Monday, November 10, 2014

Cold, but Not Cold Enough

Panic is setting in nationwide thanks to the first significant cold wave of the season.

For the Northwest, this will be a cold event, but there's been colder.  According to NWS forecasts, the lowest minimum temperatures are expected Tuesday night with a 30ºF in Seattle, 10ºF in Spokane, and -20ºF in Butte.

Source: NWS
Impressive, but to paraphrase Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, that's not a cold wave, THIS is a cold wave.  By this, I mean the cold wave of mid November 1955. The plot below shows the minimum temperatures reached during that event, including 10ºF into the Puget Sound area, -10ºF in eastern Washington, an expansive area of -20ºF in western Montana, and -30ºF in central Idaho.  
Source: O'Conneor and Fean (1955)
Minimum temperatures in northern Utah were below -10ºF and in some areas below -20ºF.  In fact, the November 1955 cold surge is one of the great climatological outliers in Utah weather history.  The graph below shows this November's temperatures (so far) along with the range of average and the record highs (red) and lows (blue).  Note the -10ºF record minimum on November 15 and -14ºF minimum on November 16, both of which occurred during the 1955 cold wave.  Those minimum temperatures are 8ºF and 12ºF colder than any other record minimum in the month.  

Source: NWS
So, you youngsters out there have no right to complain.  

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if that cold wave in 1955 had its genesis in a Pacific hurricane.