A strong west-to-east flow across northern Europe is driving polar Atlantic air deep into Siberia. (Maps below are created by Dr Ryan Maue from GFS initial data, and are among thousands of maps he makes available at the Weatherbell site.) (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)
This air is actually quite mild for December (although below freezing by the time it gets to Russia. Below freezing appears as pink on the map below.)
To get a feel for how above-normal the air actually is a temperature anomaly map is helpful. The map below shows temperatures are most above normal in Finland.
This surge of relatively mild (but still below freezing air) will extend far across Asia, but does not represent the very cold (-40°C) Siberian air being warmed, but rather replaced. The displaced air is pushed north into the Arctic Sea, or west into the Pacific, or south and then east by a sort of backwash under the west winds. You can see the cold appearing in the lower right of the map above.
What this means is that places like Persia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel are seeing very cold conditions. Even the ordinarily hot and desert dry United Arab Emerites are seeing cold rain and temperatures down near freezing.
This is often an unexpected side effect of mild west winds across the Baltic and into Russia. Siberia is a huge place, larger than the USA and Canada put together, and its tundra and taiga create huge amounts of cold air. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this reservoir, or how impossible it is to warm this vastness in the dark days of December. It is only when a fringe of this cold comes east as a sort of backwash, and snows fall in the holy land, that one glimpses a hint of how gigantic the area of cold is. It perhaps can be shoved aside by a surge of air from the west, but it doesn’t just vanish, and I was particularly interested in pictures of the snow in Persia (Iran).
It is a bit stunning to realize that the displaced Siberian air has it colder south of the Caspian Sea than it is way up in Finland. (One thing to realize is that the relatively milder air rushing east past Finland is constantly losing heat, and will be quite cold after a week or so over the deep snows that cover most of Siberia this autumn.) In fact it is so cold over Persia that things are running at half-horsepower.
OK, OK, I admit it is a bad joke, but I actually thought this statue was so cool that it deserved an entire post just to share it. It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll discover, when you wander the web looking for news.