National Weather Service rolling out 'extreme cold' warnings
The National Weather Service in Grand Forks is rolling out a new kind of warning this winter called an "extreme cold warning." You'd think that, with the weather being what it is in this region, this sort of thing would've been routine since ages...
The National Weather Service in Grand Forks is rolling out a new kind of warning this winter called an "extreme cold warning."
You'd think that, with the weather being what it is in this region, this sort of thing would've been routine since ages ago, but data manager Mark Ewens said it hasn't been needed until recently. Natives of the region already understand how dangerous -30 or -40 degrees can be, he said. Today, though, with a more transient population, he said, there are many more people entering the region that aren't necessarily as aware.
The weather service already has a wind chill warning, which is when strong winds combined with cold temperatures conspire to sap away even more heat from a person walking outside.
The extreme cold warning would be when it's very cold -- at least -30 -- and the wind is less than 5 mph for several hours, said Ewens.
"In spite of what a lot of people that live here all their lives think, it is relatively rare," he said of the temperature. For it to be that cold and that still for that long, he said, is even rarer, especially in areas where the prairie dominates.
What constitutes an extreme cold weather warning differs among weather service offices. It's calibrated against the normal weather of the region, he said. The Duluth office may go for a -30 to -35 range, he said, while those in South Dakota may go only as far as -35.
These differing definitions aren't that unusual, he said. For example, temperatures that, in the Deep South might just mean a warmer day than usual could require a heat wave warning in northerly latitudes, he said.
Expect some changes to the definitions, too, because this is what the weather service calls an "experimental product" that it's hoping to gather public input about.
While some meteorologists anticipate temperatures in the neighborhood of -40 will come to the region as a Siberian air mass rolls over the North Pole, Ewens doesn't expect to use the extreme cold warning anytime soon.
It hasn't moved yet and the forecast for the coming weeks is for slightly colder than average temps, he said. "It'll be seasonally cold, which is chilly, but not horrific."
Normally, the average for the first nine days of the month is 5.2 degrees. This year, it's averaged 0.8 degrees.
Usually a difference of 6 degrees is significant because the spread between the daytime highs and the nighttime lows is wide, meaning for the temperatures to be that much lower than the normal average the lows have to be pretty low, he said. Right now, the spread is narrower because daytime highs just haven't been very high, hovering around zero, he said.
Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .