Yes, it was a remarkable cold snap, but in what way?

[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:

Not an Historic Cold Wave:

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".

 

More like this

Some remarkable weather in North America recently as most of you probably know.  Check out Jeff Masters for some of the details. Record warmth and precipitation in AlaskaAs of January 26, 13.83" of precipitation had fallen in Valdez during the month of January. This is more than 8" above average…
The anti-scientific M.O. of some political conservatives was in full swing during the 'polar vortex,' as frigid weather brought south from the Arctic led many commentators to scoff, "look how cold it is, can you believe anyone thinks the Earth is getting warmer?" Coby Beck adds some perspective…
The oil freighter Esso Languedoc outside the coast of Durban (1980). The man who took it, Philippe Lijour, estimated the mean wave height when this occurred to be about 5-10 m. The mast on the starboard side is 25 m above the mean sea level. The wave approached from behind and broke over…
The latest report from the National Climatic Data Center reminds us that the planet is continuing to warm as expected. Most of the attention will be afforded to the global picture, for good reason: The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2010 was 0.69°C (1.24°F)…

There is a little ambiguity in that article, at least in the description of the graphic. It seems it could mean just record low since two decades ago. For the moment I would trust Wunderground over any USA Today or Weather Channel report, but we should keep an eye on this...

Thanks for the link!

There's ambiguity in the actual article as well. The header on the graphic says:

Temperatures in some areas have not been this low since the arctic outbreaks of January 1997, February 1996 and January of 1994.

Which jibes with the wunderground article quoted above, but the actual USA Today article rattles off a lot of records that were broken without stating when those records were set.

Can't say if they're right or wrong without going back to their source, which they at least bother citing, if not linking.

USA Today usually has pretty lazy journalism. No change there.

Wunderground agrees that January 7th 2014 was a new daily low record at Dulles Airport:
http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/KIAD/2014/1/7/DailyHistory…

Also, Wunderground, on their Record extremes page, shows 179 daily NCDC Records (U.S. Only) set on January 6th. Asking for the 7th gives no results (it should show at least Dulles), so it seems that the January 7th data has not been updated for that page yet.

I did the search as well. A lot of the results returned are ties, but there certainly are some saying new records. I would expect Jeff Masters to have something to say about that eventually...

Coby,
Just curious, do you have the link to Fox News refuting 150 years of global warming based on the cold snap? I did a quick google, but couldn't find it.

I've got some Fox believers friends of mine I'd like to show it to.

Thanks,

"… this cold snap did not, repeat did not set any … daily minimum records."

Ann Arbor MI, January 7
---------------------------------
Previous record -8, 1887
Current record -15F, 2014 (wunderground)

Detroit MI, January 7
-----------------------------
Previous record -5F, 1942
Current record -14F, 2014 (wunderground)

For the moment I would trust weather underground over, say, some blog on the internet.

Well, that's two. How many are required to disprove a claim?

Record lows were indeed broken.

From the Chicago NOAA office;
000
SXUS73 KLOT 062255
RERORD

RECORD EVENT REPORT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHICAGO IL
0455 PM CST MON JAN 06 2014

...RECORD LOW MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES SET AT CHICAGO-OHARE
IL TODAY...

A RECORD LOW TEMPERATURE OF -16 WAS SET AT CHICAGO-OHARE IL TODAY.
THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF -14 SET IN 1884 AND TIED IN 1988. THIS
WAS THE COLDEST TEMPERATURE IN CHICAGO SINCE BACK ON JANUARY 16 2009
WHEN THE LOW TEMPERATURE WAS -18.

A RECORD LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE OF -2 WAS ALSO SET. THIS BROKE THE
OLD RECORD OF -1 SET IN 1912. THE LAST TIME CHICAGO SAW A SUBZERO
DAILY HIGH WAS ON JANUARY 15 2009 WHEN THE HIGH REACHED -1. THIS
RECORD LOW MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE WILL NOT BECOME OFFICIAL UNTIL
MIDNIGHT...BUT TEMPERATURES ARE LIKELY TO REMAIN WELL BELOW -2
THROUGH MIDNIGHT.

By The Invisible Man (not verified) on 12 Jan 2014 #permalink

I think the confusion over whether or not a record was set is perhaps just some bad phrasing. Yes daily records were set, but as quoted "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." Unlike daily records at a specific location which depends on which day a cold or hot air mass hits your area. Those records are being set all the time. But it's much harder to break the monthly records, and that is what he is referring to. The recent heat waves have set monthly high temp records, this cold wave set any monthly low temp records. We've been spoiled by all this warm weather and don't remember how cold it used to get.

I can haz cold please? Central Europe speaking here... Every day so far this year has equalled or exceeded average highs for January so far. All but 2 days have exceeded normal January highs by several degrees. I've had one skiing holiday cancelled already due to a complete lack of snow (not just not enough snow, but no snow at all and daytime temps not dropping below freezing in the mountains where we'd planned to ski). Only weather, but still - this side of the pond it's the least wintry winter I've known. Meanwhile UK is having some pretty crazy storms (certainly not unprecedented, but very unusual) but at least on my recent visit the temps were not particularly low. My point being only that the incredible cold is on your side of the pond, while over here we're not getting that at all. We're all prone to misjudging weather and climate based on how things are where we live, of course - over here the talk is of how this winter is a clear sign of global warming :)

By Pan Outeast (not verified) on 14 Jan 2014 #permalink

"Record lows were indeed broken.!"

And many more record highs.

Indeed, the number of record highs are 3x as many as there are record lows.

So what is the CLIMATE doing?

Ok, who are you and what have you done with wow?

Still taking a lot of words to say nothing, Pauline?

Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S...

"...Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S...

I think a better way to phrase that is that there is a very minor section of the US population that realises that there is more to the world than just the US - but only a very small percentage. Most of them couldn't even point to Canada on a map.

“…Maybe there are people in the U. S. who think the earth is only the U. S…"

Oh, no, I don't think this is true.

But if it's exceptionally warm in the USA and cold in, say, Vladivostock, then it's Russia that is the entire earth.

Flag of convenience, you might say.