Energy traders — and all the consumers who are looking at their wallets as the energy crunch intensifies in Europe — are apprehensive about the oncoming winter months; unfortunately, an especially cold winter is predicted this year by meteorologists.
Disturbances in the polar vortex, which can drop down incredibly cold weather into southern latitudes if it weakens, along with a strong La Nina phenomenon in the Pacific, responsible for bringing colder weather to the northern US and milder climates in the south and drying out other parts of the world, are expected to take place this Winter.
With energy issues worsening as Russia’s Gazprom severely curtails gas deliveries to the West, scientists are tracking just how low temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere will go in the coming months.
A particularly severe Winter may have global political repercussions as well, with inflation resulting from the coronavirus already plaguing the US, and many nations’ efforts to widely implement clean energy already under scrutiny after low amounts of wind generation contribute to Europe’s current power crunch.
Todd Crawford, the director of meteorology at commercial forecaster Atmospheric G2, stated in an interview with Bloomberg “We expect a ‘warm sandwich’ this heating season with a potentially very cold center.” In layman’s terms, that means an unexpectedly warm start to Winter followed by a very cold January, then a mild end of the season.
Cold Winter predicted as gas prices climb, supplies drastically reduced
According to Crawford, this analysis applies to “all major energy-demand centers in eastern U.S., western Europe and northeast Asia.”
However, much like last year, frigid fingers may periodically dip down rom the Arctic when there are weaknesses in the polar vortex, the band of winds that circle the North Pole, causing periodic deep freezes in the temperate zones of Asia, North America and Europe in the months to come.
Scientists believe that a reduction in sea ice allows more heat to escape from the ocean, which ends up weakening the polar vortex, causing surges of frigid air to escape and head southward.
For the second year in a row, La Nina may pose a threat to not only the United States but nations across the world as the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean cool, causing cooler weather across the Pacific Northwest and upper Great Plains. This phenomenon also results in a drying and warming of the southern part of the US.
Incredibly, La Nina also historically results in chilling Japan and Korea, and causing droughts in South America and China. Unfortunately for the Winter of 2021/22, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center gives a more than 70% chance that the La Nina effect will occur this year, leading to the cold winter predicted now.
In another bizarre climate twist, something known incredibly as “The Blob” may also play a part in the upcoming weather this Winter. Located in the Northern Pacific, going all the way east to British Columbia, this large pool of warm water also has its own impact on what will take place in the coming months.
Both La Nina and the Blob “favor dry conditions for western states, which is horrible news,” according to Jennifer Francis, who is a senior scientist with the Woodwell Climate Research Center; this means yet another increased potential for “ongoing drought and fires” that occurred in historic numbers in California and Oregon this Summer.
The accumulation of sea ice and sudden warming in the stratospheric layer of the atmosphere are two early signposts pointing to the likelihood of a polar vortex problem this Winter. Crawford says that such situations occur in about 55% to 60% of winters.
Allowing for the polar cold to escape southward, such a phenomenon last year resulted in last January and February’s unprecedented cold snap that ended up crippling the electric grid of the state of Texas, resulting in the deaths of at least 210 people.
Experts at the US’ Snow and Ice Data Center now say that the amount of sea ice in the polar seas is approximately 25% below historic levels for this time of year– leading to further polar vortex problems in store just as gas uncertainty plagues the northern hemisphere.
In fact, global sea ice hit its lowest level for 2021 as of Sept. 16, which represented a level far below average, at 4.72 million square kilometers (1.82 million square miles). The Center goes on to note that the “last 15 years are the lowest 15 sea ice extents in the satellite record.”
South Pole froze over in coldest winter on record, cold winter predicted in Northern Hemisphere now
However, climate variations have become so great around the globe in recent years that the South Pole just experienced its coldest winter ever recorded, despite the northern hemisphere simultaneously notching the hottest months ever in their history in some nations.
The rest of the world overall recorded its fourth hottest summer in the past year, with July of 2021 being the hottest month ever recorded, according to a report form Live Science.
Between April and September of this year Antarctica registered an average temperature of minus 78 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 61 degrees Celsius), representing the coldest temperature since record keeping back in 1957.
That same polar vortex that is experienced at the North Pole also reigns atop the South Pole as well, and this year, especially strong winds there shifted the jet stream toward the pole, according to Amy Butler, an atmospheric scientist for the NOAA. “This keeps the cold air locked up over much of Antarctica,” she explains.
Even despite these unimaginably frigid Winter at the South Pole, the sea ice surrounding Antarctica the end of September had already thinned to some of the lowest levels seen at that time of year.
“One cold winter is interesting but doesn’t change the long-term trend, which is warming,” Eric Steig, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, told the Post.
Like all other areas of the world, he says, the continent of Antarctica is also warming and rapidly losing sea ice all the time.