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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:18am.
Frosty, freezing, frigid, raw, crisp, crippling, chilly, or just plain cold - any way you say it, the cold weather is what has people talking, and with good reason! The blast of arctic air that has it's grip on the South is beyond impressive at this point. Not only for just how cold the air is, but for it's stubborn long-lasting nature. In fact, almost nobody across the country can actually escape this early season chill.
For us here in Southeastern North Carolina, Tuesday has been the coldest of the season so far. Temperatures plummeted overnight as expected and fell to near 20 degrees in many areas. The clear skies and bone dry air mass has made for easy "radiational cooling". All radiational cooling is is the process by which heat that is absorbed by the earth during the day leaves the atmosphere. It's easier for heat to escape when the skies and clear and there are no clouds - since the clouds are not themselves radiating heat back to the surface.
It hasn't just been the cold that's been so bad, but the wind has made things worse - adding insult to injury. Overnight our winds varied from 5-15 mph which sent Wind Chills values down near 10 degrees at times.
Here's the weather setup that's been causing all of this cold to plunge recklessly far south. You can see the Jet Stream outlined in blue, which remains in roughly the same position it was in last week when we told you this cold was going to last ("Cold is here to stay!"). At this time of year, areas north of the Jet Stream have nothing to block them from the arctic air masses to the north. In this case, we're seeing that arctic air being funneled south through a northwest flow in between high and low pressure.
That pipeline of cold air has a steady flow all the way south to the Gulf Coast and even into parts of Florida. In fact, the Sunshine State is really having a rough time with this early season freeze. Morning lows across the state ranged from the 20's in the north in Tallahassee and Jacksonville to the 30's in Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers to even low 40's in the greater Miami area.
While it might not seem like the most impressive number, getting low temperatures in the 40's in Miami is quite an accomplishment. The average high on South Beach is still near 80 degrees - and the average lows remain in the mid 60's. With dewpoints still regularly in the 60's, the only way to cool temps lower than that is to get a major front ALL the way to the southern tip of Florida. Well, this front did just that and then some -- and Miami may even dip below 40 degrees here on Tuesday night.
As you might guess, the orange crops are in jeopardy tonight of some hard freezes. This has farmers scrambling to protect their fruit by coating the plants with a thin layer of ice -- which "insolates" the fruit to a tolerable temperature around 32 degrees.
If you were looking for someplace warm to go, you'll have to head west. Phoenix, Palm Springs, and LA all have highs in the mid 70's the next several days. To the airport anyone??
Stay warm out there..
By: Tim Buckley