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500mb (half way up in the atmosphere) NH map of the atmospheric circulation 28Jan14
An exceptionally warm dome of air over Alaska and the Arctic Ocean has split the tropospheric polar vortex in two. Port Alsworth, Alaska tied Alaska's record high temperature for January, 62°F while the eastern U.S. was cold.
The polar vortex has a dagger of warm air through its cold Arctic heart. Its shape resembles a gigantic walnut now. The northern hemisphere's tropospheric polar vortex generally has two low centers, one in Siberia and one in northern Canada, but today's ridge of warm air in the middle levels of the atmosphere, covering the Arctic ocean from the Pacific to the Atlantic, is extraordinary. The warmth above 80°N is exceptional.

Professor Jennifer Francis predicted that a warming Arctic would lead to a wavy, weakened polar vortex that would spill cold air over the central U.S. and central Asia. This January's weather is precisely the kind of weather she was predicting would become more common.

A dome of extraordinarily warm air over the Arctic ocean, today, January 28, 2014, has broken up the polar vortex, pushing cold air south over the continents. This is the "warm oceans cold continents" pattern which has been predicted by climate models to become more common as Arctic sea ice retreats and oceanic heat moves north.
The Anchorage office of the Weather Service just released a list of record high Alaska temperatures for January 27.
1110 AM AKST TUE JAN 28 2014



NWS AT SAND LAKE     48        TIED 48/1945
PALMER APRT              57        WAS  47/2007 2ND RECORD DAY IN A ROW
SEWARD APRT             61        WAS  42/2003
SELDOVIA                   57        WAS  40/2003
SOLDOTNA                  52        WAS  48/1965
PORTAGE GLACIER       55        WAS  41/2007 AND 2003
KENAI APRT                 49        WAS  43/1945
HOMER APRT               57        WAS  45/1945
CORDOVA APRT           57        WAS  46/1926  

The last half of January has been exceptionally warm in Alaska and western Canada
Alaska and the Yukon territory were exceptionally warm in the last half of January, 2014.
Weather Underground's weather historian, Christopher Burt, noted the record high of 62°F for January in Alaska that was tied yesterday.

UPDATE 1/28: The all-time warmest temperature ever observed in Alaska was tied on January 27 when the temperature peaked at 62°F (16.7°C) at Port Alsworth. This ties a similar reading measured at Petersburg on January 16, 1981.

The last half of January has been one of the warmest winter periods in the state’s history with temperatures averaging as much as 40°F above normal on some days in locations in the central and western portions of the state. All time January monthly heat records have so far been established at Nome: 51°F (10.6°C) on January 27 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 7, 1942, POR since 1906), Denali Park HQ: 52°F (11.1°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 21, 1961, POR since 1922), Palmer: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 26 (former record 52°F/11.1°C on January 20, 1961, POR since 1949), Homer: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 27 (former record 51°F/10.6°C on January 23, 1961, POR since 1932), Alyseka: 57°F (13.9°C) on January 26 (former record 50°F/10.0°C on January 4, 1995, POR since 1963) Seward: 58°F (14.4°C) on January 27 (former record 55°F/12.8°C on January 7, 2005, POR since 1949), Talkeetna: 47°F (8.3°C) on January 25 (former record 46°F/7.8°C on January 21, 2004, POR since 1949).

The warm weather has destabilized the deep snow pack, triggering huge avalanches. A deep snow pack built up in early winter as storms tracked north into Alaska instead of west into California, Oregon and Washington. A pair of avalanches has created a snow dam across the road to Valdez, the terminus of the Alaska pipeline. The video below the orange avalanche, shows an air view the deep lake and huge snow dam that has cut off land routes to Valdez.

Meanwhile, the snow has started at my house in central North Carolina. We are in the zone where the weather service has low confidence in the amount forecast because we're near the western margin of possibly heavy snow.

At first, it seems preposterous that a warming climate could lead to more snow in midwinter on the U.S. east coast, but that may be exactly what has been happening over the past 2 decades. The warming of the Barents sea and the far north Atlantic and Pacific may be producing more domes of warm air over the Arctic in the midwinter. Those warm air domes can trigger Arctic outbreaks into the eastern U.S. and snow events like we are having in North Carolina tonight. And, with the Gulf Stream north of normal for January and warmer than normal, there's a potent source of moisture to generate heavy snows.

Arctic ocean SST anomaly 27Jan14.
Water temperatures are much above normal at the boundaries of the Arctic ocean. Gulf Stream and Norwegian Atlantic current water temperatures are much above normal.
This year's record breaking California drought Alaska heat and cold winter weather in the eastern U.S. are all linked to increasing oceanic heat in the far north affecting the northern hemisphere's atmospheric circulation.

Originally posted to North Carolina BLUE on Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 04:52 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS and DK GreenRoots.

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