The Polar Vortex Returns: Massive cold wave headed for Eastern half of US, Florida

We’ve been watching this for a few days, and the forecast seems to be solidifying. Dr. Ryan Maue has some of the latest projections for snow and cold in the eastern USA. He notes:

Over next 6-days, pattern locks in … Pacific ridge vs. Eastern US trough. Watching the main event over Hudson Bay next week.

Cold will reach into south Texas and also Florida, while the Great Lakes and Northeast will shiver in the teens.

The cold and snow will be far-reaching:

The Met Office agrees:

111 thoughts on “The Polar Vortex Returns: Massive cold wave headed for Eastern half of US, Florida

  1. Yes, the forecast in my area is for the daily highs to be in the low 60’s and the overnight low’s in the upper 40’s starting Thursday eve and continuing into next week. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

      • Heard a laughable report on the news last night (everywhere I look I C BS)
        Talking about Sea Level Rise bringing 12″ by 2030 and upwards of 6′ by 2060.
        Doesn’t anyone tell these yahoos that 3MM-year equates to 1.2″ per decade??

    • Here in Michigan, we’ve had temps in the 20s and 30s with winds up to 40mph. My wife has decided it’s time to put on that lightweight jacket.

      • Here in UP Michigan, we have those same winds, ~12″ snow, and T in teens to single figures. I’ve had to blow snow two days straight.

      • It is nippy, but 32F is merely freezing point. And I have this stray cat showing up on my front steps for food. I’m a fool for cats who beg, but she’s a pretty calico. She let me pet her (finally) last night. I may bring her indoors. She’s ear-tipped, so I know she’s spayed and I think she’s big enough to thump my little black hellcat Punkin Squawkypants, the world’s greatest mouser.

    • In January 1967 I began pre-flight in Pensacola, FL. It snowed in February. I guess the “climate” hasn’t changed that much since I left /sarc/.

      • I was on TAD to NAAS Whiting Field outside Pensy in 61. Our flight line was shut down in November due to Snow and Icy conditions The SNB’s were trying to self launch due to the high winds and had to be chained down. It also snowed that year in Miami.

  2. It is finally cold enough to wear a jacket here in Central Texas, so all those predictions of global cooling from the 1970s must finally be right/sarc

    • Prediction of snow in this part of Central Texas. Thankfully the ground is warm. Still have to worry about elevated roads.

      Bring on global warming.

  3. Our forecast for Calgary Alberta is above freezing and as high as 50’F for the next week! Wow, we are so blessed to have such mild temperatures. Normally we would be in the -10 to 20 range at this time of the year.

    • Actually, that is not normally what the temperatures are in December for Calgary. A normal only works when the data is normally distributed. I do lots of weather statistics. The daily highs in December for Calgary are very skewed toward warmer temperatures. In fact, the highs are most likely to be around -2C, +- about 3 degrees. In Alberta in the winter we are either in a mild westerly Pacific flow or a cold northerly Arctic flow. There is little in-between ground, and as such a mean or average temperature is rather meaningless (pun).

    • Alberta weather can be strange. I got snowed on quite heavily on the way to Drumheller near Calgary two months ago. We had plenty of snow and cold then. It was terrifying driving down Hwy 56 from Camrose. Only a single lane was plowed but it had drifted in. Those transport trucks don’t give way and you had better not be in the lane when they are coming. We were towing an old Ford back to Ontario as well, not fun at all. The Royal Tyrrell museum was great though. Well worth the detour

    • “Our forecast for Calgary Alberta is above freezing and as high as 50’F for the next week!”

      That’s because Calgary is on the warm side of the jet stream. You are under a high pressure system, the same one that is causing the high winds in California.

      Here’s a nullschool link with the center of the beneficial high marked, with the jet stream curving up and over the high. And on the East side of the continent, we see the jet stream dipping down into the U.S. and bringing cold air with it.,50.75,296/loc=-124.088,42.856

  4. And in the Pacific North West, a huge blocking high pressure has just built in that will see temperatures moderate and the storm track will go to the far north into the Alaskan panhandle and northern BC/Yukon before dipping back down through the central continental area’s dragging all that cold polar air with it. I guess what goes up has to come down. This sure isn’t a zonal flow for he next 10 days.

    • E’2,
      Have a look at what that big high pressure does to wind power output in WA & OR; via the BPA Balancing Authority:
      BPA Link

      East of the Cascades there is also an air stagnation alert. By Thur/Fri those with breathing issues will need to stay indoors — it is cold anyway — and wood users will be shut down.

      • The forecast for Seattle is 10 straight days without rain, and such drought is extremely rare in winter.

        Here in Salt Lake City, it’s cold (high 35, low 20) but dry, with clear skies all day the last two days, forecast to continue all week. Nice for driving, not so much for skiing.

        For those who like to blame unseasonably mild winter weather on “global warming”, they need to remember that mild winter weather is usually due to convection of warm air northward from the tropics into temperate or polar areas. But the total mass of air over the poles remains nearly constant, so a northward flow of mild air over some longitudes has to be balanced by a southward flow of cold air over other longitudes, which causes unusually cold weather there.

        A mild winter in some areas is not a sign of GLOBAL warming, but a sign of LOCAL warming balanced by LOCAL cooling somewhere else, so that the “global average” temperatures don’t vary much.

  5. The CPC outlook has had the East US cold 6-15 December cold fora a 10 days now. While the West is warm. Mind you it’s climatic winter, so red just means use of heating is minimal.

    My HVAC has been off since early October. Haven’t turned on any heat yet this season. Windows and patio door wide open right now. Very nice day here in Tucson. Very nice to keep my gas and electricity use minimal. More money in my pocket.

    Meanwhile So Cal is burning. I can’t figure out why any middle class family who could relocate from SoCal hasn’t already.

    • A revealing diagram, isn’t it?

      Look at the temps in (and lack of sea ice off) Alaska.

      The cold air spills out of the arctic as a result of sea ice decline/a warming arctic.

      • Griff,

        I’ve seen this claim a couple times. The physical process by which this would happen is not clear to me. Can you point me in the direction of where I might find a complete description of this?

        Thanks in advance.


      • And Hudson’s Bay is almost completely iced over. If you look at Arctic ice as a whole, it is a good year.

      • ripshin December 6, 2017 at 10:53 am

        I’ve seen this claim a couple times. The physical process by which this would happen is not clear to me. Can you point me in the direction of where I might find a complete description of this?”

        He will point you to a Guardian article.

      • “If you look at Arctic ice as a whole, it is a good year.”

        Incorrect. Unless you are comparing it with last year of course.

        “He will point you to a Guardian article.”

        Or if his ignorance is not actually feigned he could just Google it.

      • Griff, this reminds me of the leading ice edge of stadial periods. The vortex dip is more eastern. I am betting that a persistent jet stream loop is a major feature of stadial icing.

      • tony mcleod,

        Really? I respectfully ask for clarification and you question my sincerity? As a commenter here, I don’t bait other people. I rarely do snark. I typically try to reserve my comments to things that actually add to the discussion. And I’m totally open to confessing my ignorance when I don’t understand something.

        Yes…I could do an internet search, but the time and effort to sift through mountains of information is something that I just don’t have an interest in (I have a day job, and climate stuff is just a side interest). Furthermore, I assumed that someone making such a direct claim would have a readily available source describing this phenomenon. And, honestly, it’s as simple as directing me towards the correct search terms, as was so helpfully done recently with a recommendation to search “optical depth” for additional understanding on a specific subject.

        Sheesh…it seemed like such a simple request..


      • Oh right, Tony Mcleod. Google is an authority on anything & everything… just like the Guardian, NYTimes, Bloomberg, Wikipedia, etc, etc.

      • rip
        “Sheesh…it seemed like such a simple request..”

        Fair enough.
        However the mechanism is not difficult to understand and in ‘some parts’ there seems to be a misunderstanding that leads to a mocking that “how can global warming make things colder”.

        The theory goes like this:
        Polar vortex is (amongst other things no doubt) driven by the temperature gradient between the pole and the equator; a higher gradient results in a stronger, more confined, circular vortex. A weaker gradient results in a ‘wavier’ vortex which, when it meanders south, bring cold air with it and injects warm air into the Arctic – potentially further weakening the gradient.
        Which is what it is doing right now.

        Most places have warmed but none more than the Arctic – thus the gradient is weakening may be causing more frequent bursts of cold – if you happen to be unlucky enough to live right under one.

        All clearly and uncontraversially spelt out here:

      • “Most places have warmed but none more than the Arctic – thus the gradient is weakening may be causing more frequent bursts of cold – if you happen to be unlucky enough to live right under one.”

        So back in the Eocene when the gradient was minimal and alligators lived on Ellesmere land I suppose that cold snaps must have gone all the way to the Equator?

        Another odd thing: during ice ages when the gradient is at a maximum, winters in the southern US are actually milder than now.

  6. Joe Bastardi’s forecast from a couple of weeks ago was on the money. The COLD is here, where I live, right now. They’re even talking about a chance of snow this weekend, here in the Heart of Dixie. I’m not as likely to see that, say, as I would if this month was March, instead of December; but places north and northeast of me very well might see some snow.

    • Joe has been forecasting this for more than two weeks. The Weatherbell long range forecast for the first half of the winter issued way back in October is turning out to be accurate so far.

      Did my last mowing mulching up the leaves on Saturday. Laid in the firewood from the big stack to the covered racks on the back deck so it’s handy for the fireplace. Used Stabil and Sea Foam gas treatments in the mowers and my generator. Have my gas cans filled and ready for the snow blower and generator if needed. Just prudent things to do here in Hoosier land this time of year.

      Later today I head up to Peosta, Iowa to cover a run a driver called off on. Be using my Under Armor underwear for the first time this year.

      • Thanks! Snug in a truck stop 4 miles from my first pick up at 10:30 Eastern time. Then it’s off to Mount Prospect, IL and then Addison, IL, then back home. Be beating my way through the Chicago afternoon rush for the 2nd time this week. I hate Chicago!

    • The winter for 2014-15 experienced a similar polar vortex pattern. Here is one related story.

      Joe Bastardi, and his colleagues at WeatherBell, including my friend and co-author Joe d’Aleo, have the best predictive track record in the weather forecasting field.

      For several years, the long-range Winter weather forecasts of the NWS were completely wrong.

      Here is a recent example:

      A little recent history about Winter weather forecasts:

      The National Weather Service (NWS) of the USA forecast a warm winter for 2014-15 and my friend Joe d’Aleo told me in October 2014 that the NWS forecast was seriously incorrect, and that the next winter would be particularly cold and snowy, especially in the populous Northeast. This was the second consecutive year that the NWS has made a very poor (excessively warm) Winter forecast, in Joe’s opinion – and he and his colleagues at WeatherBell have a great track record of accurate forecasts.

      Joe and I had been working together on a paper on Excess Winter Mortality, and I suggested to Joe that this false “warm winter” NWS forecast was dangerous, especially if the country and its people were unprepared. Joe agreed, but did not know how to tackle the problem.

      I proposed an approach, and we prepared a presentation for my friend at the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Joe then prepared his own monthly Winter Forecast by region for the EIA, who re-ran their winter energy demand calculations. Using Joe’s forecast, the EIA projected 11% more winter energy required for the USA than the “warm” NWS forecast had projected.

      After that brutally cold and snowy winter, a back-analysis showed that the actual energy used was 10% more than the NWS forecast projection, and just 1% less than Joe’s forecast projection.
      (Note: all numbers are from memory.)

      So I think we did a good deed.

      Regards to all, Allan

      • BTW, it’s forecast to be +9C to +12C here in Calgary for the next week, For us in December, that’s warm!

        Just returned from Thailand at +30C and I really do appreciate the gentle introduction to cooler weather.

        So all you good folks in the East and all you oranges and grapefruits in Florida – your suffering in not in vain.

        Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Update: The snow has arrived. December snow is rare here and I don’t recall one this early in December. Recent weather is remarkably like it was in the 60s and 70s, that is to say COLD; but interestingly enough, the coldest weather that I remember happened since 1980.

  7. Batten down the hatches for the incoming anguished howling storm about global warming disrupting the polar vortex and resulting in extreme weather …

  8. Joe Bastardi is always remarking that the vaunted “models” never get things right (often the opposite) until right before they happen.

      • Which models because that is not correct for the CVS 2. As late as Nov. 21st the CVS2 was showing the eastern US to have well above normal temps for December.

      • I use the NCEP 850mb temperature anomalies. They are pretty darn good, especially with major warming/cooling events.

    • Joe Bastardi knows full well a reduced temperature gradient leads to a more zonal polar jet. Lightweight prediction. Do you really doubt “the vaunted models” are going to be more accurate than Joe Bastardi’s predictions? What, he has a better model?

  9. This would be a great time for the White House Science Office to publicly refute and condemn the comments of idiot John Holdren in the former administration on the topic of polar vortex cold being caused by global warming, along with the lack of science used at the time.

    • I enrolled my wife in the Union of Concerned Scientists without her knowledge, all it takes is the payment of money, no qualifications of any kind are needed.

    • Thanks for the warning. I’ve seen this many times and it gets funnier with each viewing. The first time I saw this I immediately thought of the 3 Stoogis courtroom scene in Disorder in the Court.

    • Excellent idea. Apparently it is going to be cold.I’m going to pile up the logs and sit by the stove in competition with cats.

    • On Christmas cards. Yes.
      Here in the South of London – ‘non-liquid precipitation’ means trains delayed and cancelled; roads blocked; folk unable to get to work.
      If there is even 10 millimetres of ‘non-liquid precipitation’ . . . . .


  10. This type of weather patterning looks like it will stay in place for the next 2 weeks, and because the jet has split expect to see heavy snowfall in the eastern states. l can see no signs of any breakdown of this patterning even 180 hours out in the jet stream forecast.
    Also it looks like cold weather in the UK may be worst then expected looking at the latest jet stream forecast.
    With low pressure tracking to the south and the risk of a “beast from the east”.

      • The reason why l think there is high risk of heavy snow is due to the split in the jet. The southern part of the jet is coming from over the mid Pacific so is very likely to be drawing warm moist air from the eastern Pacific and the Gulf to meet up with this Polar air over the eastern states. With this set up l think there is a high risk of “weather bombs” forming over the eastern states.

  11. Polar vortex? Must be the heat that’s attracting it.

    A farmer Scotsman out on the land brings the local doc home on a dark wintery evening as his wife is in labour. The Doc asks the Scotsman for some towels, hot water and light. He produces a feeble oil lamp.
    “Good God Hamish, is that all the light you’ve got? Bring that mirror over here, hold the lamp and the mirror just so, don’t move.”
    After a while the Doc hands Hamish a bawling and ruddy pink little infant which he promtly wraps in a warm blanket and takes over by the hearth where a new crib awaits.
    “Hamish come quick” yells the Doc, “ hold the lantern”. He then hands a somewhat stunned Hamish a second baby just as pink and loud as the first. Hamish finds another warm wrap and beds the newcomer down with its twin.
    “Hamish, quick, hold the lantern.” Triplets! Hamish with somewhat less enthusiasm than before takes possession of his third and shuffles toward the hearth.
    “Hamish quick”.
    “Doctor!” Hamish cuts him off, “do you no think perhaps it’s the light that’s attracting em?”

  12. From the article: ” curve in the jet stream sees a cold snap in the eastern US too”

    A curve in the jet stream is a better description than Polar Vortex, imo.

    • At 61, I have a few more curves in my jet stream than I used to have. Could explain the hot flashes followed by cold feet syndrome.

  13. Interestingly, we also have a cold wave headed down to the UK. But remember, this has nothing to do with climate, it is weather in exactly the same way as any other weather phenomenon, whether hot or cold.
    To be honest, I love the cold.

      • Tony you say “all the links to the research are there” & then give a link to a fake news site.

        I love the way you’ve been telling us for ages how the world is warming & celebrating ‘the hottest….. ever’; then point us to an artical that states “Primed for Longer Stretches of Extreme Cold”
        do wish you’d make your mind up.

      • tony: It would be more convincing had you used actual research papers and not a blog. Why is a blog okay for you and not for others?

      • I don’t think you can attach any single weather event to climate change. It is trends that count, not days. The trend shows the climate is changing, weather events don’t.

      • “Or…you could be completely incorrect.”

        Sheesh, cold weather in England – in December too!

        Never seen that before in all my seven decades on Earth!

        Yep, sure must be Global Warming!

        Honestly McClod, have you nothing better to do than make yourself look a total buffoon in front of people who seem infinitely better informed tha

    • This is the surface wind flow to keep an eye on. If or when it stops moving easterly then there will be a swift surge of minus temps which will push into Eastern Europe and perhaps further west. The surface wind started pushing back the front of the Siberian cold wave which had dipped into the minus 20s for most of November up until this eastward moving flow warmed temps by 40 degrees F. The spot marked was around -20F just 10 days ago. …,66.32,672/loc=94.389,62.565

  14. I seem to recall that Dr. Ryan Maue used to work at Weatherbell.
    Please correct if I am wrong.
    Whatever that means.
    At any rate it seems that all are top rate meteorologists.

  15. Regarding the Sierra Club and their bogus “we rely of the 97% of scientists”, why don’t we ask for a list of the 97% of scientists?

    This would be absolutely delightful to see.

    • The question to ask is what precisely do they agree about? What were they asked? Do we have the details of the survey? What were the questions asked? That climate changes? That we are having an impact on the temperature? How much of it is caused by humans? Why did we have a pause for a decade and a half? Is it good or bad on the whole? How should we deal with it? Tax ourselves into oblivion or adapt to the changes? A whole lot of questions need to be answered in the survey and it should be made public.

  16. Due to concerns about large waves during the storm, all personnel have been taken off the North Sea platform Ninian Southern off Shetland and production shut down.

    What is going to happen to the wind power turbines in a storm
    Soon to find out I guess.
    Any Scots to keep us informed?

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