[Update: it seems clear that records were broken after all as has been pointed out in the comments. So we are only left with Fox’s reaction and youtube fog-pee videos. And let’s face it, Fox’s reaction was pretty predictable…]
The recent cold snap was indeed remarkable and the media was buzzing about it for days. But it was not remarkable for the extreme cold, which in fact set no records, it was remarkable because it has become so unusual.
Unlike the recent heat waves in the US, Australia, Russia and Europe, this cold snap did not, repeat did not set any all time monthly or daily minimum records. Rather it was merely colder than it has been for 20 years. What’s more, according to Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, and his climate historian Christopher C. Burt, cold snaps like this past week’s used to occur every couple of years in the 1800’s and prior to the 1996 cold snap, events like this occurred every 5-10 years. Quoting:
As notable as this week’s cold wave was–bringing the coldest air seen since 1996 or 1994 over much of the nation–the event failed to set any monthly or all-time record low minimum temperature records at airports and cooperative observing stations monitored by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. As wunderground’s weather historian Christopher C. Burt summed it up for me, “The only significant thing about the cold wave is how long it has been since a cold wave of this force has hit for some portions of the country–18 years, to be specific. Prior to 1996, cold waves of this intensity occurred pretty much every 5-10 years. In the 19th century, they occurred every year or two (since 1835). Something that, unlike the cold wave, is a[sic] truly unprecedented is the dry spell in California and Oregon, which is causing unprecedented winter wildfires in Northern California.“ Part of the reason that this week’s cold wave did not set any all-time or monthly cold records is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so in a warming climate.
So what is remarkable is that this level of cold has become remarkable. That and the childish guffaws from Fox News about 150 years of scientific research being refuted by a weekend of cold weather. Oh yes, and YouTube videos of peeing fog. Otherwise this is just what scientists refer to as “winter”.