Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Karma is a .......


Okay, so I complained about all of the panic pre-Christmas when it looked like we might get an ice storm in Northern NY.  Turns out that was a legitimate storm, but adequate preparation by our utility company (does anyone else remember getting those "we're going to be trimming trees in your area" postcards over the past 2 summers?) and a nice shift in the air masses which turned much of the freezing rain to sleet, kept the damage to a minimum.

However, now it's time for a national freak out over the POLAR VORTEX SNOWPOCALYPSE!!!  You have to give credit to the Weather Channel for figuring out a way to make "cold weather in January" into a cool headline.  Yes, the polar vortex is real, but it's always there.  It's just shifted a bit, no big deal - in fact, if you watch the national news from our neighbors to the north (CTV, etc) you hear things like "Well, it's winter what do you expect?".

Some points on all of these warnings, etc.

1) The -63 wind chill that was reported in Minnesota. Okay, that's cold, but a) it's wind chill, not air temp and b) did you know in parts of Canada they don't even issue a windchill warning until -55?

If you want to be a superstar mom or dad today while the kids are home have them work out this formula for wind chill....

Wind Chill = 35.74 + 0.6215T – 35.75(V^0.16) + 0.4275T(V^0.16)

You could also just plug some numbers into a wind chill calculator here.

Again, it's important to note that this is only the risk to exposed skin.   When you are bundled up in Northface coats and Ice Armor gloves, you have nothing to fear.  When was the last time you heard of someone getting frostbite that wasn't climbing a mountain?  However, let's not let facts get in the way of a good scary story.

2) Today is full of headlines screaming LOWEST RECORDED TEMPERATURE for this date since 1890..... See how they slip that "for this date" in there?  That's an important feature and one of the quirks of weather data that always bothered me.  Why do we care what the lowest temperature on Jan 7th was in history?  Shouldn't we really care about how far the current temperature is from normal (about 25 degrees below normal today) or how it compares to the lowest temperature ever??

Take NYC for example - they set a RECORD low temperature for January 7th of 4 degrees today.  However, the true record low temperature for the month of January is -6 back in 1934 (if you're a weather history buff you should really check out the 1930's. The Weather Channel would have daily on air strokes with the weather from the early part of that decade).

So yes, NYC was within 10 degrees of a January record low - cold, but not earth shattering.  For comparison consider the all-time high of 106F in NYC, this would be like a 96 degree day in NYC in July.  Hot, but not the stuff of national headlines.

Finally, just in case you think that because the polar vortex shifted a bit it means the whole globe has cooled off, check out the current temps in Australia or South America where they've been topping 50C (that's 120-122F).

Okay, you might say, but why is a financial blogger writing about the weather?  Well, because we're about to enter earnings season and I've already heard a handful of analyst say "the winter weather impacted results".  Remember December wasn't that bad for most of the country, but that won't stop companies from using that excuse because this RECORD COLD will be fresh in your mind.


* A special note - if you are among the unfortunate few that live in the dreaded snowbelt south of Watertown or around Buffalo, I feel for you.  That a very unique situation that occurs every 4-5 yrs or so and you are going to be digging out for days.  However, if anyone is prepared for 4 feet of snow it's the people that live in these areas.

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