Frozen in Time
Jan 14, 2023
We exist in the dim future.

Professor Art Horn

"Last winter in England the weather was so pleasant, sweet and warm that people fancied the season was changed. There was no frost or snow the whole winter. Folks threw off their cloaks and went in the thinnest, lightest summer dress”. Sounds something like the non-winter that is being experienced in the northeast this year, only warmer! Those words are from an amazing publication by James A. Marusek “A chronological listing of early weather events”.

The excerpt from the publication describes the winter in England back in 1249. That’s right, 774 years ago. One can only imagine what would be written would such a warm and pleasant winter occur in current times. If you really want to read about the incredible natural variability that earth’s atmosphere can conjure up, I suggest you do a search of the above titled publication and read on. It’s truly an education not only about weather and its impact on humanity through the last 2,000 years but a lesson in climate as well.

The quote above “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it” is almost universally attributed to Mark Twain. My research says it is not. The man that actually uttered those words was Charles Dudley Warner, a friend of Twain and a pallbearer at Twains funeral in 1910.

During Twains life, which began in 1835, there was a steady if not painstakingly slow advancement of the field of meteorology. On February 9th, 1870 Congress established what is now the National Weather Service. Twain was 35 years old.

A man by the name of Cleveland Abbe, born three years after Twain was appointed the first head of the new United States Weather Bureau on January 3rd, 1871. Abbe had a long and storied career as one of the most prominent early American meteorologists. In 1901 he proposed that the atmosphere in governed by the laws of hydrodynamics and thermodynamics, essentially the physics of fluid flow and heat transfer. He was fundamentally correct.

Another prominent early meteorologist that wanted to do something about the weather other than talk about it was and Englishman by the name of Lewis Fry Richardson. In 1922 he published Weather Prediction by Numerical Process. The publication advocated the solving of differential equations to predict the future of the weather. Essentially that is the method used to make todays weather forecasts.

The one giant inhibitor to accomplishing Richardson’s dream of numerical weather prediction was that he needed to make a massive number of computations in an era when only adding machines existed. There actually were computers in existence but the word “computer” back then was defined as a person that made calculations by hand!

Sometime, probably in the early 1920s he remarked “Perhaps some day in the dim future it will be possible to advance the computations faster than the weather advances and at a cost less than the saving to mankind due to the information gained. But that is a dream”.

That dream has become a reality and we live in it today. If only Dr. Richardson could see what we have accomplished in using his method of solving the differential equations with our extraordinary computing power. I’m sure his jaw would drop in absolute total amazement!

It was with the fulfillment of his remarkable insight into the future that the waves of storms impacting the state of California right now was accurately predicted up to a week in advance.

Back on December 29th, 2022 I wrote this. “Over the next 10 days the weather simulations are forecasting about 6 individual storm systems to impact California. The storms will come rolling in from the Pacific with large amounts of moisture and occasional strong winds. With this many storms indicated there’s the chance of 15 to 25 inches of precipitation in the Sierra Nevada mountains by the end of the first week of January! That much water would equate to 15 to 25 feet of snow, possibly more! And the parade of storms may not be done as we move into mid-January.”

Additionally, I wrote “The storms will be portrayed as destructive with mud slides, floods, blocked roads due to too much snow, avalanches death and mayhem caused by climate change (of course). Some of these events may take place but the benefits of all that water far outweighs any negative outcomes.”

Without the forward thinking of people like Professor Abbe and Dr. Richardson such a prediction would not have been possible. Today there is yet another one of these storms striking California with heavy rains, strong winds and heavy mountain snows. There is one more storm in the pipeline for Monday then it all comes to an end by Tuesday the 17th, at least for the foreseeable future!

The weather simulations that Dr. Richardson dreamed about one hundred years ago are envisioning a major change in the weather pattern over and around North America next week. The Jetstream that’s been generating storm after storm in the central Pacific Ocean then blowing them into the West Coast will be replaced next week. By next Thursday January 19th, the Jetstream that’s been soaking the west coast will shift and blow from west of Hawaii all the way up to British Columbia Canada then bend to the east and down into the Rocky Mountains region, cutting off the flow of moisture into California and ending the tumultuous period of stormy weather there.

Here in the east there will be reproductions of the change as well. Although it appears the principle storm track will continue to be to our west putting us on the warmer side of the storms the tracks of the storms may shift a little to the east. This could result in some of the storms weakening as they approach the eastern Great Lakes with a new center forming near the east coast over the water. This may result in what is known as coastal re-development.

If this is the pattern that results from the fundamental changes out west, there could be a trend to colder and more typical January weather for the second half of the month in New England. One only has to go back to the winter of 2014/15 to see what can happen almost overnight when a major weather patter shift takes place. This is an evolving situation so caution is advised before trying to read too much into what weather may be for the second half of January and into February.

So, remember the next time you hear “Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it” tell whoever said it to do a little research into the evolution of modern weather forecasting and they’ll discover that someone has done something about it!


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