This Week’s New Anomaly Features Twistersnow; Next Week to See Polar Vortex Collapse, More Arctic Heat

New normal. It’s a word that people keep using to describe the strange weather events spurred by human caused climate change. I prefer to use a different term — the new anomaly. Why? Because the weather will probably never be entirely normal again.

Last week, as Arctic air continued to be squeezed between human-driven warmth invading the polar region and more explosive warmth to the south, a series of strange and extreme weather events ripped through the central and eastern US. Heavy rains combined with melting snows to set off flash flooding from Indiana to Ohio. Severe thunderstorms raked central and eastern states with lightning and very strong straight line winds knocking down trees, power lines and doing damage to structures. Tornadoes, a typical feature of US spring, exploded throughout the middle and eastern US.

As I watched a thunderstorm rumble, flash and pour over melting snow in Maryland, I considered writing a blog about the, somewhat strange, event. But I sidelined it for what seemed to be more pressing projects. Then, I found this — a super-cell thunderstorm featuring a well developed tornado over melting snow in Jacksonville, IL. And, afterward, I read a similar report of a tornado forming over melting snow in southeastern Maryland.

Yes, that’s right. Twistersnow. Yet one more symbol of the new abnormal. Where nothing is placid any longer and anomaly is, ever-after, the word for the day. The current season is kind of winter, sort of spring with 50-70 degree weather rushing in only to be shoved out by 10-30 degree weather as abnormal heat builds in the Arctic once more.

Five Day GFS model

(Five day GFS Model shows unseasonably warm Arctic temperatures over Baffin Bay, the Bering and Beaufort Seas, and Svalbard — regions where sea ice is most vulnerable to melt. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Yet again we’re staring down the face of another polar vortex collapse and related central and eastern US cold weather event over coming days. The polar heat doing the work, this time, appears to be bound and determined to concentrate over Baffin Bay, Svalbard, and the Bering Sea. All regions where the heat could erode sea ice and shove area and extent back into record low territory.


Tornadoes in Snow

February Thaw to be Followed by Return of Polar Vortex (collapse)

Snow, Ice, High Winds, Tornadoes Strike Midwest

Climate Reanalyzer

Leave a comment


  1. I googled Twistersnow and all I got is “twister snow” which is a brush. So I guess you win the word coinage of the month contest. Or perhaps year.

  2. Phil

     /  February 23, 2014

    Wow, very strange weather. A bit sad where the weather reporter is looking for the polar vortex to provide a little less excitement and ‘weather weirdness’ than the previous week.

    I never saw climate reanalyser anomaly maps for the first polar vortex. Are they expecting it to be as absolutely cold as in the one in early January?

    Also looks like the arctic will have the greatest positive temperature anomalies in the areas of recent greatest growth in sea ice extent. Will be interesting to see if that growth will be reversed. I do not know enough about what has caused the sea ice declines – for example, is it weather patterns related to location of blocking highs, storms and wind or abnormally warm temperatures and melting? I seen some blogs (e.g. Arctic Sea Ice Blog) saying that it is not melting because even with the large positive temperature anomalies, the absolute temperature is still below that required to freeze sea water.

    Anyway, interesting times there and looks like very interesting initial conditions for the coming melt season may emerge over the next couple of weeks if this heat continues.

    • At the edge, temperature anomalies have been high enough to push ice retreat at times near Svalbard, in the Bering sea, and in Baffin Bay. In these regions temperatures have edged above freezing and look set to do so again next week.

      Air temperature, water temperature, wind, warm water upwelling and other factors have all contributed to sea ice retreat. The primary causes are human driven polar amplification and climate change which by various agencies transports heat into the Arctic.

      As for the cold air intensity resulting from this collapse… The models show this episode won’t push as much cold air into Canada and the US nor quite as much warm air into the Arctic. So it is, overall, a bit milder.

  3. eugene

     /  February 23, 2014

    We’re looking at 15-20 below all week in northern Minnesota with a high of 4 below on Thursday. To the rare person I talk with open enough to hear anything that the weather will remain unstable and chaotic for the rest of our lives. Personally I expect it to stay that way until after climate change gases stop entering the atmosphere.

    • Mark Archambault

       /  February 24, 2014

      Now THAT’S cold! What is the expected (normal ave.) high temperature for northern MN this time of year? The 20’s?

  4. I can’t help but feel you’re going to be increasingly drowning in choices for which events to pick as the next few years go by. Main difficulty there is it will dilute reporting and information generally as people always tend to focus on their own local situation preferentially. People like to talk about the weather – but infrastructure damage and crop losses will become increasingly important (and likely relatively invisibly so at first, given the mental distance most people in westernised nations have from food production and infrastructure creation).

    • How is it possible that tornadoes form after snowfall? What exactly caused that to happen (referring the above video)?

      • Easy. You have a massive cold air invasion, pushed out by Arctic warming, like the many we’ve seen this year. That generates the snowfall. Then, a few days or weeks later warm air from the Gulf of Mexico stages a spring-like invasion northward. The cold air rushing south and the warm air rushing north creates extreme instability and so you end up with powerful super-cells. Thunderstorms over snowfall.

        Usually, this kind of instability waits until the snow has started to melt. But now what you have is cold air being shoved south by warmth bubbling up through the sea ice and invading through weaknesses in the Jet Stream. The warmth up north, shoves polar air to the south at the same time that a warming southern region — pushed both by human warming and by seasonal change — drives northward. This causes the temperature differentials to just scream and so you have the instability needed for twistersnow.

        Here in Maryland, it was 66 on Friday when the we experienced thunderstorms and a tornado over melting snow. By Wednesday night, it was 11. A 55 degree temperature swing. If you have temps swinging in this range and Gulf of Mexico moisture riding north, you have the potential for major snowfalls in the cold spells and thunderstorms in the warm spells.

        So here we are…

  5. Mark Archambault

     /  February 23, 2014

    This late-February polar vortex collapse won’t be as cold for New England as January’s was.
    I live smack dab in the middle of New England in southern NH, and the high temps later this week are forecast for the low 20’s, with overnight lows in the single digits. In January, the high temps were in the low-teens with overnight lows from -10 to 0. I realize this is warm by, say, Minnesota standards.

  6. Scientists from The University of Queensland have discovered a microbe that is set to play a significant role in future global warming.

    UQ’s Australian Centre for Ecogenomics researcher Ben Woodcroft said the methane-producing micro-organism, known as a ‘methanogen’, was thriving in northern Sweden’s thawing permafrost in a thick subsurface layer of soil that has previously remained frozen.
    Mr Woodcroft said no one knew of the microbe’s existence or how it worked before the research discovery.

    • “We found as frozen soil thaws, this microbe produces more methane,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Gene Tyson of the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland.

      “This causes the temperature to rise and more thawing to occur in a massive feedback loop. It’s a really, really big problem,”

      • We’re getting a methane pulse in the high Arctic right now. Not huge. But an ominous belch. Working on it now.

      • Woodcroft has most of that little bug’s genome sequenced, I got a quarter that says that little rascal has been hanging around for a very very long time. I suspect his ancestors are sleeping deep in the yedoma as I type.
        What I found really interesting is that methanogen works with 2 other microbes to produce the methane . The classic compost pile , where groups of microbes move in concert to break down organic matter. This points to it being very very old.

        The real question is what temperature is it’s preferred range.

  7. Past extreme warming events linked to massive
    carbon release from thawing permafrost

    • And yet one more missing link is connected. I can’t write and research fast enough to keep up…

      • This one has had me worried for years. What really bothers me is all the other microbes being unlocked from the ice. For example, what if a mammoth microbe melts out and bumps off every elephant on the planet ? It’s not like there’s a giant pool of them now.

        • Your starfish destroying microbe is linked to global warming. You think it’s too late to write an article on that one? I’ve been kicking it around for months.

      • ” Your starfish destroying microbe is linked to global warming. You think it’s too late to write an article on that one? I’ve been kicking it around for months.”

        My starfish destroying microbe ?

        Please, it’s oceans starfish destroying microbe, not mine.

        As to your point.
        I think these long term rapid temperatures we grew up with will release new pathways for the very simplest life forms to breakout , in ways we’ve never seen before. And I lay that at the speed of the change, not that we are changing.

        What worries me are the bacteria , and viruses. There are viruses in that yedoma permafrost that have been frozen for nearly 200,000 years.

        Viruses don’t die. They just go to sleep. Then one day when it warms they wake-up.
        The paper I sited was a bacteria . A much more complex life form than a virus.
        It woke up, and it and it’s buddies are making methane. Once again in the far North.

        This simple life really scares me. Climate Change will let this simple life elbow it’s 200,000 year old life locked in the ice right into the modern world.

        • Some of that simple life rising from the ocean floor is hundreds of millions of years old…

          But, yeah, the new microbes are taking down amphibs, bats, starfish and manatees.

      • On the starfish die-off:

        “…Despite its frequency, scientists are uncertain of what causes starfish wasting disease. The possibilities fall into two broad categories: pathogens or environmental effects. The pathogenic model is supported by what resembles contagious behaviour observed in a Brown University study last year, but causative bacteria, virus, or fungus has yet to be found. Many marine biologists suspect that rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification are responsible for the disease, which affects the starfishes’ feeding habits and life processes. While environmental factors alone are likely not cause enough for starfish wasting disease, they may inhibit starfishes’ immunity enough for a pathogen to infect, meaning the phenomena could still be linked to climate change…

        …In its early stages, media hype attributed starfish wasting disease to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan, asserting that irradiated Pacific seawater was to blame. There is a dearth of scientific evidence showing that radiation is not to blame for the disease: namely that it was observed well before the meltdown occurred and that it is simultaneously happening in other oceans.”

        I’d be interested in seeing what you have to say in a blog post.

      • I’m sure they meant “wealth” and not “dearth”.

  8. This freaks me out as well :
    Phytoplankton bloom in the North Atlantic Ocean

    The North Atlantic ocean should not be seeing Phytoplankton blooms in Feb.

  9. Steve

     /  February 24, 2014

    Colorado Bob: The links that you continuously provide are outstanding. The insight that you and Robert provide are very enlightening. Thanks for all your effort.
    I think our sled ride is going to get faster at an alarming rate. While your thought about elephants is scary; my worry is that it will be something that humans can’t deal with. I think things are hitting the fan now.

  10. Steve

     /  February 24, 2014

    By the end of this week, we could tie the all time record here in Chicago for the most sub zero days in a winter.This is after two of the most mild winters ever experienced here. People around here shockingly get it. Consistent extreme weather is no longer unexpected. Climate change ridicule has disappeared from the media channels I observe.

  11. If I was rich , I would limit every stroke I type.

  12. Robert- the question I asked was meant for you. I typed it in the wrong place.


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