Santa take care


Santa/Wikimedia Commons

If some meteorologists are right, Santa Claus best beware he could be on thin ice when he gets home from making this year’s deliveries.

The polar vortex is decaying again, they say, and a lot of cold air could be about to leak away from his northern homeland.

When this happened last March, the New York Times headlined “Europe Was Colder Than the North Pole This Week. How Could That Be?”

With snow covering the gondolas in Venice, the news was bad for both regions, but people being people worried first about themselves. This being the Christmas season,we might give a little consideration to the icy kingdom of the merry, old elf.

That done, we can now start wondering about what to expect in Alaska.


Because if the past is precedent, all that cold, polar air sliding south from the Arctic into the middle of the North American continent is likely to bring a strong push of warm Pacific Ocean air into Alaska.

“The best analogs for the upcoming event, at least based on the Canadian and the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) forecast are January 2003 and February 2010.  Those happen to be El Niño winters similar to this winter,” predicts  Judah Cohen, an MIT climatologist and director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER).

 AER is a consultant to a variety of federal agencies including the Department of Defense, and insurance, investment and energy companies.

January 2003 was about 4 degrees above normal in Anchorage, according to the National Weather ServiceFebruary 2010 was just shy of 7 degrees above normal in the state’s largest city, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center. 

Warm winters both, neither was anywhere near as crazy as 2014 when the polar vortex fell all to pieces. This is the 2014 summary from the National Weather Service:

“January 2014 was the warmest since 1985 and the fourth warmest in the past seven decades….Several long-term climate stations in southern and southwest Alaska recorded their warmest January ever, including Homer, King Salmon, and Cold Bay.

“At Anchorage the average temperature for January of 29.4ºF was the fourth-warmest on record—slightly warmer than the average temperature this past January in Philadelphia and New York City! At Nome, the temperature rose above freezing on 14 days, the second highest number of above-freezing days in January.

“A number of locations registered the warmest temperature ever recorded in those areas during the month of January, including 61ºF at Seward, 57ºF at Homer, and 40ºF at Kotzebue. While there are no long-term observations at a single location in the Palmer area, the high temperature measured at Palmer Airport of 58ºF far exceeds any reliable temperature ever recorded in January in this area.”

The predicted thaw this time is expected to be significantly smaller, but weather forecasters all note the huge degree of variability that has emerged in the wake of these weather events in the past.

“…There’s uncertainty. No polar vortex weakening event is exactly the same,” writes Jonathon Erdman at The Weather Channel, which is predicting “The Polar Vortex Might Weaken Soon, and That Could Unleash a Much Colder January.”

That would be a colder January in the Lower 48.

When the rest of the country zigs, Alaska zags because of the interactions between the jet stream and the vortex. A stable vortex over the pole keeps the winds high aloft generally spinning west to east around the ice cap.

And it turns, turns, turns

polar vortex

The normal flow of the jet stream around the polar vortex (left) and the weak-vortex flow (right)/NOAA graphic

Without the vortex to keep the lid on things, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says, “the jet stream doesn’t have much to keep it in line. It becomes wavy and rambling. Put a couple of areas of high-pressure systems in its way, and all of a sudden you have a river of cold air being pushed down south along with the rest of the polar vortex system.” 

As the river of cold, Arctic air starts flowing south into the midsection of the continent, another river of warm, moist air starts flowing north from tropical Pacific Ocean into Alaska’s gut.

Cohen analyzed northern hemisphere surface temperatures for two weeks immediately following the dates of major, mid-winter warmings similar to the one now expected and tracked them for the following three to six weeks or until end of the winter. There were eight such events between 2001 and 2018.

In seven of the eight, most of Alaska warmed. In four out of the eight, all of the state warmed significantly, sometimes by almost 10 degrees.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is now saying the January “temperature outlook favors above normal over Alaska” with “above normal precipitation…also favored over the southern third of mainland Alaska, which is consistent with an El Nino, though this is not predicted by all models.”

Given that January and February temperatures in Alaska are normally well below freezing, the precipitation is likely to come as snow, which will be good news for snow-sport fans.

The above normal temperatures not so much. Anchorage was almost 8 degrees above normal in November, and 10 degrees above normal in October.

As a result, lakes and rivers have been slow to freeze. Two Anchorage residents died Dec. 18 after their snowmachines went through the ice on a lake north of the city popular for recreation, reported Alaska State Troopers, who were warning riders to be alert to thin-ice dangers. 



4 replies »

  1. So, is AER (subsidiary of Verisk) the “scientific body” responsible for telling everyone El Nino is to blame for our warmer weather?
    The link in this story states:
    “We prepare agencies like NOAA, NASA and the Department of Defense, along with large insurance, investment and energy companies to anticipate, manage, react to and profit from weather and climate related risk.”
    Key word here is PROFIT, from the weather and climate risks…aka “Climate Change”.
    This is a brave new world as corporations funded by DARPA perdict and control weather through advanced “geoengineering” means.
    Never have weather predictions been so accurate…
    Ask yourself “How can this company so accurately predict the weather?”
    Well, maybe they can “manipulate it” with technology such as “cloud seeding”?
    Sounds a lot like “Disaster Capitalism” taking hold throughout America.
    “Our association with Verisk Analytics has enabled AER to extend to more organizations worldwide our understanding of how emerging issues – such as the Earth’s atmosphere and global climate change – impact risk and risk-management strategies.”
    Things were so much simpler when all we had to fear was Acid Rain.
    Today the Globalists have their sights on disruption and rebuilding…you can be sure more extreme weather patterns are in our future and we will be told “El Nino” is to blame!

    • Hi there, Steve.
      Perhaps you can inform us as to what weather site you’re using that is so accurate. I can usually believe mine (wunderground & noaa) for about 2 days max – then it’s total guesswork. 10 day outlook, I feel like I can bet opposite of what the websites are predicting and I’ll win 7 out of 10 times. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say that our weather predictions are generally getting better due to better satellites, better computer modeling and more educated (experienced) climatologists… not so much the cloud seeding, HAARP site and rain dances of the hysteric masses.
      I hope that you enjoyed your Christmas… cheer(s)!

      • Jack,
        Seasons Greetings to you…
        I have read that 9 of the last 12 hurricane seasons have been perdicted with nearly complete accuracy.
        “We’re in the middle of this big revolution in how we use weather,” says Bill Gail, co-founder and CTO of Global Weather Corporation, based in Boulder, Colorado
        “A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time. … Since we can’t collect data from the future, models have to use estimates and assumptions to predict future weather.”
        “Five-day outlooks have made even more progress, improving nearly a degree and a half on average. About 57 percent of five-day forecasts fall within 3 degrees of the actual temperature, up from a not-so-impressive 44 percent.”
        “Today, we can guess the high temperature three days into the future as well as we could predict tomorrow’s weather 12 years ago, Floehr says. And our five-day forecasts are, on average, as skilled as 2005’s three-day predictions.”
        Popular Science
        I find it fascinating that in the 1960’s there was more discussion of cloud seeding and “weather control” than there is today?
        Declassified documents show there were intense cloud seeding campaigns in Vietnam for milatary purposes.
        That technology is only more advanced today.
        Here is a short clip of JFK speaking on controling the weather way back in 1961.

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