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Thu, 09 Dec 2021
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Extreme Temperatures

Snowflake Cold

It's time to get rid of meaningless wind chill numbers

weatherman
© Rob Donnelly

A cold snap is setting record low temperatures across the United States. Yes, it's very cold. But wind chill is not a useful way to describe the weather, as Daniel Engber explained in 2007. The original article is below.


If the weather makes headlines only when it's horrendous out, wind chill is its PR agent. This week, when temperatures in New York City dropped to single digits, newspapers and TV meteorologists breathlessly reported that the wind chill had hit minus 11. In Ohio, they told us, the thermometers read close to zero, but gusts of cold air made it feel like 25 below. Banner stories proclaimed a wind chill of 35 below in Chicago.

The weathermen trot out these arctic, pumped-down numbers to put an exclamation point on the banality of winter. Wind chill readings make excitement out of mere inconvenience; they imbue a miserable day with the air of epic calamity. A temperature of 5 degrees is unpleasant. A wind chill of 20 below - well, that's something to talk about.

Snowflake Cold

New York City breaks 118-year old chill record

New York Chill map
© MyFox NY
Cold Weather: Wind Chills that were recorded across the region on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m.
The coldest, most dangerous blast of polar air in decades gripped the country on Tuesday, Jan. 7, closing schools and day care centers, grounding flights and forcing people to pull their hoods and scarves tight to protect exposed skin from nearly instant frostbite.

On this record breaking cold day, New Yorkers described the weather as "brutal." Dr. Jeffrey Rabrich at St. Luke's Hospital told Fox 5 that he has seen patients come in with frost bite. He said if you're not wearing gloves or a hat, frostbite can set in within minutes.

Central Park broke a 118-year-old record for Jan. 7 when the temperature dropped to 4 degrees. Strong winds pushed the wind chill well below zero. Central Park had a record low temp of 6° since 1896. The Tuesday temperature was 50 degrees lower than was recorded on Monday.

Snowflake Cold

Cold wave grips North India bringing worst fog in years

Delhi fog
© PTI Photo
With dense fog enveloping the IGI Airport, the visibility dropped below the mandatory 50 metres.
Following the worst fog of the last eight years, Delhi government on Monday announced leave for all schools here from January 07 to 11.

Due to fall in the temperature and dense fog today morning, air, road and rail traffic in the national capital was badly effected.

Fog and cold wave hit normal life here as the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) airport was forced to shut down partially for around three hours early today after extremely poor visibility on the runway.

Ice Cube

Time magazine 2014: Global Warming driving historic cold

It's polar bear weather today for much of the Midwest. Temperatures are in the -20sº F (-28º C) and -30sº F (-35º C) in eastern Montana, North Dakota, northeast South Dakota, Minnesota and northern Iowa. With the stiff wind, it's even worse - wind chills in the -40sº F (-40º C) and -50sº F (-45º C) are common across Minnesota and North Dakota, cold enough for exposed skin to suffer frostbite in just five minutes. By tonight, the freeze will reach the East Coast, where temperatures from Florida to Maine are expected to be 30º F to 40º F (16º C to 22º C) degrees below normal, extremes that haven't been seen in decades. The National Weather Service isn't kidding when it calls the cold "life-threatening."

Unsurprisingly, the extreme cold has brought out the climate change skeptics, who point to the freeze and the recent snowstorms and say, essentially, "nyah-nyah." Now this is where I would usually point to the fact that the occasional cold snap - even one as extreme as much of the U.S. is experiencing now - doesn't change the overall trajectory of a warming planet. Weather is what happens in the atmosphere day to day; climate is how the atmosphere behaves over long periods of time. Winters in the U.S. have been warming steadily over the past century, and even faster in recent decades, so it would take more than a few sub-zero days to cancel that out.

But not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely. Right now much of the U.S. is in the grip of a polar vortex, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a whirlwind of extremely cold, extremely dense air that forms near the poles. Usually the fast winds in the vortex - which can top 100 mph (161 k/h) - keep that cold air locked up in the Arctic. But when the winds weaken, the vortex can begin to wobble like a drunk on his fourth martini, and the Arctic air can escape and spill southward, bringing Arctic weather with it. In this case, nearly the entire polar vortex has tumbled southward, leading to record-breaking cold, as you can see in this weatherbell.com graphic:
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Ice Cube

Time magazine 1974: Another Ice Age?

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In Africa, drought continues for the sixth consecutive year, adding terribly to the toll of famine victims. During 1972 record rains in parts of the U.S., Pakistan and Japan caused some of the worst flooding in centuries. In Canada's wheat belt, a particularly chilly and rainy spring has delayed planting and may well bring a disappointingly small harvest. Rainy Britain, on the other hand, has suffered from uncharacteristic dry spells the past few springs. A series of unusually cold winters has gripped the American Far West, while New England and northern Europe have recently experienced the mildest winters within anyone's recollection.

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere - from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

Igloo

1999 - Scientists were using the polar vortex as a way to raise money for Arctic ozone hole research

In 1999, scientists were using the polar vortex as a way to raise money for Arctic ozone hole research.
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Eugene Register-Guard - Google News Archive Search

Ice Cube

1994 - Polar Vortex came during a cold year due to eruption of Mt. Pinatubo

1994 was a cold year, due largely to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. That year also had a lot of Arctic ice. There was a similar polar vortex cold outbreak during that year, and no one was stupid enough to blame it on global warming.
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The Deseret News - Google News Archive Search

Snowflake Cold

Polar vortices have been around forever - they have almost nothing to do with more CO2 in the atmosphere

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© NOAA/NASA
Award-winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Will Happer rejected the media and some scientists claims that the record U.S. cold is due to man-made global warming. Happer, explained the science in an exclusive interview with Climate Depot:

"Polar vortices have been around forever. They have almost nothing to do with more CO2 in the atmosphere," Happer said in an exclusive interview with Climate Depot.

Happer continued: "Here is a thumbnail sketch of the physics. The poles have little sunshine even in summer, but especially in winter, like now in the Arctic. So the air over the poles rapidly gets bitterly cold because of radiation to dark space, with negligible replenishment of heat from sunlight. The sinking cold air is replaced by warmer air flowing in from the south at high altitudes. Since the earth is rotating, the air flowing in from the south has to start rotating faster to the west, just like a figure skater rotates faster if she pulls in her arms. This forms the polar vortex. The extremely cold air at the bottom of the vortex can be carried south by meanders of the jet stream at the edge of the vortex. We will have to live with polar vortices as long as the sun shines and the earth rotates.

Like any fluid system at "high Reynolds number," the jet stream is highly unstable, and from time to time it develops meanders to low latitudes, like the one we have had the past few days. About this time of year in 1777, just before the Battle of Princeton, there was a similar sequence. On January 2, Cornwallis's men marched south from New York City through cold rain and muddy roads to try to trap George Washington and his little Continental Army in Trenton . On the night of January 2-3, a polar vortex swept across New Jersey, with snow and a very hard freeze. Aided by the extremely cold weather, Washington was able to evacuate his troops and artillery over newly frozen roads and to avoid Cornwallis's encirclement. Reaching Princeton on the viciously cold morning of January 3, Washington won another battle against the British and escaped to winter quarters in Morristown. Thank you polar vortex!

Attention

Review of extreme weather and cosmic events on Earth in 2013 (VIDEO)

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Record heatwaves and wildfires, widespread and severe flooding, massive sinkholes swallowing buildings and people, mass animal deaths, an asteroid exploding over Russia, thousands more fireballs lighting up the sky throughout the year, record-breaking blizzards snowfall, the coldest northern spring in 100 years, massive landslides, 'rare' tornadoes occurring in places they shouldn't, the widest tornado ever observed, more volcanic eruptions, more major earthquakes forming new islands, the strongest tropical storm in recorded history, successive hurricanes in Europe, the coldest temperature ever recorded, snow in Cairo... these are signs of climate change, aka Earth Changes.

Welcome to the new normal.


Snowflake Cold

Mother nature strikes back: Fracking stopped due to cold

snowstorm 2014 canada
© Darren Hauck / Reuters
The severe cold weather sweeping across the mid-United States is threatening to curtail booming oil production as it disrupts traffic, strands wells and interrupts drilling and fracking operations.

Weather stations across the U.S. Midwest recorded some of the coldest temperatures in two decades this weekend, with many schools closed and flights delayed. Arctic cold air is also spreading across Texas on Monday with temperatures expected to drop to single digits in the morning.

Output in North Dakota, the second-largest oil producing state, usually ebbs in winter as producers scale back on drilling and well completion services such as fracking, which pumps a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into wells.

But analysts are bracing for a possibly worse than usual impact on output from the state, that could affect operations of companies such as Continental Resources, Marathon Oil and Hess Energy. The companies did not immediately reply to questions about operations on Monday.

"It is so cold that they cannot produce at full capacity, if at all. That should support prices," said Carsten Fritsch, senior oil analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.