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After over four years of blogging here at DailyKos and eight months of writing for the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, I'm beyond thrilled to announce that that I've been brought on by Gawker Media as the writer for their new weather website called "The Vane."

The Vane is going to cover everything from the weather itself to the business of weather. A prime example would be the TWC vs. DirecTV feud, as well as the snow/ice storm that hit yesterday and today.

The first two posts on the site are "Massive Storm Destroys Washington D.C. With Three Whole Inches of Snow" and "Philly News Reporter Gets Clobbered by Snowplow."

I am deeply thankful to all of you who have supported me and helped me over the last couple of years. I'm not going anywhere. In addition to writing for The Vane, I'm still going to write and comment here at DailyKos until Markos gets sick of me. I am sticking to the weather...just in more places now.

Make sure to add The Vane to your bookmarks and visit often.

You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and if you stay away from social media sites like poison, I'll always see you within the confines of the orange.

Discuss

As you'll probably remember from earlier this week, I posted a diary proclaiming a viral social media story about a massive, paralyzing, historic winter storm to be a hoax designed to drive page clicks and ad revenue to a certain website.

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I want to address this with another diary that could open me up to more harassment and threats, but I decided to address it rather than ignore it. You all have followed my weather posts for the last four years here at DailyKos, and during that time I've built up a certain amount of trust with most of you. I feel I owe you an explanation and ask for your understanding and future trust.

1. Oops. My bad.

I was wrong to outright, categorically deny the chance for a major winter storm. I should know better than to fall victim to the dangers of absolutes, especially with such a large audience reading and watching. Though I did mention that there would be snow, ice, and thunderstorms this weekend, I downplayed it so much that it came across as a flat-out denial of any sort of storm. I am sorry. My bad.

2. About that hoax...

That being said, the "hoax" forecast in question really was a hoax at the time.

Last weekend when the hoax in question went online and started spreading through social media like wildfire, there really was no credible indication that a major storm was going to hit. It was just too far out.

The hoax forecast in question was similar to this graphic I drew up:

That's not a forecast. That's throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. That's how these amateur pot-stirrers operate. They highlight an absurdly large area as "at risk" for bad weather, and if it happens, they're lauded as experts, but if it fails, they delete all evidence of their claims.

I'm not the only person to recognize this. In a Mediaite article titled "Share This Viral Hoax About the Weather or You’re Going to Die," the author absolutely nails the kind of game these folks play:

These sites have big followings, a professional meteorologist, who asked to speak anonymously, told me. “Whenever they get it wrong they just delete the older posts. Whenever they get it right they discredit the local meteorologists for hiding the truth, or telling people too late.”

In other words, we’re dealing with sort of weather equivalent of InfoWars here.

“These sites like talking about storms weeks ahead of time, to the point where, as a TV meteorologist, we would not put that on the air. It’s so far away, and the accuracy level is low.”

Sites like these don’t have to worry about accuracy, he said. “If they get it wrong, they say ‘Well, we were just trying to warn you, weather changes.’”

[...]

This sort of storm-hysteria peddling can have actual negative consequences. Most often these types of sites are putting out worst case scenario predictions. And, as we know from everything else on the internet, hyperbole is what takes hold. “Sometimes warning people can create more trouble if you warn unnecessarily than when you actually have a better idea,” the meteorologist told me.

WTOP out of Washington DC also reported on the trend:
"The downside of social media is that everybody can play meteorologist," Ricketts says. "It makes our job that much more difficult."

She adds that there are more and more wanna-be weather people and faux weather sites posting erroneous forecasts. The goal is usually self-promotion.

"It's very irresponsible ... they'll put information out there just to get page likes," Ricketts says. "There's so much misinformation with social media and we fight that not only in the weather department, but in the news department as well."

The faux forecasters diminish the credibility of genuine weather forecasters by neglecting the inherent uncertainties in official forecasts and dramatizing worst-case scenarios to get attention, Ricketts explains.

There is often a lack of accountability.

"They push out one depiction of one model run. Everybody starts sharing that. If it doesn't happen, then those amateur meteorologists can just blame it on the model, or if it does happen, they're the smartest forecaster in the world," Ricketts says.

3. So...what's gonna happen?

It's still a fluid storm with lots of uncertainties, but it looks like there will be a widespread area of 5-9 inches of snow from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. It's going to be a pain in the ass and everything will probably close down for a day or two, but for most people that's hardly paralyzing. That's not even the most snow in one storm any of you have seen this year. I stand by my claim that it won't be some historic, paralyzing monster it was played up to be 7 days ago.

The latest models are trending towards northern Virginia, DC, Baltimore, and Philly for the highest snow totals right now, but the models are waffling around a lot. It's going to be one of those storms where we have much agreement on what will happen until it happens.

Here's the latest snowfall forecast from the National Weather Service that extends through Monday evening.

Here's the latest ice accumulation forecast from the NWS for the same time period. The ice in this storm is actually going to be the big issue. The worst of the ice storm looks like it'll occur from Arkansas up through West Virginia. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live -- ice (from freezing rain or sleet) is impossible to walk or drive on.

4. Wait. Did you catch that?

Look back at the Mediaite quote. This part, specifically:

These sites have big followings, a professional meteorologist, who asked to speak anonymously, told me.
A meteorologist had to speak anonymously. That's sort of strange, right? Not really. Not in this situation.

As I mentioned at the top of the diary (and the other day), my diary got me a shitload of harassment and threats for daring to take certain folks to task. I've been threatened to take down and retract the diary or else I've been threatened with "libel."

I absolutely, categorically refuse to apologize for what I said about that man and his website(s) in my diary. I stand by every word of it and I will not take down my previous article. Unlike others, I don't erase my past I'm wrong.

I've struggled with whether or not to post the threats I got, but since they're causing a bit of consternation with people (and accusations that I'm lying), I thought I would go ahead and show you what I've been dealing with. I'd like to make it clear that these aren't, as far as I know, from Kevin himself but rather they're from someone close to him.

If you don't want to get FUCKED UP I suggest you NEVER defame Kevin's character again. If you ever fucking release an article in attempts to hurt him I will fuck you up worse than you can imagine and your life will NEVER be the same you fucking clock sucker.
I swear to God you will regret the fucking day you fucked with [redacted]. YOU FUCKING HEAR ME ASSHOLE!?
You don't know what the fuck Kevin does and I suggest you NEVER try and defame him again because i'll make sure you'll never feed your family ever again
Try and test me you fucking asshole
I'm posting these to make a point.

For the most part, I was wrong about the weather and I was wrong for downplaying the potential severity of this storm when it wasn't yet clear. I apologize for that and I own it. I ask for your trust and forgiveness when it comes to my future weather posts here at DailyKos and elsewhere.

The storm itself is not the first time I am wrong, and I'm sure it will not be the last time.

But there is no amount Facebook likes or page hits or followers that can substitute one's integrity and character.

You either have it or you don't.

I hope I've done what I can to show you that I do.

Discuss

I wrote a diary yesterday which one could diplomatically summarize as a primer in not spreading misinformation through social media because it can dupe thousands into believing something that is false or exaggerated. Take a look at what happened a little over 24 hours after I posted my crappy little diary:

Even a simple diary on DailyKos can reach tens of thousands of people in a short amount of time, and even resulted in my getting a death threat (oh yeah, it happened). Social media has a huge impact on how we share information with one another. Imagine what happens when a page that has thirty, forty, fifty thousand likes posts something, which gets shared a few thousand times, and those shares get shared, and so on. The internet's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: you can post something at lunch and reach millions of people before Wheel of Fortune comes on.

That's how rumors and hoaxes get started. That's how false celebrity death reports start (how many times has Johnny Depp "died" according to Twitter?). Weather rumors get started the same way. That's how the weather rumor I posted about yesterday got started.

I'm receiving some pushback because the models are starting to show a winter storm that could last for several days from Missouri across the Ohio Valley and up through the Northeast. I mentioned yesterday that it is likely that there will be some kind of storm, and it won't be paralyzing or cover nearly as many people. There have been worse storms this winter. The funny thing about science is that it's based off observations and hard evidence, and the evidence just wasn't there. (It still isn't). The models just haven't supported that theory. If a historic, paralyzing winter storm comes to fruition next week and it turns out I was wrong, I'll be big enough to accept it and own the egg on my face.

Winter storms regularly get hyped up on social media during the winter, and that's by lots of people, not just those I specifically called out. The same thing happens during the summer. Amateur pages look 14-21 days out in the weather models and try to hype up fantasy hurricanes in order to garner popularity. Actual meteorologists used to fall victim to this when the internet rose in popularity during the 1990s. For most people this was the first time weather model data was publicly available and easily accessible, and some meteorologists would latch onto hurricanes that the models were erroneously spinning up a week or two down the line and hype them up to the public. The National Hurricane Center had to stop posting forecast model data on their website as "such graphics have the potential to confuse users and to undermine the effectiveness of NHC official tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings."

Welcome to the viral age of the internet. Stopping misinformation starts with you, be it a satirical news story from a site people don't readily recognize as satire, to celebrity death hoaxes, weather rumors, and even our favorite political lies that folks on both side mindlessly share without bothering to check the facts first. Do some research before you click "share" or "retweet" or "reblog" or "repin" or "re[verb]." Hone your Google-fu, for sanity's sake.

Shameless plug: speaking of social media, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter if you'd like. I promise I don't post misinformation.

Discuss

There's rampant speculation around social media right now that there's going to be a historic, blockbuster winter storm that affect over two-thirds of the United States east of the Rockies next week. It is a hoax. There will not be a "historic" winter storm next week. They don't even hint at a sizable storm in the long range.

The hoax is being perpetrated by an infamous conspiracy theory website called "The Weather Space," run by a man named Kevin Martin. K-Mart is a fake "meteorologist" who thrives on creating hoax weather forecasts in order to drive page hits to his website for ad revenue, and it also serves to try to destroy the credibility of actual weather forecasters. He peddles in weather control conspiracy theories (HAARP and "chemtrails" mostly) and tries to mimic the National Weather Service's official forecasts to try to confuse the public.

If you ever run across anything from his websites "The Weather Space" or "Ontario Weather Service," trust me: it's going to be a) wrong and b) a hoax to drive page hits and up ad revenue.

EDIT: It's been brought to my attention that Ontario Weather Service doesn't exist anymore. The site is "Southern California Weather Authority."

Only trust weather forecasts put out by reputable organizations like the National Weather Service or your local news stations.

But to address how unfounded these rumors are, take a look at this morning's run of the GFS model, which is one of the only models free to the public that goes out (with wild inaccuracy) more than a week.

Continue Reading

Major weather disasters and political controversy are nothing new in the United States. Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic is widely believed to have lost the Democratic primary for mayor in 1979 due to his botched response to a blizzard that dumped nearly two feet of snow on the Windy City.

Everybody reading this site is familiar with the major political fallout in the aftermath of George Bush's disastrous lack of a response to Hurricane Katrina.

But in the last couple of weeks, two major snowstorms caused two major political headaches for elected officials. At the end of January, a major ice storm struck the southeastern United States, dropping snow and ice all the way down to the rarely-frozen Gulf Coast. Mobile AL picked up 1.5" of sleet that froze into a glacier-like sheet of ice. New Orleans saw enough snow and ice to shut the city down for a day or two.

Further north, Birmingham AL picked up a couple of inches of snow and became infamous for traffic jams dragging on for dozens of miles on the highways. That storm was truly a surprise in Birmingham. The meteorologists botched the forecast. Famed local meteorologist James Spann took a lot of heat for messing up the forecast (which called for a dusting, if that, in the Birmingham metro) and he more than owned up to it a day later when the impacts were clear.

However, just a couple of hours east along I-20, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal were completely oblivious to the fact that the same storm that hit Birmingham was on its way to Atlanta.

While Birmingham's forecast was busted, Atlanta had repeated warnings up to two days before the snow hit. The city of Atlanta went under a winter storm warning almost 12 hours before the snow started falling, but schools in the area opted to remain open. When the storm struck, local and state officials acted surprised by the storm and scrambled to close everything early. This put tens of thousands of people on the roadways just as they were at their worst, and the same scene seen in Birmingham played out in Atlanta. Hundreds of cars were stranded and abandoned on the highway, children unable to get home slept in their schools for the night, and people slept on the floors of grocery stores and restaurants for the night because they were unable to get around.

Gov. Nathan Deal was quick to blame meteorologists for his botched response, even though they had plenty of warning that the storm was going to hit.

“There are certain things we don’t have control over and one of those is the weather,” Deal Wednesday. “This came rather unexpectedly.”

Unfortunately, meteorologists weren’t content to take the blame for flubbing the forecast.

Turns out, in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday the National Weather Service warned in no uncertain terms that the weather would prove hazardous and dangerous to the roads.

“Snow-covered roads will make for hazardous driving conditions through Wednesday morning,” came the advisory at 3:38 a.m. on Tuesday.

Total bullshit.

So what happens in New York City today? Mayor Bill de Blasio does the exact same thing.

I wrote a diary last night when de Blasio and his schools chancellor made the announcement that NYC public schools would open on time this morning even though they were under the gun for up to a foot of snow. Immediately after de Blasio's administration made this announcement, I wrote this in my diary last night:

By rush hour tomorrow, the snow will be well underway with as much as 3" possibly on the ground by the time children have to ride and walk to school. The storm total for NYC could be 10-14" of snow along with around 1/10" of ice from freezing rain.

Storm total snowfall forecast from NWS Islip NY as of 10PM Wednesday.
Today what does the mayor and his schools chancellor do? They blame the weather forecasts.
“It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said.

Farina made the callous crack at a press conference where a defensive Mayor de Blasio defended the decision not to cancel school even as New York City was being bombarded with what’s likely to be a foot of snow.

"Unlike some cities, we don't shut down in the face of adversity," said de Blasio, who noted that city schools have been shuttered only 11 times since 1978. "I'm going to make decisions based on the information we have."

The NY Daily News (I know, I know...) goes on to note that shortly after declaring it a beautiful day, Farina cancelled a town hall meeting "due to inclement weather."

The Guardian reports that further along during the press conference, de Blasio said that the snow came "faster and earlier than expected" and that Farina said that the "storm was so unpredictable."

Bullshit. It was not unpredictable. It's been predicted for days.

Stop trying to pass off your political and personal leadership failures onto others, Bill de Blasio and Carmen Farina.

You made a bad decision and now you can't handle the criticism.

You fucked up, de Blasio. You fucked up like Nathan Deal and Kasim Reed did a few weeks back.

Own it.

Continue Reading
When a big winter storm threatens to strike a major city like Washington DC or New York City, administrators who run the school districts therein have an extremely tough decision to make: do they close schools or not?

The cities of Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Newark have all announced that they will shut down schools in their districts tomorrow. There's one glaring exception to the enormous list of school closings: New York City.

As of tonight, New York's 1.1 million students will report for classes on time tomorrow morning during the height of the major winter storm. We'll see if this changes.


Storm total snowfall forecast from NWS Islip NY as of 10PM Wednesday.

By rush hour tomorrow, the snow will be well underway with as much as 3" possibly on the ground by the time children have to ride and walk to school. The storm total for NYC could be 10-14" of snow along with around 1/10" of ice from freezing rain.

NYC Schools caught hell for staying open during the last snowstorm when 6-12" of snow fell across the area. ABC 7 asked the New York City Schools Chancellor for her rationale for keeping schools open:

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't," said Carmen Farina, the New York City Schools Chancellor.

[snip]

Farina says many kids are so poor, their only chance for a hot lunch is at school. Their parents are unable to take care of them, if they stay home.

"Parents have to go to work. You didn't hear of any businesses in the city of New York closed down. Macy's was open. So if people can go shopping and go to work, then kids can go to school," Farina said.

The decision in most school districts isn't purely based on travel safety or meeting state-mandated classroom time requirements. A big part of the decision comes down to those children getting a hot meal that day. If schools close, some (if not most) of those children may not have an adequate meal that day.

Keep this and other considerations in mind when you criticize a school district for staying open during a storm. While the benefits are clear, this might turn out to be a reckless decision. NYC could see over a foot of snow and ice tonight and tomorrow. That's a pain (and flat-out dangerous) to walk or drive in. We'll see if NYCDoE changes its mind in the morning, but for now, NYC is open and on time.

Discuss

(WARNING: diary is image heavy)

Winter Storm Gidget (or whatever that channel is calling it these days) is about to get underway across the southern and eastern United States, bringing with it the promise for a historic crippling ice storm and possibly the most snow some areas have seen in half a decade or more.

Here's a look at the watches and warnings as of right now. Winter storm warnings are in pink, watches are in blue, advisories are in purple, and ice storm warnings are in the dark purple. The criteria for each of these winter weather warnings changes from region to region (as two inches of snow in Minnesota is dramatically different from two inches of snow in Alabama), so I'll elaborate below the orange squiggle.

Continue Reading

A very large portion of the country is at risk for seeing a major winter storm starting tomorrow and lasting through Wednesday, with winter storm warnings up for up to a foot of snow in places from Kansas to New York.

Winter storm watches (dark blue/purple) and winter storm warnings (hot pink) are in effect in anticipation of this snowstorm. Quite a bit of real estate is covered by these watches and warnings. Those in the storm's path should be prepared for a pretty good snowfall. Nothing atypical, but it'll be enough to cause some problems.

Those of you who are going to get snow are probably wondering why I singled out New York City in particular when the storm is set to affect over a hundred million people outside of the NYC area.

Not only could the NYC Metro see a good amount of snow like the rest of you, but it could also see 1/4" to 1/2" of ice from freezing rain on top of that snow.

Follow me across the orange squiggle for an explanation as to why this is could happen...

Continue Reading

That's right woodchuck-chuckers, it's GROUNDHOG DAY! This year, a bunch of fat old white men pulled a rodent out of of an old tree stump and he whispered to them in groundhogese that there are going to be six more weeks of winter.

Pish posh. I've got a better system than that. I recorded this video back in 2012, but my long-term forecast back then is just as accurate and valid as it is now. Bow to my meteorological wizardry and watch the video. Caution, I say "fucked" a few times, so beware if you have sensitive ears or impressionable little children and/or husbands nearby.

Happy Groundhog Day, everybody.

Discuss
A dusting of snow at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Feb 12 2010.
The last time it snowed in Mobile AL was Feb 12 2010, when we got about half an inch of snow. Picture taken at the University of South Alabama by me.
Many of the people I've talked to in Mobile over the last month or two have said that they're grateful that the recent blasts of Arctic air haven't come with any sort of wintry precipitation. It looks like we've tempted fate one too many times, as the deep south is on track for the most significant winter storm it's seen in at least a decade. The precipitation could start as early as Monday evening in places and will continue through Wednesday afternoon as you get closer to the Atlantic Ocean.

It won't be a lot of snow relative to what Ohio or Virginia or New York have gotten recently, but since areas right along the Gulf Coast rarely get any snow, this is a big deal. Snow falls every 10 years or so in this part of the country.

The last major snowfall reported in Mobile AL was in December 1996, when the airport reported 3.4" of snow. The last time snow accumulated in Mobile was on February 12, 2010 (pictured above).

New Orleans' last major snowfall was on Christmas Day 2004 when 1.5" fell in the city.

Snow is so rare in Florida -- even in the Panhandle and northern regions -- that there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to every recorded instance of snow in the Sunshine State.

This storm will be dangerous not only in that it's going to snow, but that the storm will start off as sleet and freezing rain across much of the area before changing over to snow. Areas closer to the coast may not change over to snow until late in the event, creating a dangerous ice storm in an area not equipped to handle winter weather.

Where is the wintry precipitation going to fall?

The bulk of the wintry precip will fall in the area I've circled in red. The counties shaded in blue are under winter storm watches right now.

Several major cities are included in the path of this possible winter storm, including Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Pensacola, Montgomery AL, Charleston SC, and Wilmington NC.

What kind of precipitation is going to fall?

Plain ol' rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow are all possible throughout the region during this winter storm. The danger is that temperatures are going to plummet into the 10s and 20s across much of the area as the storm continues, changing most if not all of rain over to frozen precipitation with time.

Inland areas have the best chance of seeing significant amounts of snow (greater than 1 or 2 inches), while areas closer to the coast have the chance of seeing a significant ice storm (>1/4" of ice accumulation).

As it stands right now, the area from Houston TX to New Orleans LA stands the best chance of having a major ice storm.

RISKS BY METRO AREA...

HOUSTON METRO

Link to Houston TX National Weather Service

LAKE CHARLES/SOUTHERN LOUISIANA

Link to Lake Charles, LA National Weather Service

NEW ORLEANS METRO

Link to New Orleans, LA National Weather Service

MOBILE, AL/PENSACOLA, FL

Link to Mobile, AL National Weather Service

(Note: MOB hasn't put any numbers on the potential for winter weather, but several inches of snow along with at least some ice accumulation looks likely. James Spann is predicting 1-2" of snow across southwestern AL and a small portion of the Florida Panhandle north of Pensacola)

MONGTOMGERY, ALABAMA

Link to Birmingham, AL National Weather Serivce (which covers the area including Montgomery AL)

Link to Tallahassee, FL National Weather Service (which covers portion of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia)

It appears that freezing rain will be more of a factor across southeastern Alabama (near Dothan and Enterprise) than snow.

CENTRAL GEORGIA/SOUTHERN ATLANTA SUBURBS

Link to Peachtree City, GA National Weather Service


(click to enlarge)

CHARLESTON, SC/SAVANNAH, GA AREA

Link to Charleston, SC National Weather Service

The NWS office didn't issue any graphicasts like the ones I've posted above, but the winter storm watch has the generic >2" of snow and >1/4" of ice statement. Check with the office as the event draws closer for updated accumulation forecasts.

WILMINGTON, NC AREA

Link to Wilmington, NC National Weather Service

As with Charleston, ILM didn't issue a graphicast. Their watch calls for snow accumulations potentially exceeding 3" across the area. The models are hinting that this area has the best opportunity for the highest snowfall totals out of everyone under the gun from this system.



What's the big deal? I live in [northern city] and we get snow all the time.

When you criticize areas for not handling winter weather in an appropriate manner, you have to remember how often they experience these kinds of conditions. I rarely talk about snow in northern New York or around the Great Lakes because it's so commonplace during the winter. It's supposed to snow a lot during the winter.

Places like Washington DC are less equipped to handle the snow just by virtue of the people who live there. VDOT and MDOT have plenty of plows and salt trucks to handle snow removal in the area, but the people themselves just can't deal with it even though it snows in the area with some regularity.

The deep south, on the other hand, gets snow and ice so rarely that it's truly a big deal down here. Take Mobile AL (where I go to school) for instance. We don't have plows. We don't have salt trucks or even a stockpile of salt for the roads. Nobody has snow shovels. The grocery stores don't sell rock salt or shovels or even many winter clothes. It just doesn't snow here, and when it does, it's usually not a lot. This is true of many areas in the deep south that rarely (if ever) get winter weather.

This is a big deal. It'll be a one or two day event before temperatures creep back above freezing and it's not a big deal anymore, but for the time being, this could be the biggest winter storm along areas of the Gulf Coast in a decade or more.

Make plans for school cancellations and the potential for travel to be nearly impossible now so you don't get caught by surprise.

You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. I'll probably post quite a bit about this because I'm going to be in the middle of it. I haven't seen accumulating snow since 2010...I'm trying to balance level-headedness with the excitement level of a 5-year-old on Christmas.

Continue Reading

It's going to snow. That's usually what happens in January.

Any questions?

Discuss

The polar vortex is nothing new. We've known of its existence since at least November 1853. It is a word the media just learned a few weeks ago, and since it sounds scary and new, they ran with it in order to drum up ratings. It's the same phenomenon as when everyone first learned the word "derecho" back in 2012.

So, what is it?

A model run from January 2013 showing the polar vortex dipping down into the Great Lakes region. This image is a year old -- don't misconstrue it as a current forecast.

The polar vortex is a long-lived area of low pressure that exists near the North Pole. It strengthens during the winter and weakens during the summer. Since it occurs during the northern winter, the air mass associated with the polar vortex can reach well below -50°F. Sometimes when a strong area of high pressure near Greenland blocks a portion of the polar vortex, a piece breaks off since it has nowhere to go but south, and it temporarily moves down into the middle latitudes.

Usually when the United States sees cold snaps during the winter, it's because a mid-latitude cyclone (a low pressure that originates here in the United States) drags cold air from Canada southward into the continental United States, freezing everyone's off for a couple of days and generating no less than thirty "ugh it's so cold #FML" tweets per minute.

If you think of a strong cold front as the air conditioning unit in a grocery store, think of the polar vortex as a jet engine that blasts freezy doom upon the middle latitudes.

Terrible map depicting the frigid air flowing counterclockwise around a low pressure system in the general area where polar vorticies like to sit when they move into Canada/the US.
Air circulates counterclockwise around low pressure systems in the Northern Hemisphere, and since the polar vortex itself is extremely cold, when it moves south into southern Canada or the United States, it brings some of the coldest air that is meteorologically possible to see in this region of the world.

It is not new. This phenomenon happens every couple of years or so, sometimes even multiple times per winter. We've had it relatively easy the past couple of winters where, even if it snowed a lot, it didn't get too terribly cold. This winter is more than making up for our past pleasures.

Why am I just getting around to writing this now? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's going to happen again towards the end of next week.

Jason Samenow wrote this over at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang about the upcoming "polar vortex déjà vu," describing what the cold snap could entail for the Washington DC area:

The first several days of this cold wave -from January 21 to around January 25 – will be cold but won’t share the intensity of the polar vortex event of January 7 and 8. In other words, expect highs in the 20s to low 30s, with lows in the teens (perhaps single digits on the coldest mornings). (Readings would be slightly colder than this north and west of the District.) These temperatures would be about 10-20 degrees below normal.

The potential for a more severe cold snap exists between around January 26-28. That’s around the time when both the operational GFS and European model show a huge piece of the polar vortex crashing south into Canada with tentacles extending deep into the U.S., not dissimilar to the January 7-8 event.

Weather models are showing temperatures becoming insanely cold across the eastern two-thirds of the United States starting later next week and lasting through the following week, with high temperatures on some days struggling to escape the 20s as far south as Mississippi.

You're going to start hearing a lot more about this on the news and weather sites as the weekend and next week continue. While temperatures probably won't be as cold as they were at the beginning of the month, it appears that it'll be a longer duration cold snap than the previous one, with temperatures still approaching the dangerous range.

So to recap...

-The polar vortex is not new.

-The polar vortex is like the angry gallbladder of the North American winter.

-The polar vortex is not new.

-It gets very cold when a piece of the polar vortex migrates southward.

-The polar vortex is not new.

-It's probably going to get very cold again starting later next week.

Since I don't come around these parts much nowadays, you can follow me on Facebook, on Twitter, and over at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang where I write articles every couple of weeks.

Stay warm.

Discuss
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