Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No fooling around; possibly severe cold regime for a large portion of USA appearing more probable by week 2

Tropical convective forcing has been persistent across the South Pacific along the SPCZ for roughly a couple of weeks. This response was expected given the December 2006-early January 2007 MJO and warm SSTs (~1-2C anomalies) associated with ENSO. The global circulation has been responding with the recent large tendency in global relative atmospheric angular momentum (~30 Hadleys) and the appearance of twin upper tropospheric subtropical anticyclones around 160W. Rossby wave energy dispersion linked to these twin anticyclones (with inter-hemispheric symmetry) may be contributing to the onset of North Atlantic blocking (negative phase of the NAO). There has been poleward propagation of zonal mean westerly wind anomalies resulting in 5-10m/s anomalies at 200mb in the subtropical atmosphere. GSDM Stage 3 best describes the current global circulation pattern. However, as discussed in our January 19th posting, this El-Nino-juiced forcing has been evolving in a more persistent regime that developed just prior to December 1st. The regime has been characterized by transport of westerly momentum out of the tropics into the higher latitudes. The forcing from the South Pacific has not changed this La-Nina like (GSDM Stage 1-2) pattern.

Rossby wave energy dispersions within the regime have led to a revival of tropical convection across the East Indian Ocean into Indonesia. Fast baroclinic wave packets moving through South Asia are interacting with this forcing leading to storm development across the west and central North Pacific. A discontinuous retrogression and amplification of the North American ridge into the Arctic is expected within the next week. While a convective signal in the South Pacific is expected to persist (allowing a subtropical jet across the Deep South at times), tropical forcing may become quite robust near 120E by sometime week 2, in which case, the ridge may retrograde to 150W. The ESRL/PSD and other model ensembles lend support to this scenario. In fact, blocking may develop all across the polar latitudes as we go through February. Another MJO may also develop across the Eastern Hemisphere next month which could lead to a further demise of our warm ENSO event.

The screaming message for a good part of the country is a turn to much colder temperatures by about a week from now. Bitterly cold Arctic air that has been “bottled up” across much of Siberia is likely to plunge into the USA with a few surges, likely centered on the Northern and Central Plains/Upper Mississippi Valley. Strong winds and brutal wind chills will be probable. Best opportunities for significant wintery precipitation should be from the central-southern Rockies into the Tennessee Valley, Deep South into the mid Atlantic States. Lighter snowfall events may occur with the Arctic surges (along with intense convective lake effect snow). This whole precipitation pattern may shift northwest later weeks 2 and 3 (troughs across the Rockies/western states) while temperatures slowly moderate. By around week 3 the ridge should be far enough northwest to allow strong and moist westerly flow (including “undercutting”) to impact the west coast with significant precipitation especially California.

Please note: These are probabilistic statements, which we will try to quantify in future posts. The decay time scale for momentum transport anomalies is on the order of 1-2 days. Thus this is the time scale on which a reversal of the transports could occur

Ed Berry and Klaus Weickmann

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