A cold wave (known in some regions as a cold snap or cold spell) is a weather phenomenon that is distinguished by a cooling of the air. Specifically, as used by the U.S. National Weather Service, a cold wave is a rapid fall in temperature within a 24-hour period requiring substantially increased protection to agriculture, industry, commerce, and social activities. The precise criterion for a cold wave is determined by the rate at which the temperature falls, and the minimum to which it falls. This minimum temperature is dependent on the geographical region and time of year.
In the United States, a cold spell is defined as the national average high temperature dropping below 20 °F (−7 °C). A cold wave of sufficient magnitude and duration may be classified as a cold air outbreak (CAO).
A cold wave can cause death and injury to livestock and wildlife. Exposure to cold mandates greater caloric intake for all animals, including humans, and if a cold wave is accompanied by heavy and persistent snow, grazing animals may be unable to reach needed food and die of hypothermia or starvation. They often necessitate the purchase of foodstuffs to feed livestock at considerable cost to farmers.
Cold spells are associated with increased mortality rates in populations around the world. Both cold waves and heat waves cause deaths, though different groups of people may be susceptible to different weather events. In developed countries, more deaths occur during a heat wave than in a cold snap, though the mortality rate is higher in undeveloped regions of the world. Globally, more people die during hot weather than cold weather. Extreme winter cold often causes poorly insulated water pipelines and mains to freeze. Even some poorly protected indoor plumbing ruptures as water expands within them, causing much damage to property and costly insurance claims. Demand for electrical power and fuels rises dramatically during such times, even though the generation of electrical power may fail due to the freezing of water necessary for the generation of hydroelectricity. Some metals may become brittle at low temperatures. Motor vehicles may fail when antifreeze fails or motor oil gels, producing a failure of the transportation system. To be sure, such is more likely in places like Siberia and much of Canada that customarily get very cold weather.
Fires become even more of a hazard during extreme cold. Water mains may break and water supplies may become unreliable, making firefighting more difficult. The air during a cold wave is typically denser and thus contains more oxygen, so when air that a fire draws in becomes unusually cold it is likely to cause a more intense fire. However, snow may stop spreading of fires, especially wildfires.
Winter cold waves that are not considered cold in some areas, but cause temperatures significantly below average for an area, are also destructive. Areas with subtropical climates may recognize unusual cold, perhaps barely freezing, temperatures, as a cold wave. In such places, plant and animal life is less tolerant of such cold as may appear rarely. The same winter temperatures that one associates with the norm for Colorado, Ohio, or Bavaria are catastrophic to winter crops in places like
Florida, California, or parts of South America that grow fruit and vegetables in winter.
Cold waves that bring unexpected freezes and frosts during the growing season in mid-latitude zones can kill plants during the early and most vulnerable stages of growth, resulting in crop failure as plants are killed before they can be harvested economically. Such cold waves have caused famines. At times as deadly to plants as drought, cold waves can leave a land in danger of later brush and forest fires that consume dead biomass. One extreme was the so-called Year Without a Summer of 1816, one of several years during the 1810s in which numerous crops failed during freakish summer cold snaps after volcanic eruptions that reduced incoming sunlight.
In some places, such as Siberia, extreme cold requires that fuel-powered machinery to be used even part-time must be run continuously. Internal plumbing can be wrapped, and persons can often run water continuously through pipes. Energy conservation, difficult as it is in a cold wave, may require such measures as collecting people (especially the poor and elderly) in communal shelters. Even the homeless may be arrested and taken to shelters, only to be released when the hazard abates. Hospitals can prepare for the admission of victims of frostbite and hypothermia; schools and other public buildings can be converted into shelters.
People can stock up on food, water, and other necessities before a cold wave. Some may even choose to migrate to places of milder climates, at least during the winter. Suitable stocks of forage can be secured before cold waves for livestock, and livestock in vulnerable areas might be shipped from affected areas or even slaughtered. Smudge pots can bring smoke that prevents hard freezes on a farm or grove. Vulnerable crops may be sprayed with water that will paradoxically protect the plants by freezing and absorbing the cold from surrounding air.
Most people can dress appropriately and can even layer their clothing should they need to go outside or should their heating fail. They can also stock candles, matches, flashlights, and portable fuel for cooking and wood for fireplaces or wood stoves, as necessary. However caution should be taken as the use of charcoal fires for cooking or heating within an enclosed dwelling is extremely dangerous due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Adults must remain aware of the exposure that children and the elderly have to cold.
Historical cold waves
21st-century cold waves (2001–present)
In late January, an extreme cold wave hit Canada and the midwest of the United States, bringing temperatures below −30.0 °C (−22.0 °F), with all-time record lows set in several cities.
Late February and early–mid March 2018, Europe. Easterly winds created bitter conditions twice during early spring 2018. Snow fell during both events. Storm Emma, which affected southern areas of Great Britain, brought up to 50 centimetres (20 in) of snow. Overall, 93 people across Europe died; 27 deaths occurred in Poland and 17 in the UK.
Cold wave starting late December 2017 (December 24 respectively), North America. A persistent wave of temperature extremes, including a cold wave, took place in Canada and the northeastern and central areas of the United States from Northern Canada to Mississippi, with temperatures in much of Canada of around −29 °C (−20 °F) and as low as −39 °C (−38 °F) in New York state, and as high as 21 °C (70 °F) and 31 °C (88 °F) in Sandberg and Los Angeles, respectively, in California.
Cold wave of November 9–12, 2017. Record lows were broken from Minneapolis to DC as Arctic air swept through the areas.
January 2017 European cold wave – A cold wave hit Central and East Europe on January 5. The lowest temperature was −45.4 °C (−49.7 °F) degrees. The cold caused at least 60 deaths. There was also massive snowfall.
February 2015 North American cold wave – During the second half of February 2015, temperature records were broken in both sides of the spectrum. Extreme warm records were broken in the western half of the United States and extreme cold records were broken in the eastern half. In addition to the extreme cold wave at its most brutal in the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, and New England, snowfall was reported as far south as Tupelo, Mississippi; Huntsville, Alabama; and Shreveport, Louisiana. The cold wave became widespread and all the remaining mild conditions from the west were pushed into northern Mexico. The cold wave even extended well into early March, with a part of every U.S. state except Florida reporting a snow cover by March 1, 2015.
November 2014 North American cold wave – Between November 8 and November 23, a polar vortex similar to earlier in 2014 has a temporary comeback, delivering the 2014–15 winter season's first three significant winter storms in the United States. Snowfall records were confirmed all over the Midwest and the Northeast, especially around the Great Lakes. Buffalo, New York, was among the hardest hit in the unseasonably wintry November. In addition to not being Thanksgiving yet, autumn colors were in the mix along with the deep winter snow.
Early 2014 North American cold wave – On January 2–11, cold arctic air initially associated with a nor'easter invaded the central and eastern United States and Canada, east of the Rockies. Temperatures were even colder than the North Pole and the South Pole in many regions in the Upper Midwest and Canada. Temperatures reached as cold as −37 °F (−38 °C), and did not even get out of the negative double-digit temps in many places, including Chicago. The cold wave extended for a few more months, bringing a continuous pattern of record-low temperatures to most of the Central and upper eastern United States, before the pattern finally ended in early April.
December 2013 North American cold wave – On December 1, the weakening of the polar vortex resulted in the jet stream shifting southward, which allowed abnormally cold temperatures to intrude the Central United States. On December 6, a daily record snowfall of 0.1 inches (2.5 mm) was set in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex, breaking the old record of trace amounts of snow, set in 1950. The cold wave continued into December 10, before the temperatures returned to a more stable range.
United Kingdom March–April 2013 – The UK Spring 2013 cold wave was a prolonged spell of cold weather which brought with it very heavy snowfalls, the worst in March for 30 years and since 1947 in some places. There was also some very cold temperatures with England (CET) having its coldest March since 1883 with a mean monthly temperature of 2.7 °C (36.9 °F). This meant that March was colder than all three winter months December 2012, January and February 2013. The cold weather in March came after what was a relatively cold winter however nothing like 2010–11, 2009–10 or 2008–09.
Spring 2013 North American cold wave – Although the core winter of 2012–13 was fairly mild, both March and April were unusually cold across the Midwest, resulting in sharp temperature contrasts from March 2012 to March 2013 all over the United States and Canada. This late cold wave was unexpected because February and March 2013 were both forecasted to be even milder and more springlike than February and March 2012, but instead turned out with a near-average February and an unusually cold March. This same cold wave extended well into the month of April, as four notable winter storms impacted much of the northern United States, especially across Minnesota and the Dakotas. Minnesota experienced a rare May snowstorm as a result of this cold wave.
Early 2012 European cold wave – As of February 11, 2012 at least 590 people died during a cold snap with temperatures falling below −35 °C (−31 °F) in some regions.Ukraine was the worst hit, with over 100 deaths related to the cold.
2011 New Zealand snowstorms- Caused by Antarctic storms moving upward, the whole country was affected briefly in July 2011, only for it to return even stronger in August for a prolonged period of time. Te Waipounamu/ The South Island was the hardest hit, although the generally more mild Te Ika-a-Maui/ The North Island was also affected to a large extent. Widespread and heavy snow fell in Wellington for the first time in twenty years, and in Auckland the first time since the 1930s. Despite blizzards, closures and multiple records broken, morale was up, and most Kiwis, especially children, weren't that bothered about the whole snow situation
Winter of 2010–11 in Great Britain and Ireland – This winter was referred to as The Big Freeze by national media in both United Kingdom and Ireland and it was the coldest winter in Britain for 31 years with an average temperature of 1.51 °C (34.72 °F). The UK had its coldest December ever, since records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of −1 °C (30.2 °F). It easily broke the previous record of 0.1 °C (32.18 °F), set in December 1981.
A cold wave affected much of the Deep South in the United States and Florida in January and February 2010.
The first snowfall began on 17 December 2009, before a respite over the Christmas period. The most severe snowy weather began on 5 January in North West England and west Scotland with temperatures hitting a low of −17.6 °C (0.3 °F) in Greater Manchester, England. The snow spread to Southern England on 6 January and by 7 January the United Kingdom was blanketed in snow, which was captured by NASA's Terra satellite. The thaw came a week later, as temperatures started to increase. The winter weather brought widespread transport disruption, school closures, power failures, the postponement of sporting events and 25 deaths. A low of −22.3 °C (−8.1 °F) was recorded in Altnaharra, Scotland on 8 January 2010. Overall it was the coldest winter since 1978–79, with a mean temperature of 1.5 °C (34.7 °F).
2009–10 European cold wave – At least ninety were confirmed dead after record low temperatures and heavy snowfall across Europe causes travel disruption to much of the continent including the British Isles, France, the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, the Baltic States, the Balkans, Ukraine and Russia. It was the coldest winter and longest cold spell for thirty years in the United Kingdom, whilst temperatures in the Italian Alpine peaks reached low to an extreme of −47 °C (−52.6 °F).
Early 2009 European Cold Wave – Early January gave most of Europe, especially in central and south very cold temperatures. Some places like Germany, France, Italy, Romania and Spain had record cold temperatures well below 0 °C (32 °F). Most of the places were covered in snow and ice which caused school closings and airport delays. Large cities like Paris, Madrid, Berlin and even Marseille saw very cold temperatures with lots of snow and ice in Northern Italy, most of Germany, in northern Portugal and even along the coasts of the Mediterranean. In early February another cold front brought heavy snowfall to much of Western Europe with the heaviest snow falling in France, Northern Italy, the Low Countries and the United Kingdom, where parts of Southern England had seen the worst snowfall in over eighteen years causing widespread travel disruption particularly around London.
2008 Alaska cold wave – In early February, Alaska experienced the coldest temperatures for eight years, with Fairbanks nearing −50 °F (−45.6 °C) and Chicken, Alaska bottoming out at −72 °F (−57.8 °C), a mere eight °F (4.4 °C) away from the record of −80 °F (−62.2 °C). The first half of January also brought unusual cold weather and heavy snow to widespread regions of China and the Middle East.
2007 Northern Hemisphere cold wave – All of Canada and most of the United States underwent a freeze after a two-week warming that took place in late March and early April. Crops froze, wind picked up, and snow drizzled much of the United States. Some parts of Europe also experienced unusual cold winter-like temperatures, during that time.
July 2007 Argentine winter storm – An interaction with an area of low pressure systems across Argentina during the July 6, 7 and 8 of 2007, and the entry of a massive polar cold snap resulted in severe snowfalls and blizzards, and recorded temperatures below −32 °C (−26 °F). The cold snap advanced from the south towards the central zone of the country, continuing its displacement towards the north during Saturday, July 7. On Monday July 9, the simultaneous presence of very cold air, gave place to the occurrence of snowfalls. This phenomenon left at least 23 people dead.
2005–06 European cold wave – Eastern Europe and Russia saw a very cold winter. Some of them saw their coldest on record or since the 1970s. Snow was in abundance in unusual places, such as in southern Spain and Northern Africa. All the winter months that season saw temperatures well below average across the continent.
2004–2005 Southern Europe cold wave – All areas of Southern Europe saw an unusually hard winter. This area saw an ice storm which have a 1 in 1000 chance of happening. This cold front caused snow in Algeria, which is extremely unusual. The south of Spain and Morocco also recorded freezing temperatures, and record freezing temperatures were observed in the north of Portugal and Spain.
2004 January cold outbreak, Northeast United States – New England was close to a record month when frequent Arctic fronts caused unusually cold weather. Boston had its coldest January since 1893 (19.7 °F, −6.8 °C), when it averaged 20.7 °F (−6.3 °C), and its lowest mean maximum at 27.2 °F (−2.7 °C). Virginia Beach had an unusually long period of below freezing weather. Some areas of northern New York saw 150 inches (3.81 m) of snow in a month. Many parts of the western and midwestern area of the country seen the effect as well.
20th-century cold waves (1901–2000)
1997 Northern Plains cold air outbreak – Mid-January across the Northern U.S. was one of the windiest on record. With a low of around −40 °F (−40.0 °C) in some places, wind caused bitterly cold wind chills sometimes nearing −80 °F (−62.2 °C). Northern parts of North Dakota saw up to 90 inches (2.29 m) of snow. This was one of the most severe cold-air outbreaks of the 1990s.
1996 Great Midwest cold outbreak – Late January and early February was Northern Minnesota’s coldest short term period on record. The record low of −60 °F (−51.1 °C) was recorded in Tower, Minnesota. Cities like Minneapolis experienced temperatures near −35 °F (−37.2 °C).
1995 White Earthquake in southern Chile – On August 1995 southern Chile was struck by a cold wave consisting in two successive cold fronts. Fodder scarcity caused a severe livestock starvation. Cows and sheep were also buried in snow. In parts of Tierra del Fuego up to 80% of the sheep died.
December 1995 Great Britain cold wave – On the 30th of December the United Kingdom recorded a record low of −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) in Altnaharra in Scotland equalling the record set on February 11, 1895 and January 10, 1982.
1994 Northern US/Southern Canada cold outbreak – January 1994 was the coldest month ever recorded or since January 1977 or February 1934 over many parts of the northeast and north-central United States, plus adjacent southeastern Canada. Many overnight record lows were set. Cold outbreaks continued into February but the severity eased somewhat. Detroit, Michigan saw the city's coldest temperature since 1985.
December 1990 western United States – Extreme cold dropped down from Canada in the second half of December, causing record low temperatures up and down the West Coast, including one of California's most damaging freezes since 1949.
December 1989 United States cold wave – In late 1989, the central and eastern United States saw one of the coldest Decembers on record. A white Christmas occurred.
January 1987 Southeast England snowfall – This was a notably cold winter month for the United Kingdom and snowy too, especially so for the southeast with a very heavy lake-effect type snow event that affected the areas of East Anglia, south-east England and London between 11 and 14 January. It was the heaviest snowfall since 1981/82.
Winter of 1985/86 in the United Kingdom – The cold weather started in November 1985 with the month being considerably below average, being the coldest since at least 1925. December 1985 was a milder month and January was close to average. February was the coldest month since February 1947 in United Kingdom and it became the 5th coldest February in the CET records dating back to 1659.
January 1985 US cold air outbreak – On January 21, 1985, it was so cold that President Ronald Reagan's inauguration took place in the Capitol Rotunda. In addition to the cold in Washington, D.C., Miami Beach recorded its only frost since records began, lasting for a full three hours. Several other Southern cities set all-time record cold.
January 1985 – January 1985 was the coldest January since 1979 in the United Kingdom with significantly below average temperatures.
1985 Great Western cold air outbreak – February 1985 saw the contiguous U.S.'s second-coldest temperature of −69 °F (−56.1 °C) in Peter Sinks, Utah. About a month of severe cold affected a large part of the nation. 1985 became the fourth-coldest calendar year on record in the western US.
December 1983 Great Plains cold wave – The contiguous US had its coldest ever Christmas in 1983. Severely cold winds blew in from Canada and about 70% of the month was colder than average. Many locations east of the Rockies broke December cold records on Christmas Eve. In addition to −23 °F (−30.6 °C) cold, the Sioux Falls area had 60 mph (97 km/h) winds bringing wind chills down to −70 °F (−56.7 °C). High temperatures did not even reach −10 °F (−23.3 °C) in northern Illinois during the days before Christmas. Temperatures dropped below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) on December 15 and remained there for over nine days at Sioux Falls. Minneapolis recorded an average temperature for the month of 3.7 °F (−15.7 °C), the coldest on record.
January 1982 cold air outbreak – January 1982 was very cold. The 1981 AFC Championship Game, held in Cincinnati, was nicknamed the "Freezer Bowl" due to the −9 °F (−22.8 °C) temperature at kickoff and −59 °F (−50.6 °C) wind chill. The Sunday of the following week (January 17, 1982) is also known as Cold Sunday. Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports record their all-time low temperatures of −26 °F (−32 °C). Milwaukee, Wisconsin recorded temperatures of −26 °F (−32 °C) on January 17, the lowest in 111 years there. Recorded temperature of −5 °F (−21 °C) in Atlanta and Jackson, Mississippi.
Winter of 1981/82 in the United Kingdom – This was a significantly colder than average winter. December started off very mild with temperatures up to 15 °C (59 °F), but it quickly became very cold and snowy. The night of the 12th–13th is particularly noted for its cold temperatures with many records broken. January 1982 was also a cold and snowy month with records being broken on the 10th in both England and Scotland. England recorded a record low of −26.1 °C (−15.0 °F) and down to −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) in Braemar.
Cold wave of 1979 – widespread cold across the country. One of the largest Chicago snowstorms in history at the time, with 21 inches of snowfall in the two-day period, the 1979 Chicago Blizzard occurred during the cold wave in January.
Cold wave of early 1978 – Produced one of the coldest winters on record in all states east of the Rockies, except Maine.
Cold wave of January 1977. Greatest US-wide cold wave of the 20th century. The core of the cold air extended from New Hampshire to Florida and west to Iowa and Missouri. Ohio was at the very center of the cold air mass where every weather station there recorded its coldest month on record. Cincinnati recorded its lowest known temperature of −25 °F (−32 °C) dating back to 1820. The South Carolina state record temperature of −20 °F (−29 °C) was recorded during this cold wave near Long Creek. The wind chill in Minneapolis was −78 °F (−61 °C) on January 28, possibility the lowest ever recorded there up until that point. Snow fell in Miami and Homestead Florida, the farthest south snow was ever recorded in America. President Jimmy Carter walked in his inauguration parade in temperatures below freezing on January 20. Buffalo, New York was hit with its worst blizzard ever during the last week of January where near hurricane-force winds created whiteout conditions for three days. Temperatures in Buffalo were around 0 °F (−18 °C), wind chills recorded of −60 °F (−51 °C), and the blizzard paralyzed the city with snow drifts of up to 30 feet (9.1 m).
Late 1970s (1977, 1978, 1979) – In the last three years of the 1970s, almost all of the conterminous United States had at least one winter with a memorable cold wave, and the winter of 1978–79 was the coldest on record in the lower 48, with everywhere, except normally frigid upstate Maine, experiencing well below average temperatures.
Winter of 1968–69 in Central Asia – Central Asia and western Siberia saw by far their coldest winter on record in 1968–69, and in Central Asia also their wettest, producing record low temperature, severe blizzards and avalanches, numerous plant deaths and record spring flooding.
1966 Western Canadian cold wave – January 1966 was the coldest January on record in the Yukon and the coldest since 1950 or 1875 in the Prairie Provinces, and the severe cold continued into March, when Winnipeg recorded its most severe winter snowstorm on record.
January 1963 cold wave in Mid-Western United States
1956 European cold wave – February 1956 was the coldest month of the twentieth century over large areas of Western Europe, with mean temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) as far south as Marseilles being utterly unprecedented in records dating back into the eighteenth century.
1950 Northwest North American cold wave – January 1950 saw unprecedented cold and snowfall in the Pacific Northwest, with normally mild Seattle and Portland, Oregon both falling below 0 °F (−17.8 °C) and receiving extremely heavy snow that disrupted transport and schooling as it could not be removed easily. Western Canada saw by far its coldest month on record, leading to severe damage to fruit crops in the Okanagan Valley, the freezing of Okanagan Lake for the only time since 1862, and Calgary's only month where temperatures remained below 32 °F (0 °C) throughout. Vancouver, British Columbia had an average temperature of −6.3 °C (20.7 °F), compared to the average 4.1 °C (39.4 °F).
January 1949 cold wave – The winter of 1948–49 was the coldest since 1891 over the Western United States and saw record snowfall, ice storms as far south as Texas, and constant disruptions to surface transport, along with large losses in livestock and crops. Coldest winter recorded in many places in California, Nevada, Idaho and Washington state. The cold was also accompanied by severe blizzards which isolated Wyoming ranches and paralyzed the Great Basin region. The U.S. Army ran "Operation Hay Lift" in the region to bring food and hay by plane to isolated ranches in the region. Las Vegas Nevada got a record 16.7 in (420 mm) of snowfall during the month of January. Snow fell in San Diego in January 1949. All-time record low of 0F in San Antonio Texas.
Winter of 1941–42 in Eastern Europe – The winter of 1941–42 was the coldest of the twentieth century in most of Eastern Europe (e.g. Moscow) and was the last of a succession of abnormally cold winters there that affected the course of World War II.
1937 Western United States cold wave – January 1937 was the coldest month on record in the West and saw snowfall as far south as the hot desert city of Yuma, Arizona for one of only two occasions on record. California and Nevada saw their lowest temperatures on record: −45 °F (−42.8 °C) at Boca on January 20 and −50 °F (−45.6 °C) at San Jacinto on January 8.
1936 North American cold wave – The cold wave of 1936 was the only cold wave of the 1930s to severely impact the United States east of the hundredth meridian. One of the coldest winters in the Great Plains on record. Low temperatures dropped below −50 °F (−46 °C) in Malta, Montana on four separate days and most of Montana averaged 20 degrees below normal for the entire month of February Parshall, North Dakota hit −60 °F (−51 °C) on February 15, still a record. Langdon, North Dakota remained below 0 °F (−18 °C) for 41 straight days from January 11 to February 20, the longest stretch in recorded history for the U.S. outside of Alaska. The cold wave was followed by one of the hottest summers on record, the 1936 North American heat wave.
February 1934 Cold Wave in New England – Longest period of cold weather ever experienced to this point. Average temperatures in upper New England were around zero degrees for most of the month. Temperatures reached above freezing only on one day in Burlington, VT in February.
1933 Western United States cold wave – The winter of 1932–33 was the second- or third-coldest on record in most of the West (the coldest on record in Arizona) and saw record cold temperatures in Oregon, Wyoming and Texas between February 7 and 10, when sixty deaths were blamed on extreme cold and ice storms.
Winter of 1917–1918 – The winter was very frigid across the East and created a heating fuel crisis equaled only in January 1977. Severe cold wave in December 1917 and January 1918 in northeast. December 30 set a number of record lows at the time in New York City (−13 °F, −25 °C) and Boston (−15 °F, −26 °C). Under ideal conditions for radiational cooling, including fresh snow cover and mostly clear skies, the morning of December 30, 1917 was exceptionally cold also in parts of Virginia and West Virginia, with all-time record cold temperatures (that stand until nowadays) recorded in many cities, including −37 °F (−38 °C) at Lewisburg (West Virginia state record), −34 °F (−37 °C) at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, −25 °F (−32 °C) at Bluefield, West Virginia, and −27 °F (−33 °C) at Blacksburg and Burkes Garden, Virginia. January 1918 also brought persistent well below average temperatures for many parts of the East and Midwest, with another shot of very cold air in early February (New York City Central Park's high of only 4 °F (−16 °C) on February 5 is a monthly record, while Michigan's Houghton Lake reached a low of −48 °F (−44 °C) on February 1).
Winter of 1916–1917 – the "extended winter" (October to March) of 1916–17 was the coldest on record in the West and Midwest.
1888 US cold wave – A severe cold wave that passed through the Pacific Northwest. It led to a blizzard for the northern Plains and upper Mississippi valley where many children were trapped in schoolhouses where they froze to death.
January 1859: January 10 – coldest single daytime temperatures ever recorded experienced in New York City and in New England areas. Montreal recorded temperature of −43.6 °F (−42.0 °C) at 7 am, some 15 °F (8.3 °C) degrees lower than modern Montreal record of −29 °F (−34 °C) in 1933. At the University of Vermont in Burlington, −31.5 °F (−35.3 °C) was recorded at 7 am and −26 °F (−32 °C) at 2 pm during the afternoon. In Woodstock, Vermont a temperature of −45 °F (−43 °C) was recorded. Harvard College recorded −4.5 °F (−20.3 °C) at 2 pm in the afternoon and −18 °F (−28 °C) the next morning of January 11, the lowest known temperature reading recorded in Boston. Nantucket Island measured −12 °F (−24 °C), 6 °F (3.3 °C) colder than the modern known record. In New York City, recorded temperatures did not go above 0 °F (−18 °C). In Brooklyn Heights, a recorded reading of −9 °F (−23 °C) at noon and in Eramus Hall in Brooklyn recorded a high of −3.7 °F (−19.8 °C) at 7 am and −8 °F (−22 °C) at 9 pm that night. Union Hall in Jamaica Queens recorded −12 °F (−24 °C) at midnight between January 10 and 11. In White Plains, there were readings of −13 °F (−25 °C) at 7 am, −10 °F (−23 °C) at 2 pm, and −15 °F (−26 °C) at 9 pm.
New England Cold wave of 1857. January 1857 was the coldest month ever recorded in New England. Average month temperatures of 16.7 °F (−8.5 °C) in New Haven, 16.8 °F (−8.4 °C) in Boston, and 19.6 °F (−6.9 °C) in New York City remain coldest months on record in those cities. The worst of the cold descended on New England on January 22 with January 23 being one of the coldest days known in the region. In Bath, Maine a temperature readings of −52 °F (−47 °C) and in Franconia, New Hampshire −51 °F (−46 °C) were recorded. In Norwich, Vermont −44 °F (−42 °C) was recorded. Boston suburbs of Malden and West Newton recorded −30 °F (−34 °C) overnight. Boston temperatures for January 23 never rose above 0 °F (−18 °C) all day and Nantucket Island was cutoff from the mainland by ice. In New York City, Eramus Hall in Brooklyn reached a high of 0F during the day and the Hudson River froze over solidly enough for people to walk across to Hoboken.
Eastern cold wave of January and February 1835. First of three historic U.S. cold waves to hit during the 19th century (1835, 1857, 1899). In January, mercury thermometers froze throughout the Northeast. Mercury froze at −40 °F (−40 °C) in Bangor and Bath, Maine and Montpelier and White River, Vermont. In Connecticut, Hartford hit −27 °F (−33 °C) and New Haven −23 °F (−31 °C), and in Massachusetts, Williamstown hit −30 °F (−34 °C) and Pittsfield −32 °F (−36 °C), all low temperature marks that have never been matched since. In February, Savannah, Georgia the temperature hit 0 °F (−18 °C), 8 °F (4.4 °C) colder than would be reached during the 1899 cold wave later in the century and Charleston South Carolina hit 2 °F (−17 °C).
In mid-January 1888, a severe cold wave passed through the northern regions of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains of the United States, then considered to be the northwestern region of the nation. It led to a blizzard for the northern Plains and upper Mississippi valley where many children were trapped in schoolhouses where they froze to death. This tragedy became known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard, Schoolchildren's Blizzard, or The Children's Blizzard. This cold snap and blizzard were part of a month which averaged temperatures 6–12 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across much of the northern and western United States.
The winter of 1981–82 in the United Kingdom (also called The Big Snow of 1982 by the press) was a severe cold wave that was formed in early December 1981 and lasted until mid-late January in 1982, and was one of the coldest Decembers recorded in the United Kingdom.At the end of November 1981, a strong high-pressure anticyclone over southern England was keeping temperatures around the average for the time of year. Numerous strong low-pressure extratropical cyclones passing to the north of Scotland dragged cold upper-level air down from the Arctic, but the anticyclone to the south of the United Kingdom deflected the coldest air away from the British Isles. On 23 November 1981, a cold front crossing the United Kingdom, fuelled by humid subtropical air from the south colliding with this colder Arctic air from the north, spawned 104 tornadoes as part of a record-breaking nationwide tornado outbreak. Following the passing of the cold front, the anticyclone to the south began to break down, allowing the colder Arctic air to move in over the British Isles from the north and precipitating the start of the severe cold wave at the start of December.
The CET Central England Station recorded a daily mean temperature of 0.3 °C (32.5 °F) and a daily minimum temperature of −2.7 °C (27.1 °F), for December, and is the coldest December recorded in the 20th Century. The CET Central England Station also recorded its coldest minimum December temperature at −15.9 °C (3.4 °F) on the 13th. The coldest temperature recorded in December was −25.2 °C (−13.4 °F) recorded in Shawbury, Shropshire on the 13th, and is the coldest December temperature recorded in England. Wales also records its coldest recorded December temperature during the cold wave, with a temperature of −22.7 °C (−8.9 °F) recorded at Corwen, Denbighshire also on the 13th.The coldest temperature recorded in the United Kingdom during the cold wave was recorded in Scotland with a temperature of −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) recorded in Braemar, Aberdeenshire on 10 January, and is the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United Kingdom. England also records its coldest temperature during the cold wave at −26.1 °C (−15.0 °F) which was recorded at Newport, Telford and Wrekin, also on 10 January.
The January 1987 snowfall was a very heavy lake-effect type snow event that affected the United Kingdom, mainly the areas of East Anglia, South-East England and London between 11 and 14 January and was the heaviest snowfall to fall in that part of the United Kingdom since the winter of 1981/82. Over 50 centimetres (20 in) of snow fell in South East England, with some locations reporting snowfall at 75 centimetres (30 in). Ireland was also affected by the cold wave, reporting more than 10 centimetres (3.9 in) in some areas.
The 1994 North American cold wave occurred over the midwestern United States, eastern United States, and southern Canada during January 1994. Two notable cold air events occurred from January 18–19 and from January 21–22. There were 67 minimum temperature records set on January 19. Indiana and Kentucky both set state records on January 19. The United States experienced its coldest temperature month since February 1934, although much of the West experienced mild temperatures. Washington and Idaho experienced the second-warmest January recorded in the previous 100 years.During the same period, the western United States experienced one of its most damaging earthquakes ever, and the eastern United States experienced a major snowfall that significantly delayed traffic.Over 100 deaths occurred in the United States as a result of the cold wave.
The 2013–14 North American winter refers to winter in North America as it occurred across the continent from late 2013 through early 2014. The winter of 2013–14 was one of the most significant for the United States, due in part to the breakdown of the polar vortex in November 2013, which allowed very cold air to travel down into the United States, leading to an extended period of very cold temperatures. The pattern continued mostly uninterrupted throughout the winter and numerous significant winter storms affected the Eastern United States, with the most notable one being a powerful winter storm that dumped ice and snow in the Southeast and Northeast in mid-February. Most of the cold weather abated by the end of March, though a few winter storms did affect the western portions of the U.S. towards the end of the winter.
While there is no well-agreed-upon date used to indicate the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, there are two definitions of winter which may be used. Based on the astronomical definition, winter begins at the winter solstice, which in 2013 occurred on December 21, and ends at the March equinox, which in 2014 occurred on March 20. Based on the meteorological definition, the first day of winter is December 1 and the last day February 28. Both definitions involve a period of approximately three months, with some variability.
The 2015–16 North American winter refers to winter in North America as it occurred across the continent from late 2015 through early 2016. Contrary to the past two winters, the United States (including the Northeast) experienced warmer conditions, mainly due to a strong El Niño. However, despite the warmth, significant weather systems still occurred, including a a snowstorm and flash flooding in Texas at the end of December and a large tornado outbreak at the end of February. The main event of the winter was when a crippling and historic blizzard struck the Northeast in late January, dumping up to 3 feet (36 in; 91 cm) of snow in and around the metropolitan areas.
While there is no well-agreed-upon date used to indicate the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, there are two definitions of winter which may be used. Based on the astronomical definition, winter begins at the winter solstice, which in 2015 occurred late on December 21, and ends at the March equinox, which in 2016 occurred on March 20. Based on the meteorological definition, the first day of winter is December 1 and the last day February 29. Both definitions involve a period of approximately three months, with some variability. Winter is often defined by meteorologists to be the three calendar months with the lowest average temperatures. Since both definitions span the calendar year, it is possible to have a winter storm in two different years.
North India was devastated by a cold wave during the month of January 2017. This occurrence had a severe effect on several North Indian states, including Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Harayana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. The lowest temperature in Gulmarg due to the cold wave was recorded at −12.4 °C (9.7 °F). The banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar froze. Keylong of Himachal Pradesh and Kargil of Jammu and Kashmir witnessed low temperatures of −13.9 °C (7.0 °F) and −15.6 °C (3.9 °F) respectively. At least 40 people have died as a result of the cold front.
Several army camps in Kashmir bound sectors were damaged and many people died in avalanches in Kashmir districts near the Line of Control during the last few days of January 2017.
The 2017–18 North American cold wave was an extreme weather event in North America in which record low temperatures gripped much of the Central, Eastern United States, and parts of Central and Eastern Canada. Starting in late December as a result of the southward shift of the polar vortex, extremely cold conditions froze the eastern United States in the last few days of 2017 as well as into the new year. Following a brief respite in mid-January, cold temperatures swung back into the eastern U.S. shortly afterwards. The cold wave finally dissolved by around January 19, as near-average temperatures returned.
Several winter weather events accompanied the cold wave, the most significant one was a powerful blizzard that impacted the Northeastern U.S. in the first few days of 2018. Some of these events impacted areas that normally do not receive snow, such as Louisiana and Texas. In an extremely rare event, Tallahassee, Florida in extreme north Florida received trace amounts of frozen precipitation for the first time in more than 30 years. In addition, many places broke records for coldest temperatures in the final week of 2017 and the first part of 2018.
Beginning on 22 February 2018, Great Britain and Ireland were affected by a cold wave, dubbed the Beast from the East by the media (Irish: An Torathar ón Oirthear) and officially named Anticyclone Hartmut, which brought widespread unusually low temperatures and heavy snowfall to large areas. The cold wave combined with Storm Emma, part of the 2017–18 UK and Ireland windstorm season, which made landfall in southwest England and southern Ireland on 2 March.
In contrast to usual winter storms, Emma was not formed as a normal low pressure area along with the jetstream; the initial event was an arctic outbreak due to a disordered polar vortex into Central Europe, transporting not only cold air from Siberia to Europe, but on the way to the British Islands according to the lake effect sent a lot of snow into areas of Great Britain and Ireland.
This weather situation repeated itself on the weekend of 17 and 18 March, but was less severe than on the previous occasion due to the onset of spring. This briefer cold snap was given the name "Mini Beast from the East".
Cold wave is a music genre that emerged in Europe the late 1970s, characterized by its detached lyrical tone, use of early electronic music instruments and a minimalist approach and style. It emerged from punk rock bands who, influenced by early electronic groups such as Kraftwerk, made use of affordable portable synthesizers such as the Korg MS-20. The term is an early synonym for what would later be termed "dark wave", "goth", and "deathrock". In later years, "cold wave" has become subsumed under the retrospective labels "minimal wave" or "minimal synth".
Dark wave or darkwave is a music genre that emerged from the new wave and post-punk movement of the late 1970s. Dark wave compositions are largely based on minor key tonality and introspective lyrics, and have been perceived as being dark, romantic, and bleak, with an undertone of sorrow. Common features include the use of chordophones such as electric and acoustic guitar, violin, and piano, as well as electronic instruments such as synthesizer, sampler, and drum machine. The genre embraces a range of styles including cold wave, ethereal wave, gothic rock, neoclassical dark wave, and neofolk.In the 1980s, a subculture developed primarily in Europe alongside dark wave music, whose followers were called wavers or dark wavers. In some countries such as Germany, the movement also included fans of gothic rock (so-called trad-goths).
The early 2012 European cold wave was a deadly cold wave that started on January 27, 2012, and brought snow and freezing temperatures to much of the European continent. There were more than 824 reported deaths in both Europe and North Africa. Particularly low temperatures hit several Eastern and Northern European countries, reaching as low as −42.7 °C (−44.9 °F) in Finland. The heaviest snow was recorded in the Balkan region. The cold weather was a result of an extensive area of very high pressure located in over the north east of the continent in northern Russia, which circulated cold air from the east.
The 2014 North American cold wave was an extreme weather event that extended through the late winter months of the 2013–2014 winter season, and was also part of an unusually cold winter affecting parts of Canada and parts of the north-central and upper eastern United States. The event occurred in early 2014 and was caused by a southward shift of the North Polar Vortex. Record-low temperatures also extended well into March.
On January 2, an Arctic cold front initially associated with a nor'easter tracked across Canada and the United States, resulting in heavy snowfall. Temperatures fell to unprecedented levels, and low temperature records were broken across the United States. Business, school, and road closures were common, as well as mass flight cancellations. Altogether, more than 200 million people were affected, in an area ranging from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and extending south to include roughly 187 million residents of the Continental United States.
In late January 2016, a cold wave struck much of East Asia, parts of mainland Southeast Asia and parts of northern South Asia, bringing record cold temperatures and snowfall to many regions. Sleet was reported in Okinawa for the first time on record, and many other regions saw their coldest temperatures in decades. Snowfall and frigid weather stranded thousands of people across four countries. At least 85 people in Taiwan died from hypothermia and cardiac arrest following a sudden drop in temperature during the weekend of January 22–24. The cold claimed a further fourteen lives in Thailand, and snowstorms resulted in six deaths across Japan. This event was driven by a fast Arctic warming that occurred within the troposphere, forcing the Arctic Oscillation to change phase rapidly from positive (in late December) to negative (in late January), facilitating the atmospheric blocking and associated Siberian high buildup.
A period of exceptionally cold and snowy winter weather in January 2017 occurred in Eastern and Central Europe. In some areas, flights and shipping services were suspended, and there was major disruption to power supplies and other essential infrastructure. The weather was the result of stationary high pressure over western Europe, resulting in strong winds circulating from Russia and Scandinavia towards eastern Europe. On 9 January, the Continental Arctic (cA) air mass extended from Germany across the Balkans, resulting in deep snow in Greece and strong bora winds affecting Croatia in particular. In addition, heavy snow in central and Southern Italy was the result of cold air flowing across the warmer Adriatic Sea. At least 61 deaths were attributed to the cold wave.
In late January 2019, a severe cold wave caused by a weakened jet stream around the Arctic polar vortex hit the Midwestern United States and Eastern Canada, killing at least 22 people. It came after a winter storm brought up to 13 inches (33 cm) of snow in some regions from January 27–29, and brought the coldest temperatures in over 20 years to most locations in the affected region, including some all-time record lows. In early February, the polar vortex moved west, and became locked over Western Canada and the Western United States. As a result, February 2019 was among the coldest and snowiest on record in these regions. In early March, the cold once again shifted east, breaking records in many areas. In mid-March, the cold wave finally retreated, but combined with above-average temperatures, precipitation, and a deep snowpack, widespread flooding ensued in the Central US.
The October 2008 United Kingdom cold wave was a spell of unseasonably cold weather that affected the United Kingdom during the final week of October 2008. This cold spell was notable as it brought the first October snowfall in the United Kingdom since 2003; it also set record low maximum and record low minimum temperatures, and brought the first October snowfall in London and Northern Ireland since 1934.
The winter 1985 cold wave was a meteorological event, the result of the shifting of the polar vortex farther south than is normally seen. Blocked from its normal movement, polar air from the north pushed into nearly every section of the central and eastern half of the United States and Canada, shattering record lows in a number of areas. The event was preceded by unusually warm weather in the eastern U.S. in December 1984, suggesting that there was a build-up of cold air that was suddenly released from the Arctic, a meteorological event known as a mobile polar high, a weather process identified by Professor Marcel Leroux.
The winter of 1962–63, known as the Big Freeze of 1963, was one of the coldest winters (defined as the months of December, January and February) on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over.
In the Central England Temperature (CET) record extending back to 1659, only the winters of 1683–84 and 1739–40 were colder than 1962–63.
The winter of 1962–63 remains the coldest since at least 1895 in all meteorological districts of the United Kingdom except Scotland North, where the two winters of 1978–79 and 2009–10 were colder.
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