Santayana’s VODKA COLD

Posted by wxrisk | GENERAL,WINTER 2011-12 | Friday 27 January 2012 8:22 pm

1945  EST  27  JAN 2012… STARDATE  201201.27


Did you ever have one of those days where no matter how hard you try the one thing you wanna get to the just can’t seem to get to or complete? This is one of those days. I’ve been trying to complete this website update for 6 hours…since 2pm … and every time I attempt to finish it some useless human being others me or the phones I have to stop what I am doing …. or pick up someone. A very frustrating afternoon because there is a lot to say and I’m not going to take any prisoners in saying it and I don’t give a crap whose toes or feelings I hurt.

There are a lot of weather nuts  out there… ranging  the serious weather hobbyists    to it  lowest grade or lowest form:    the weather weenie.    If you are a winter weather lover like I am you always WANT  to get excited about the big snowstorms and the big cold pattern. Certainly I could produce a lot more business for my website and for the FACEBOOK  page by banging the    drum constantly about cold patterns which never show up.   But that is NOT what WXRISK.COM is all about.   As I  have stated many times before  ..  MY  inter forecast for Winter 2011-12   ( like most others) was disastrously wrong. This is the fifth time and I said that statement about my forecast in the past month yet many weather weenies out there seem to have this perception that I am suggesting my winter forecast was very good.

The point is that the last two winters have been very good for WXRISK.COM    . But the reason why I was bullish and aggressive with a cold and the snow winter patterns over the last two winters for the central and Eastern CONUS is because the patterns were.  I  wasn’t being Bullish on cold and snow to gain religious followers or to have snow nuts fall in love with me.

The purpose of practicing science and in particular the science of meteorology is to learn from the mistakes. My winter forecast was wrong and I have discovered –I believe– to be the synoptic reason why the pattern did not develop the way I thought it might. I stated those reasons in the last entry   GOTTERDAMMERUNG…

Strangely enough all this arguing back and forth has happened before.   Some recall that 10 years ago the winter of 2001-2 was also  forecasted to be a very cold and or snowy winter for much of the central and eastern CONUS. Back then WXRISK.COM was just starting out…  But I  got caught up in the consensus forecasting  thing and  went  for  a colder than normal and at least normal snow winter for the central and eastern CONUS   . Instead that winter turned out to be one of the warmest and least snow east on record!

I distinctly remember speaking on my new cell phone with other leading private meteorologists in various firms and energy companies. And the debate was going back and forth — there are no chat rooms back then– about how the NAO is going negative and that the whole pattern is eventually going to change.    ”VODKA cold”    was the term that everybody through around and used… Some use that term jokingly… some that term semi seriously and some very seriously.

And   the thing is   time after time the weather models constantly forecasted colder outbreaks of significant size and scale. And every few days of cold air patterns or outbreaks would be delayed until next week or 10 days some now.

Some of you may not remember but I am sure a lot of longtime whether hobbyists and fanatics and professional meteorologists do.    To be sure there were some cold days during that winter . But the massive pattern flipped or reversal that many forecasted or was hoping to occur … never happened .

WHY?      What can we learn about that winter    od 2001-02  which could tell us something about large scale patterns so that in the future when we see the same pattern we know not to fall for the same hype.

To a large degree  the  2001-02  Winter  Forecast  Busts  were caused  by    everyone looking at JUST  the  CPC  NAO   Indexes   or the EPO   or the AO.   But  NE or  Midwest snowstorms do NOT happen  because of the  Graph line from  a chart  from CPC.    For  Example    a Ridge or Block  over the  UK does  technically count as  “-NAO”  pattern but for    NE  US Snowstorms    having a  Ridge or Block  at 500 MB over the UK  is the Kiss of  death.

This first map is the 500 MB from December 14, 2001. Again I have highlighted the map so you can see the features I am talking about.

What you can quickly observe on this map is that the PV — polar vortex –is centered north of Alaska on the Asian side of the Arctic circle which is    EXACTLY   where the PV   stayed all  Winter back in 2001-02.

This next image is from the current winter and we can see two maps – 6 NOV 2011 and 7 JAN 2012. And clearly the overpowering feature on these maps is the persistent deep vortex centered over Alaska the Bering sea far eastern Siberia then or the east Asian side of the arctic circle.

Next here is the image from 19 January 2012…. And lo and behold what do we see ??? The enormous PV still centered over Alaska and the Bering sea!!. Its massive its deep and its huge and it’s blocking all the cold air on the wrong side of the world so that there is simply no sustained colder source in North America.

Over the past several days however there has been increasing signals from SOME weather Models of a massive historic pattern reversal with all sorts a severe arctic cold rapidly overrunning the entire eastern CONUS and all sorts of fabulous looking patterns that support snow storms.

Let me be clear about this.    Despite what you may have heard/ read  from other sources  that  may  be just trying to sell you  product and subscriptions… most of   drive for  Much colder / snowier  feb 2012  is being driven  by the GFS model. The European model   as well as  the GFS and the European ENSEMBLES are not nearly as bullish are not nearly as extreme as the operational GFS.

THE 12z GFS JAN 27….

Let’s take a look and see how and why the operational GFS has been showing this  and why  it probably will continue to be out to lunch for several days… and why the extreme solution of this model is unlikely to verify.

This image is the 120 hr 500 mb map… VALID for FEB1.   We can see that the NAO is strongly positive     ( note the closed 500 low OVER Greenland )      but we can also see north of Alaska on the top upper left of the map the age of the Polar vortex.   There is a shortwave or a piece of energy in the southern jet stream over New Mexico which is beginning to develop.

In this next image at 156 hrs OR FEB 2 … We see the northern branch beginning to merge with that system over the Mexico and a fairly deep trough trying to develop over the Eastern US     . But the arctic air hasNOT   yet reached the East Coast so the Low pressure area that develops over the SE coast ridge up the front produces rain across the Middle Atlantic states and into the big cities of Ide 95.     I got several emails today about the GFS forecasting a snowstorm on February 2 for the northeast… But as you can see the model data from the GFS does not show that at all.

This next image we can see the GFS at DAY8 or 192 hrs.   The   northern Jet stream has   continued to dig out  a   deep trough  that covers much of the Midwest and Deep South.     There appears to be some sort of  surface Low pressure area developing on or off the Southeast US. Coast..    And we have a nice looking 50/50 low off the Canadian maritime provinces.      But more importantly the model still shows the large polar vortex (PV) on the very top upper left of the map.

Remember folks that after 192 hours the model resolution of the GFS shifts or expands dramatically. The cause of this model truncation within the GFS… The model has developed a reputation for coming up with really wacky goofy solutions

We can see a good example of that at 240 hours.  For some reason the  GFS  at 240 hrs  has  grabbed the Polar vortex that was to the north of the northern side of Alaska and pulled it hundreds of miles for the south  in  a very short period of time— into southern Hudson’s Bay Canada.      This solution is well preposterous. It’s absurd.     The pattern is very impressive looking and nearly ideal or textbook for the development of a major East Coast winter storm. It’s just not likely to happen.

We see more of the same sort of crap at 300 hrs … By which time the model has completely lost it’s mind.    Do you really think the Polar vortex is going to be centered over Montreal Canada on February 8??? 


This solution is so extreme and so laughable that  the 12z GFS ensemble is totally against this solution. It keeps   the   heart of the Polar Vortex   STILL well to the north of Alaska on the Asian side of the Arctic circle and a secondary weaker extension of the vortex swing through Baffin island and northern Hudson’s bay and Labrador.



What the GFS ENSEMBLE is telling us is a fairly deep trough along the East Coast that will bring in some decent cold air for several days. But because there is nothing to lock the trough in position over the eastern U.S. it will slide off the coast and as it does so the NAO will turn strongly positive.

This next image is from January 7, 2002. And we see the large PV extending across the north slope of Alaska into far North Central Canada across the arctic region but not really moving into any portion of central and Eastern Canada.

At the time the weather models were developing a significant trough over the eastern U.S. And talked about the potential of a significant pattern change coming in the days after January 8 2002.

Amazingly enough this 500 map from 7 JAN 2002 is darn close to identical to what the 192 DAY 8 GFS model showed today.     The shape of the trough over the eastern U.S. back in 2002 is identical to what the data eight GFS model looks like. The attempt by the Polar vortex to move across Northern Canada 7 JAN 2002… Very similar to what the model is showing for next week. And just like back in 2002 in the first week in January were a lot of meteorologists fought that this was going to be the beginning of the big pattern change… we see the same sort of thing going on here in January 2012.




This FIRST image is actually from the early morning or 0z European model run of JAN 27 … VALID FEB 3 and FEB 7 . We can clearly see the model showing the huge massive Polar Vortex on the Asian side of the arctic circle and it is nowhere near the northern hemisphere.      Yes we do have a strong ridge on the West Coast and yes we do have a deep trough over the East Coast (+PNA) but the Arctic 0scillation (AO) is still VERY positive because it is very intense … It has lots of lines around it and it’s located over the arctic region.



There is a little extension or trough coming off the arctic oscillation moving through northeastern Canada at Day 10. Once that features swings eastward into Greenland at Day 11… the NAO turns strongly positive.

How was is different from anything we’ve seen so far this winter??    Except for the brief transitory trough over the eastern CONUS … It is the same pattern!

Here is the operational European from 12z JAN 27… DAY 10….valid JAN 27.     It seems to look to be a very promising and very winter like pattern developing. There’s a nice ridge      on the West Coast we appear to have some sort of block developing over East Central Canada which would be ideal… Cold air appears to be coming southward.


But again if we take a look at the European ensemble we see a very different story. The ensemble still keeps the huge vortex centered over Siberia and the Asian side of the arctic circle and that is just the wrong position to get sustained cold winter pattern over any portion of the central and eastern CONUS. It is strikingly similar to the problem we had in the winter of 2001-02…


Finally let me be absolutely clear about this.    The first week of February will probably feature some cold temperatures some of the cold air might be kind of impressive for a few days. As I said last update … I am not in any way ruling out the possibility of a significant snow for at least some portion of northeast U.S. And I have not EVER said ” no more cold “.

But I see nothing at the convince me that the pattern is going to change because just like in the Winter 2001-02 The PV remains in the wrong position and there vast majority of the model data keeps the Polar vortex in that position on the wrong side of the globe.



  1. Comment by ClayinBonAir — January 28, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    Well Dave…….

    “This just Fookin’ Sux Moose Nuts!”

    On a more positive note, maybe my Blue Birds will nest early this year!

  2. Comment by Mitch — January 28, 2012 @ 2:12 pm


    Another job well done. Thanks for the explanation and the clarity you bring.

  3. Comment by Matt — January 28, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    I liked your revisit to the ’01-’02 winter forecasting, Dave. Have weather model technologies made any significant strides since that time? I would think some of the weather models are garbage considering their chronic inaccuracy this year.

  4. Comment by Chris — January 28, 2012 @ 5:44 pm

    The AO has been negative for a week now. Wont that influence the NAO to become negative? I thought the two were linked? Or is it that the AO is negative because of the PV that is trapped in the Arctic, just in the wrong spot for the eastern CONUS?

  5. Comment by Rick — January 28, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the honest and straight forward approach. Always looking forward to the next update.

  6. Comment by Bruce — January 28, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

    I love how bold you are. Please never change. You are a straight shooter, and that’s what makes it worth reading your site! My only request is that you throw some info in about the West Coast From Alaska down to California, so those of us out West can enjoy your well thought and honest interpretations as well. We have been missing winter here on the west coast really badly!

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