The Arctic Outbreak of 2019

© Fernando Caracena, 2018

An objective analysis of weather observations near the middle level of the atmosphere (at 500 mb) based on balloon sounding data over North America, which is plotted at the sounding locations. The solid, black contours are heights of this pressure surface in tens of meters MSL, which range mostly above 5 km above sea level. The dashed red contours depict lines of equal temperature in degrees Celsius.

Once again we have a record-breaking, arctic outbreak of bitter cold over the United States, which is centered over the Great Lakes. Last year in January there was a similar outbreak which was discussed in three instalments: part 1, part 2, and part 3. In order not to duplicate explanations, I simply refer the reader to the above previous posts. Last year's cold outbreak was a record breaker; but this year's was worse. The all time record for low temperature of -17 °F (-32.8 °C) is anticipated to be approached in Chicago the night of January 30, 2019. To quote from the Chicago Tribune:

In Chicago, the coldest temperatures of the year will arrive midweek. By early Wednesday, temperatures had plunged to 23 below. Thursday morning temperatures will tumble further to minus 27, matching Chicago’s coldest temperature ever recorded on Jan. 20, 1985.

According to a Boy Genius Report (BGR, of January 16th, 2018), it has been cold on the other side of the Northern Hemisphere as well. At Oymyakon, a village in the Russian region of Yakutia, the temperature recently dropped to -62° C (-80° Fahrenheit), cold enough to break down the town’s digital thermometer. The conventional mercury thermometer, installed decades ago, only goes as cold as -50°. To quote directly from the BGR article:

Some local residents saw temperatures as low as -67° C, approaching the village’s all-time record of -67.7°, set in 1933. That was the coldest temperature ever recorded at a permanently inhabited place, and also the coldest temperature on record in the Northern Hemisphere. The coldest all-time temperature was below -90, recorded in the Antarctic by NASA using satellite data.

Normally, cold extremes such as those witnessed last year's January and this year's would not excite any particular controversy. But since there is a global warming controversy ranging in political and news circles, the record breaking cold is an important element for discussion. The controversy also ranges among scientists [see this link for example], but this is normal for science, because a theory has to become established consistent with the data. In the gathering of data for climate change, there is bound to be plenty of controversy. Even measurements by NASA bring in fresh fuel for the controversy by uncovering evidence of cooling of the upper atmosphere in response to low solar activity.


Is it caused by global warming?  Follow this link.  I do not think so. Part 2 will address this question.


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