I know the social media interwebs (that series of tubes we all use daily) has been a’flutter with proclamations of another “ARCTIC BLAST!”
While these reports are not, necessarily, false… I believe they may be a bit over-done. But not for the reason you may be thinking.
The term “Arctic Blast” probably has a very different meaning to a lot of us today than it did, say, at Christmas. Given how cold the last “Arctic Blast” was, I can imagine what you may be thinking this next “Arctic Blast” may feel like.
As an aside, is anyone else tired of every time it is cold outside it is called an “ARCTIC BLAST!!!” What ever happened to, like, “Winter” being the reason it is cold?
What’s the deal?
Looking at some of the latest model data (the two pictures here) both the GFS and ECMWF computer weather models both agree that cold air from Canada will be sliding south.
Both computer weather models show the old air sliding south from Canada at the same time – just about Groundhog’s Day. That is good news for forecasters. Generally, when these two models agree on predicting an event, meteorologists start to have much high confidence in an event occurring.
Will it be colder? Totally. And local meteorologists will likely start bringing this up on TV and in forecast discussions put together by National Weather Service offices.
There are still a few psychological hurdles to clear.
You mind to my mind, your thoughts to my thoughts
The last big cold snap for the South is still pretty clear in people’s minds. Myself included. It brought single digit lows to places that haven’t been that cold since the 1980s. There were dozens of record lows set across the region.
It was cold. It was an “Arctic Blast” that – to many – felt Arctic-like.
But what about the “Arctic Blast” before that? It was just a few days earlier! That one plunged temperatures overnight into the – GASP! – 20s!
Wait… just the 20s? That was it? THAT WAS IT!
The “Arctic Blast” before that? Right around New Year’s Day. That only pushed temperatures back into the teens and 20s. The one before that? Late December. Most of the region bottomed out around freezing.
So, what is the take-away here? What does the human brain deduce when given this data? It tries to make a trend line out of it. It tries to make order from chaos. It sees every next cold snap as colder and more ferocious.
So by the time most people get done reading “ARCTIC BLAST” on a headline on facebook, they are already picturing cold – possibly worse than the last time – and snow and ice and terribleness. But that isn’t necessarily the case.
The Bottom Line
Could it be as cold as the last time? Sure. Could it be colder? It is possible.
Whatever cold, that may or may not arrive, is still – roughly – nine to ten days away. There is plenty of time for the forecast to change. The cold air may not make it as far south. It may push further east. It may modify (warm up) considerably by the time it makes to the Gulf of Mexico.
But the likelihood of one record-breaking cold followed up by another record-breaking is pretty low. Not impossible. Just low. And, despite our brain’s propensity to create order-from-chaos, not something to worry about quite yet.