Arctic air’s grip on Chicago’s weather enters its 19th day Tuesday. But far-reaching changes in critical upper level steering winds taking place on a continental scale are to undermine the frigid air’s dominance. The break in arctic-level temperatures may span much of the coming two weeks. Not until month’s end may bitter winds of arctic origin return brutally cold air to the metro area.
Coming days will offer winter weary Chicago area residents a noticeable respite from the bitter air at the heart of January’s 13.9-degrees average temperature to date–a reading more than 9-degrees below normal. But the “warming” predicted which is to include the city’s first above freezing afternoon readings since Christmas (Dec. 25), may occur a bit more slowly than many might hope. The reason is simple. An uninterrupted cover of snow extending west 600 miles to the rolling plains of central Kansas and Nebraska, will reflect warming sunlight back to space as mild Pacific air surges into the Midwest. Were that snow not in place the incoming air mass would likely produce highs in the low and mid 50s here Wednesday and Thursday. Instead, Chicagoans will have to settle for mid and upper 30s. That’s still quite an improvement over the 32-degree and lower readings which have dominated since Christmas Day–and more than enough to encourage some afternoon thawing.
The nearly three week period since cold air first arrived here has averaged more than 8-degrees colder than a comparable period a year ago and has boosted home heating an estimated 14 percent. During that time, the city’s seasonal snowfall has surged to 28.3 inches–nearly twice (191 percent) normal—yet behind the 36.6 inches on the books a year ago.
Cold spell gripping Florida one of longest on record
Cold air of record or near record proportions has dominated most of the U.S. east of the Rockies all this month—and nowhere more dramatically than Florida. Historically, the Sunshine State has seen colder winter outbreaks—but few if any have lasted as long. Tampa recorded a 51-degree high Monday–the 10th consecutive day which failed to reach 60-degrees. Never over the term of weather records there (extending back 1890) has there been a longer spell of sub-60-degree temperatures. Many sections of the state recorded record-breaking lows in the teens and 20s early Monday. Miami’s 62-degree high followed 48 straight hours below 50-degree temperatures–one of the longest sub-50-degree spells since records began in 1839.
Signs El Nino-like pattern could begin pounding California with powerful storms by next week
Longer-range computer projections place jet stream winds approaching the California coast early next week at a rarely seen 225 mph. Powerhouse storms become a real threat when jet stream winds grow that strong. Computer estimates of potential California precipitation over the coming 16 days—much of it predicted to fall next week–exceed 8 inches. Windy, wet West Coast storms are a hallmark of El Nino cold seasons.