We are hunkering down, here in New Hampshire, in a blast of Arctic air transplanted south from the North Pole, as we wait to see if an east coast storm slips out to sea south of us, or clobbers us. That will likely be my next “Local View” post.
Of course, when the Pole is robbed of its very cold air we should expect a surge of milder air (by “milder” I mean -10°C rather than -40°C) to move in behind the departing cold air up at the Pole. And indeed this is what has occurred.
To state things in a simplistic manner, “Ralph”, who had wobbled over towards Siberia, allowing very cold, record-setting cold to settle in the Canadian Archipelago, came wobbling back towards the Pole, and bumped the cold down towards North America. (I’m certain my description causes some meteorologists to cringe, but I am Ralph-centric and, if I want to see all things in terms of Ralph, I am entitled, because this is my obscure blog and I’m boss here.) (Just for the record, one could also say the cold high pressure was the ruler of the situation, and rather than being “bumped” south, it “settled” south, and sucked Ralph back north in its lee, but that is not the Ralph-centric view.)
At this point I looked confidently towards the Atlantic, for that is where our surges have usually come from, but that never developed. Rather an impressive surge came north through the Bering Straits from the north Pacific, refueling Ralph and turning him into what I call a “Hula Ralph”, (because an adolescent part of me never grew up and the word “Pacific” always suggests ladies dancing in grass skirts to me.) Dr. Ryan Maue’s great maps, over at the Weatherbell site, show this Pacific invasion clearly:
This is the GFS models “initial” map, which is made up of current conditions fed into the computer, and is as close as a model ever comes to reality. My own sense was that such a surge of milder air, while no thaw, would interupt the influx of bitter air into Canada. However I was apparently utterly wrong. That “mildness” is lost to outer space with astonishing rapidity. Here is the forecast for 12 hours from now.
And here is the forecast for 24 hours from now:
In only 24 hours Ralph has consumed an amazing amount of heat. Some may say the milder air was merely “mixed”, with cold air sucked up from Siberia, but if that was true the Siberian air would be milder, but it isn’t. Others will say the milder air was “lifted”, and this is likely true, but lifted air gets colder and precipitates out water as cold snow (with the process releasing latent heat that helps the uplift of all the heat to the verge of outer space, where it is lost.) Lastly, some of the milder air has invaded the Canadian Archipelago, but let us look ahead a second day to see what happens to it there.
Here is the situation in 36 hours:
And here is the situation in 48 hours. What happened to the mild air in the Canadian Archipelago?
At this point I think it can be said that the Hula invasion didn’t warm the Pole, but rather squandered the planets supply of Pacific heat. This is bad news, because women will not wear grass skirts if it gets colder in the Pacific.
The model suggests Hula Ralph tops out as a 975 mb storm, and then starts to weaken. Three days from now all the “milder” air is used up, and some very cold air is pouring into northern Canada. (Further south some west winds may be bringing a Chinook over the Rockies, but the mildness that may occur further south in Canada is not due to the Pole being milder. In fact if you compare the 72 hour map below with the initial map above, it is incredible how much “mildness” was replaced by bitter cold. (Hula Ralph has managed to suck in a feeder band from the Atlantic, but it is so weak it is barely visible.)
Models diverge from reality increasingly, but it is tempting to peek ahead 12 hours to see if the cold at the top of Canada bulges south. Also to see if there is a hint where the next “surge” may come from.
Yes, that cold is bulging south (which is bad news for me and my plans to plant peas early). Also, besides the very weak Atlantic feeder-band, it looks like a feed might be pushing north right through the heart of Siberia. That, at least, is a sign of spring, as mildness has a hard time coming north in Siberia in January, unless it is Pacific air over towards Bering Strait.
As an aside I should note that this latest incarnation of Ralph will continue to generate west winds that will jam ice into the western approaches to the Northwest Passage, which is opposite what occurred last year.
Lastly, (and the actual point of this post), it should be noted that although the skies are brightening at the Pole, and sunrise at the North Pole is only a week away, the Arctic still has an amazing ability to squander heat. Even after the sun rises there is a net loss of heat, despite 24-hour-a-day sunshine at the Pole. The sun has to climb higher before the heat-loss ceases, and then there is only a brief period, roughly six weeks, when the Pole can help the planet at all, in terms of warming.