and real threat, which is the pollution of our oceans,  waterways and water sources.  But, the lesson here is to recognize that the world is a big place and just because you are having a tough winter doesn’t mean that the world is going into an ice age.  It’s the weather…and it changes.

Sunshine should Help reduce the snowpack some next couple of days

NAM 84 hr snow map points the way to Sunday night and Monday

Weather Bottom Line:  Global Warming or not, as you can tell from the data above, Louisville has been colder than the 30 year average every month but two since last summer and most of those anomolies have been fairly significant on the down side.  I don’t see much of a change.  In fact, I still don’t see how we get above freezing Friday and Saturday or even Sunday as some forecasts suggest.  We will be close and if we do get above 32, it wont be for long and unless you are a thermometer, it won’t matter.  I think we’d get more snow loss from sublimation than from actual melting.  And it still looks like we’re going to add to our snow totals.  The models continue to be consistent with bringing a shorwave down thorugh the flow on Saturday bringing snow for us Saturday night through Monday with most data suggesting the best accumulations coming on Monday. Some want to carry flurries and light snow into Tuesday.  The range in snow totals generally are from 3-6 inches.

GFS 120 hours Shows Possible Result of Next Snow Event in Time for President's Day

If you examine the NAM and GFS graphical snow depiction you can see a striking similarity.  The NAM only goes out 84 hours to Sunday evening but you can see what looks like a finger painted line of snow pointing straight to Louisville with about 3 inches or snow pointing to Kentuckiana.  The 84 GFS map looks almost exactly the same but we have the benefit of going out 120 hours on the GFS and you can see how it carries out the scenario.  As with recent storms, there is a tight snowfall gradient from south to north.  What is interesting is that the GFS takes a sharp turn higher in Southern Indiana just north of Louisville with totals up toward 8 inches whereas louisville is in the 4-5 inch range.  As I’ve said for several days, I do think that we will get some decent snow but it’s tough to get 8 inches from a storm coming from the northwest.  Typically, you need a moisture source like the Gulf of Mexico involved or a storm coming from the Southwest to get some really good snow totals.  But, then again, if the shortwave is cold enough aloft it will squeeze whatever moisture  it can find right out.  So, we’ll see.  And I still don’t see how we get above freezing anytime soon.

2012: Doomsday Just 3 Years Away; Winter Begins Today, 1/2 Nation Under Snow
December 21, 2009

El Triunfo de la muerte(1562)-Man has envisioned the Apocalypse (and been wrong) for centuries

Click Image to See how Fitz Destroys the World!

Is the End of the World 3 years from today in 2012?  The big hit movie that is out called 2012 claims that the end of the world will be upon us exactly 3 years from today.  There have been many end of the world movies over the years.  I like the Koko the Clown animated short that shows Koko unsuccessfully keeping the world from destruction from the actions of Fitz the Dog…click the photo to the right for the film…it’s great.  No, in 2012,  there will be huge floods, a big planet crashing into the earth and the sun will burn us to a crisp among other things.  This is all based on the Mayan calendar that ends on December 21, 2012. There’s even at least one website dedicated to helping you survive 2012.  But, according to the National Geographic, it’s all nonsense.  They point out that the Mayans had a long calendar that lasted 1,872,000 days or over 5125 years.  But, according to the experts, the Mayan calendar does not mark the end of all time, but instead marks the time when the calendar simply rolls over to another enormous cycle. 

I Like Koko's Version of the End Better

Now, the movie has sparked fear around the globe with reports of people threatening suicide to avoid the trauma of the impending doom.  Some women are said to have decided that they would kill their children and then commit suicide to spare the family from the fate of an apocalyptic world.  So much anxiety has been brought forth that NASA dedicated an entire webpage to try and aleviate fears.  However, back in 2006, NASA reported predictions that the current cycle of solar activity will peak soon.  A lead scientist predicted that it would be in…2012.  But others think its 2010 or 2011.  It is supposed to be the biggest burst of solar activity in 50 years.  Many people think that climate change is connected to solar activity, so this should add to the debate. 

Who knows what will happen 3 years from now…we don’t even know what’s going to  happen this year except that one thing is for certain…

December 21, 2009 is the start of Winter, or the Winter Solstice. It starts at 17:47 UTC or 17:47 Z.  That is 12:47 pm EST.  That is when the earth is positioned such that the sun shines directly over 23.5 degree south latitude, which is the Tropic of Capricorn.  Actually, I think its 23 degrees and 27 minutes south latitude.   The day is the longest in the Southern Hemisphere and the shortest of the Northern Hemisphere.  So, why is it the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere?  It’s because the earth’s atmosphere has lots of water vapor.  What has that got to do with anything?  Well, the heat capacitance of water is rather high so it takes a while for it to warm up and cool down.  Think of a pot of water. When you add heat to the stove, the water doesn’t boil immediately, it takes awhile to heat up.  When you remove the heat, it doesn’t cool right away but takes awhile to return to room temperature.  Same with the earth.  When the radition of the sun is decreased, it takes awhile for that part of the earth to cool down.  From this point forth, the Northern Hemisphere will start receiving a more concentrated dose of solar radiation, but it will take a few months for the atmosphere to react.  Hence, spring does not come until around March 21 when the sun’s radiation is generally perpendicular to the equator.  NASA explains fully the seasons.

Heat Index Chart

The same principal holds for weather conditions with regard to geography or local atmospheric conditions.  In the desert, it is not uncommon for there to be a 40 degree difference in day and night temperatures.  But, along the coastal regions, there can be as little as a 5 degree difference between daily highs and lows.  That is because in the desert, it is dry and along the coast there is an abundance of humidity levels, or moisture content in the air.  That is why it is pretty tough for temperatures along the coast to hit 95 degrees or higher.  It does happen but there has to be perfect conditions.  People who talk about a place like New Orleans claims it gets to 95 degrees with 95% humidity.  That is simply not pragmatically possible.  But, what is quite frequent in New Orleans is a temperature of say 88 degrees with 60% humidity.  The chart on the left indicates that would create a heat index of 95 degrees.   Oh, it does happen from time to time in the middle east, particularly in the Persian Gulf.  I think Ethiopia has the record highest dewpoint at 94 degrees.  To make my point, if it were 115 degrees and the dewpoint was 94, the relative humidity would be about 54%. 

Now, one should not confuse the solstice with the perihelion.  The earth rotates about the sun, not in a circle, but instead in an eliptical orbit.  The earth tilts on it’s axis at about 23.5 degrees and when it is near its closest, or the perihelion, it is tilted away from the sun.  It’s seems counterintuitive for residents in the Northern Hemisphere, which is most of humanity, but the earth is closest to the sun not long after the winter solstice.  The earth’s perihelion is around January 3 of each year, which one in Chicago would call the dead of winter.   The aphelion is when the earth is about 152 million kilometers from the sun, or about 7 million kilometers more than it is at the perihelion.  You have a different reason to celebrate the 4th of July now that you know that July 4 is the earth’s aphelion.  I’ve always reasoned that nature shows its wisdom in this process.   See, when the earth is at its closest, the landmass of the southern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun…the region of the earth that has far less landmass than the northern hemisphere.  Perhaps we would suffer extreme global warming if the majority of landmass were closest to the sun when the tilt was toward the sun.  True perfection, this planet of ours.

Click on Image for 2 week animation of snow depth

Weather Dunce

Weather Bottom Line:  To begin Winter, the lower 48 of the United States has about a 52% snow cover.  Louisville got a bit of a dusting late Sunday night.  I typically do what weather guys do which is follow the Jackson Browne methodology and  “forget about the losses and exaggerate the wins.  But, I will break with tradition and tell you that I was a dunce.  I did not see this little snow event.  My guess is that it’s not because it wasn’t there and was a “surprise” as newscasters like to say when a forecast doesn’t come about.  No, I believe that it was probably right there in the data and I simply missed it.  I was a dunce.  But, I am confident of victory regarding Christmas.  It will not be a White Christmas.  The big storm coming out of the southwest will pass to our west.  We will have rain with steadily rising temperatures as we go through the week.  As I had mentioned the other day, there was a weird push of cold air with the low remaining somewhat stationary to our northwest, which I believe is an indication that the low is going into it’s dying stage and we have an occlusion developing.  But, I don’t think that will result in any significant snow and if anything does come about, it would be in the form of a dusting for Friday.  But, after warming above seasonal levels by midweek, we go back below seasonal temperatures for next weekend.