Weather Blog

At 18,000 feet, the air is colder here than arctic Canada

At 18,000 feet, the air is colder here than arctic Canada
This might qualify as your "duh" moment of the week, but did you know the upper atmosphere is really cold right now?

Ah, yes, as you sit there with your sweatshirt or fleece on the middle of June. Yes, we did notice.

But did you know this is the coldest it's been in late June for at least the past 15 years?

Weather balloons say the temperature is 23 below zero (-30.7C)  at around 18,000 feet.  According to Mark Albright, a UW Research Meteorologist, not only has it not been below -30C since at least 1996 in mid-June, but it was apparently the coldest reading in North America Wednesday morning -- yes, including all the Canadian observations in the Northwest Territories and the like. (The only one close was Baffin Island at -29 up across the waters from Greenland.)

You can see for yourself on this chart that shows the observations at that 500 milibar/~18,000 foot level. Look at the number in the upper left corner of each city -- that is the temperature we're comparing to. Try as you might, you won't find anything as cold as the -31 over Washington (from Forks).

Even waaay up in northern arctic Canada, it's "only" -23 degrees. (So not only are we colder than arctic Canada -- we're more than 10 degrees colder.) Even Barrow, Alaska (-19) and, oh come on, the station almost at the North Pole at 80 degrees North latitude (-27C) is warmer?!?!

The only place even remotely close that Mark found was on Baffin Island, which is way up in northeastern Canada across the water from Greenland. They were a "balmy" -29.