Weather.com is running a live twitter feed of the storm, which is hitting the northeast, upper midwest, and the Rockies. Here is how it will impact some parts of the country. Information was also gleaned from National Weather Service links.
Kansas City -- A cold front is passing through Kansas City right now, dropping temperatures well down from a high of 79.
Albany, NY -- the weather service there reports up to a quarter inch of ice possible.
Omaha -- this is the western edge of the storm, with rain and a few snowflakes.
Chicago -- Winter storm warnings have been issued for northeastern IL and northwestern IN, where wind and 4-8 inches of snow are possible.
Ohio -- The Weather Service in Wilmington, OH is forecasting 4-6 inches in the north part of the state to less than an inch in the south and the northern tip of KY.
Indianapolis -- Temperatures will drop from a high of 68 today to as low as 24 tomorrow, with wind chills of 8.
Central IL -- The Weather service there has issued a winter storm warning from 10 this evening to 1 pm Wednesday. 5-7 inches is possible, with gusts of as high as 40 miles per hour. Roads will develop slush rapidly as temperatures fall. When the slush freezes, it will cause icy travel conditions and there will be extremely low visibility.
Buffalo -- The Weather Service notes that there were only 10 occurrences of a 10"+ snow in March.
Milwaukee, WI -- snow will be light; however, temperatures will drop to the teens in some places.
Binghamton, NY -- The Weather Service issued a 10 page briefing for this storm; this is close to ground zero. Temperatures will drop into single digits and multiple winter storm warnings and advisories have been issued. Snow will continue into Thursday morning. Top wind speeds will be at least 25 mph, causing blowing and drifting snow. In northern upstate NY, there will be as much as 14-18" of snow, including Syracuse.
Fred Pearce, climate scientist at Yale, discusses whether the present weather is linked to Climate Change.
Data from weather stations around the world reveal more extreme precipitation events — and more droughts, too. This is firmly in line with the predictions of climate models and is "what is expected from fundamental physics," says the Met Office. A warmer atmosphere will contain more energy, and more moisture from evaporation, says Woollings. It already does. And, in general, more energy and moisture will mean wetter storms in many places.While he writes that there are other complications such as the jet stream, Climate Change cannot be ruled out as a factor. And he notes that it has been linked in other events.
Weird weather is definitely on the agenda, and the jet stream is very likely to be an important part of it. The nightmare scenario is that Francis will be proved right about the jet stream becoming more "stuck" in a particular trajectory, but that, as happened this winter, it will get stuck while traveling at express speed and bringing strong winds and heavy rain with it. The Met Office says the Francis scenario "raises the possibility that disruption of our usual weather patterns may be how climate change may manifest itself." If so, that would indeed unleash the perfect storm.
Yet there are some instances where attribution is possible. For example, climate researchers have persuasively argued that a few intense heat waves — such as the one that killed 70,000 people in western Europe in 2003 — would have been highly unlikely without the added impetus of global warming. But for weather extremes other than rising temperatures, unambiguous attribution of even extreme events is very hard to make, whatever the suspicions that something is up.Five scientists, John Wallace (Washington), Issac Held (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Labratory), David Thompson (Colorado State), Kevin Trenberth (National Center for Atmospheric Research), and John Walsh (Alaska-Fairbanks) wrote a letter in an effort to cut through assertions about Climate Change. Their letter excerpted here:
In mid-January, a lobe of the polar vortex sagged southward over the central and eastern United States. All-time low temperature records for the calendar date were set at O’Hare Airport in Chicago [–16°F (–27°C), 6 January], at Central Park in New York (4°F (–15.6°C), 7 January], and at many other stations. Since that event, several substantial snow storms have blanketed the East Coast. Some have been touting such stretches of extreme cold as evidence that global warming is a hoax, while others have been citing them as evidence that global warming is causing a “global weirding” of the weather. In our view it is neither.However, a report from the National Wildlife Federation disagrees. It notes that winters have gotten shorter by 10-14 days since the 1990's. It says, in part:
As climate scientists, we share the prevailing view in our community that human-induced global warming is happening and that, without mitigating measures, the Earth will continue to warm over the next century with serious consequences. But we consider it unlikely that those consequences will include more frigid winters.
Distinguishing between different kinds of extreme weather events is important because the risks of different kinds of events are affected by climate change in different ways. For example, a rise in global mean temperature will almost certainly lead to an increase in the incidence of record high temperatures. Global warming also leads to increases in atmospheric water vapor, which increases the likelihood of heavier rainfall events that may cause flooding. Rising temperatures over land lead to increased evaporation, which renders crops more susceptible to drought. As the atmosphere and oceans warm, sea water expands and glaciers and ice sheets melt. In response, global sea level rises, increasing the threat of coastal inundation during storms.
Global warming is bringing a clear trend toward heavier precipitation events.Around here (Missouri), we are seeing this; we are right on the edge of the current polar vortex and winds are high speed. But temperatures have been as high as 76 this week and will be warm all week. And last year, we broke out the air conditioner in March as temperatures hit 90 at one point.
Many areas are seeing bigger and more intense snowstorms, especially in the upper Midwest and Northeast.
Global warming is shifting storm tracks northward. Areas from the Dakotas eastward to northern Michigan have seen a trend toward more heavy snowfall season.
The EDF says that climate change and blizzards are directly related. They say that rising global temperatures create shifts in air currents and weather patterns along with more moisture in the atmosphere leads to massive blizzards.
Bryan Walsh, an editor at TIME, argues that these polar vortexes could be caused by climate change.
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.Quoting Rick Grow:
Large atmospheric waves move upward from the troposphere — where most weather occurs — into the stratosphere, which is the layer of air above the troposphere. These waves, which are called Rossby waves, transport energy and momentum from the troposphere to the stratosphere. This energy and momentum transfer generates a circulation in the stratosphere, which features sinking air in the polar latitudes and rising air in the lowest latitudes. As air sinks, it warms. If the stratospheric air warms rapidly in the Arctic, it will throw the circulation off balance. This can cause a major disruption to the polar vortex, stretching it and — sometimes — splitting it apart.Grow is a meteorologist for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang.
The Guardian reports that the University of Oxford is enlisting peoples' home computers to study the relationship between extreme weather events and climate change.
Professor Myles Allen, who leads the weather@home research, said basic physics shows that warm air holds more water and rainfall gets more intense, but added that the chaotic nature of weather means that no specific flood can be attributed to human-induced climate change alone.Will update throughout the evening if there is sufficient interest. If you are in the path of this storm, stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.
"We can, however, ask and answer the question of how the odds of getting an extremely wet winter have changed due to man-made climate change: have past greenhouse gas emissions loaded the weather dice?" Allen told the Guardian. "We need to find out if we are getting "too many double-sixes" with the British weather dice."
He said the team did not know what the result would be and would be discovering the answer at the same time as the public. "It is absolutely possible the experiment will tell us climate change had nothing to do with the extremely wet winter."
3:54 PM PT: Overheard on Twitter: "Ok it's a joke right?? 68 degrees td and down to 8 degrees tm night.... With 1-3 inches of snow:(:(:(:(:("
4:00 PM PT: The National Weather Service in Great Falls, MT has issued flood advisories for Glacier, Pondera, Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, and Gallatin Counties in Montana until further notice. The Weather Service in Omaha also reports that a mixture of rain and snow closing in on Omaha, Council Bluffs, and Lincoln.