2018 marks the latest first snowfall on record for Fairbanks, Alaska, where they’re still yet to see a single flake. Previously, the latest first snowfall was Oct 10, back in 1934, with the average being Sept 27.
Under the influence of a ‘mega-ridge’ of high pressure off the Pacific coast, Alaska has been going through an unusually mild fall thus far.
Cold air masses have instead plunged much further south, with one of the upshots being Kansas City and Wichita both seeing their earliest measurable snow in records dating to the late 1800s.
Texas is ‘out-snowing’ Fairbanks, Alaska.
But that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — it’s exactly the pattern we would expect to see during a Grand Solar Minimum.
Looking at NASA’s Maunder Minimum Temperature Reconstruction Map, some regions actually warm during periods of global cooling — the Arctic, North Atlantic and Alaska (although ‘warm’ to the Arctic, for example, is still well-below freezing).
Alaska may be short of snow but the CONUS in general certainly isn’t.
The area covered by snow in North America, as of Sunday Oct 14, was 7.77 million square kilometers (3 million square miles), according to analysis by NOAA.
By mid-October no other year has had a snow cover extent that large in records dating back to 2005 — click here for that article.
Below is what theweathernetwork.com has to say regarding an abnormally mild Alaska:
The same western ridge in the jet stream keeping Alaska warm is also partly to blame for [Texas’s] abnormal chill. It’s a case of ‘what goes up, must come down’ with the jet stream pattern across the continent, and as high pressure bulges northward and keeps temperatures mild along the coast, low pressure digs southward on the eastern side of the Rockies and lets cool air pool south. That cold pool won’t come as a surprise to residents of Alberta, who’ve also seen significant early snowfall and below-average temperatures so far this season.
This kind of pattern isn’t in and of itself unusual for autumn in North America; what’s been out of the ordinary this year is the intensity, persistence, and the resilience of the pattern.
SOLAR VARIABILITY AND WEATHER
In addition, research shows blocking persistence increases when solar activity is low, causing weather patterns to become locked in place at high and intermediate latitudes for prolonged periods of time.
During a solar minimum, the jet stream’s usual Zonal Flow (a west–east direction) reverts to more of a Meridional Flow (a north-south direction) — this is exaggerated further during a Grand Solar Minimum, like the one we’re entering now, and explains why regions become unseasonably hot or cold and others unusually dry or rainy, with the extremes lasting for an extended period of time.
The GSM is sinking arctic air further and further south.
Cold temperature records are tumbling and early snowpack is building.
Read here how the Grand Solar Minimum and resulting increase in Galactic Cosmic Rays are contributing to global cooling.