On Tuesday, students enjoyed temperatures in the mid-60s, leading to lots of relaxing on the Quad. The warm weather was short-lived, however, with snow on Thursday and a cold forecast for the weekend. So, we asked Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz to tell us what’s up with the weather:
According to Metz, a very strong cold front moving through our region caused today’s chilly weather. “Cold fronts are really just the boundary between the warmer air and the cold, cold, dry artic air,” he explains. Metz says meteorologists have known for years that what happens “upstream,” or for our purposes, to the west, will happen here soon after. “The connection can be even far, far, upstream. Even as far west as off the coast of Japan,” he says.
“In this particular case there was a really interesting link to a typhoon, Nuri. Typhoon Nuri moved northward …at that point, it was no longer a typhoon…and it set off this really profound and impressive downstream impact. This really cold air comes from an upper level trough that moved southward into our region from the Arctic. This trough is directly linked to this tropical cyclone that occurred many thousands of miles away from here,” explains Metz.
Unfortunately, we should not expect things to warm up anytime soon. Although Metz says we can’t say with certainty what the weather will be like this winter, things will remain chilly at least for the next couple of weeks. “Knowing exactly what’s going to happen two months from now, isn’t an exact science. There are certain indicators that we can use to try to determine what will happen,” he says.
“The official forecast from NOAA does call for three months (December, January and February) to be slightly above normal,” he adds. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the baseline for what’s “normal” and not normal changes. An above “normal” temperature in December could be in the high 30s.
So, should we fear the Polar Vortex? “That term has been around in the meteorological community for years, but now that the media has gotten ahold of the term it seems to be on every newscast,” says Metz. “The polar vortex is just a reflection of all the cold air that’s bottled up around the North Pole. It’s usually contained. It exists to the north of a strong jet stream that circles the globe. When something happens that causes the jet stream to buckle-like this northward movement of Nuri towards this jet stream-the result can be the extreme cold air that we are currently facing as this jet stream dives towards the south.”