A Frozen Continent

As I write this, almost the entire North American continent is freezing. Small areas to the south, east, and west are seeing temperatures above freezing, but this is when you get near the edge of the land mass. A large, cold air mass is circling over the center of the continent.

The cold air has been there all month, and that is what is most unusual about this weather pattern. In previous decades, we could count on a regular flow of upper-level winds to return air patterns and temperatures to near normal within about two weeks of a large-scale weather disturbance. That pattern no longer seems to hold, at least not for the northern continents. Instead, often, we have persistent weather patterns that would be considered perfectly normal if they lasted for a few days or a week, but seem decidedly odd when they carry on for weeks on end.

It is not that the world has turned cold. There is still warm air, but it is sitting over the oceans. Cities near the coasts, influenced by both the continental air and the ocean air, are escaping the worst effects of the severe weather.

Persistent weather patterns are expected to become more common, and as they do, the more reliable coastal mix of weather could become a new advantage for cities in the coastal plains. There could be a new generation-long pattern of migration from the heartlands to the coasts.

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