Why All The Cold?

February 23, 2015

This month has seen several cold waves.
The most impressive cold snap occurred last Monday when Poughkeepsie set a record low of -14F, which obliterated the previous record low of -3 set in 1963.

The following chart puts this month's cold into a bit of a historical context, and offers a basic explanation. The red line is the 2015 daily low temperatures for the month. The blue line is the record daily low temperatures. The red line dips below the blue line twice… this indicates that those particular days observed their coldest low temperature this year.

(Click image for full size)

Another thing to notice is that this month's low temperatures vary fairly significantly from week to week. These "waves" of cold roughly correspond with the timing of all the east coast storms that have been affecting New England (the yellow stars), and a few that have passed to our north. Essentially, whenever one of these storms moves to our east, the counterclockwise flow of air around the storm pushes/pulls colder air southward from Canada. This results in a cold wave in the wake of each storm. The intensity of the cold wave is affected by the strength and position of the storm, as well as the timing of successive storms.

This process of cold waves following storms is completely normal for the winter time, and is the reason why most cold-spells occur. It is not abnormal to set a few record daily temperatures.


Past Kingstonsnows Extras

"Why all the Cold?" - February 23, 2015
"Why Storms Bust" - February 1, 2015
"Surges of cold air" - January 30, 2015
"The Season So Far" - January 25, 2015
"Freezing Rain vs Sleet" - November 16, 2014
"The Season So Far" - February 17, 2014
"Groundhog's Day" - February 02, 2014
"Spring Break Outlook" - January 03, 2014
"The Big Picture" - December 30, 2013
"The Big Picture" - December 10, 2013

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