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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Is the Weather Drunk?

Is the Weather Drunk?

This winter has been a humdinger. The month of January has brought subzero temperatures to much of North America, while to the north, the waters of the usually frosty arctic circle are warmer than normal for this time of year.

Could the problem be, as the amusing image above, created by science blogger Greg Laden, suggests, that the arctic is actually confused about where it belongs? While Laden was clearly being tongue-in-cheek, in a way, the answer to that question is yes.

Both Laden’s blog and a more recent update at Mother Jones Magazine explain that the “polar vortex” that’s placed much of the United States and Canada into a deep freeze is actually a result of a “drunkenly staggering” jet stream.

The jet stream is a strong current of fast flowing air that cuts across the Northern Hemisphere. It has a powerful affect on the climate in North America. As Mother Jones explains:

Its motion–sometimes in a relatively straight path, sometimes in a more loopy one–is driven by a difference in temperatures between the equator and the north pole. Southern temperatures are of course warmer, and because warm air takes up more space than cold air, this leads to taller columns of air in the atmosphere.

As the Arctic rapidly heats up, however, there’s less of a temperature difference between the equator and the poles, and the downhill slope in the atmosphere is accordingly less steep. This creates a weaker jet stream, a jet stream that meanders more or, if you prefer the new analogy, staggers around drunkenly.

This weak, meandering jet stream can’t contain the strong weather systems from farther north that it normally holds back from sweeping down on us. So, in a perverse way, the reason we’re all freezing right now is because the Earth is getting warmer.

One thing is for sure, we predicted these frigid temperatures in the 2014 Farmers’ Almanac, which is something we’re happy to drink to.

Stay warm!

18 comments

1 NB { 01.24.14 at 10:05 pm }

earlier you predicted a colder wetter winter for the SW and drier and warmer for up north.. hmm seem to have gotten it kinda wrong..

2 sean { 01.24.14 at 8:06 pm }

i LOVE the snow and cold more more more i live in nyc

3 Tania { 01.24.14 at 7:02 pm }

Rehab ? A Canadian intervention ? Sorry got carried away … Brain freeze .

4 Julia Pewo { 01.24.14 at 7:01 pm }

I told those around me it would be extremely frigid winter here in SD read it in the farmer’s Almanac last fall!!!

5 Jeff { 01.24.14 at 6:46 pm }

Thirty years ago we called this…….. WINTER! Stop already with the nonsense.

6 Gordon Myers { 01.24.14 at 6:24 pm }

Its all Bushes fault !!!

7 robin { 01.24.14 at 5:59 pm }

will there be a couple of those “nice warm” 50 degree days anytime soon here in NJ?

8 libbyskitty { 01.24.14 at 5:29 pm }

i’m in illinois when is it going to warm up?

9 Mary { 01.24.14 at 5:06 pm }

Today it was so warm! It was 36 degrees. But the last two weeks, the weather has ranged from -65 degrees to -10 (during the day..) I live in St. Francis, Minnesota. I hope things straighten out soon because to be honest it’s to cold to do a damn thing here most of the time!

10 Deanna { 01.24.14 at 5:00 pm }

population increase in 9 months !!!!!!!

11 Deanna { 01.24.14 at 4:58 pm }

I told some people it was going to be bitterly cold this winter because you said it was maybe the cold will kill some of them unwanted pests ( right on prediction )

12 Trudi Woods { 01.24.14 at 4:55 pm }

Everyone one should get a little hammered once in awhile…this winter all of Canada seems to be getting hammered…not always in a good way…we’re almost halfway thru winter , yes?

13 Brenda Rowe { 01.24.14 at 4:51 pm }

I have different theory that hasn’t got anything to do with being drunk…the planet earth doesn’t just rotate like a globe on a pole, it wobbles and tilts and eventually the sun will rise in the North.

14 sandy { 01.24.14 at 4:50 pm }

Will it ever sober up?

15 Shara { 01.24.14 at 4:47 pm }

But your almanac didn’t predict the current lack of rain in the west. It’s currently 71*F in Northern California.

16 Cindy Molargik { 01.24.14 at 4:47 pm }

Ok if the jet stream is drunk then what’s going to happen when mother nature has a hang over? Will it ever get warm again!! Our high for today is 2º that’s not counting windchill. Next week on one day the high is supposed to be -5. I’m so over this.

17 Eileen M Coughlin { 01.24.14 at 4:42 pm }

OMAHA

18 Carolyn Miller { 01.24.14 at 4:39 pm }

We have really had some freezing weather here in NC. In the 20s in daytime and teens or lower at night. It was 9 degrees this morning at 9:00. Brrrrrrr….

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