It's taken 11 days, but the thermometer has finally inched above the freezing mark in 2010. As I write this, Cape Girardeau is enjoying a balmy 34°F. Here are the observed temperatures since the beginning of the year:
Last December, the average temperature at Cape Girardeau was 35.6°F. That seems cold enough, until you consider that the average so far in January has been 16.5°F.
Even though we managed to avoid a big snowfall, the cold snap has produced a blanket of snow over a massive portion of the country. This map from the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center's National Show Analyses program (what a mouthful) shows the depth of snow on Jan. 8, when the snowpack was at its peak:
Even portions of eastern Arkansas and northern Alabama received snow.
Meanwhile, the cold snap wasn't just limited to the Midwest. Almost all of England received snow. The latest snowstorm, dubbed "Daisy", is causing chaos in France, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe. The situation in China isn't too great, either.
What could cause such a massive cold snap embracing much of the Northern Hemisphere? The culprit is the "Arctic Oscillation", a phenomenon somewhat similar to El Nino/La Nina, but based on the movement of air masses over the North Pole. Here's a news article from Britain explaining how it works.
This week will be much warmer than the last, although that isn't saying much. The computer models are hinting at a strong storm next weekend, but for now it appears that the system will pass well to our south. However, as the Springfield NWS office pointed out in this morning's discussion, the computer models have been rather poor at forecasting storm tracks during the last few weeks.