The Weather Map Today Is Completely Insane

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 6 2013 11:58 AM

The Weather Map Today Is Completely Insane

national weather map forecast
You're laughing today, North Carolina, but just wait 'til this weekend.

Screenshot by Shawn Reynolds / The Weather Channel

I checked my weather app this morning and did a double-take. I have family in both Kentucky and North Carolina, and most days their weather is pretty comparable. Not today. The forecast for Durham is straight out of June, nearly 80 degrees and sunny. In Lexington, just 340 miles away, winter is in full force, with freezing temperatures and “ice pellets” falling from the sky.

Then I looked at the whole map, helpfully tweeted this morning by The Weather Channel’s Shawn Reynolds. It looks like something from The Day After Tomorrow—or, as Josh Sternberg joked, a Grateful Dead concert.

Advertisement

There’s a massive Arctic cold front gripping the entire country—except for the Southeast, which is blissfully balmy. It’s spring in Louisiana and brutal late January in Arkansas. There’s an ice storm in Dallas. And it’s bitterly, bitterly cold across the West, with parts of Montana in the negative-30s. In Laredo, Texas yesterday it was 85 degrees. Now there’s a wind chill of 32. Paso Robles, California hit a record low of 16 degrees this morning, shattering the previous Dec. 6 mark of 23. The differential between the high and low temperatures in the United States yesterday was a jaw-dropping 118 degrees.

What the hell is going on? I asked Mike Musher, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, and he assured me that the weird weather is not a sign of the apocalypse, as far as he can tell. Rather, it’s the result of an Arctic air mass descending across the country both earlier in the year and at lower latitudes than usual. While the cold front is moving slowly, he said, it should reach most of the Eastern seaboard by later this evening. So enjoy your sunbathing while it lasts, Durham. Your forecast for Sunday is—you guessed it—a high of 36 with ice pellets.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

Move Aside, Oxford Comma, the New Battle Is Over Single or Double Quotes

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Ben Bradlee’s Fascinating Relationship With JFK

Culturebox

The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here

I feel like a kid in some kind of store.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 11:57 AM Why Wasn't the WHO Ready for Ebola?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 22 2014 11:36 AM Casting the Role of Scarlett O'Hara Was Really, Really Frustrating
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 22 2014 6:00 AM Why It’s OK to Ask People What They Do David Plotz talks to two junior staffers about the lessons of Working.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 22 2014 11:04 AM Do All U.S. Presidents Look the Same? What About Japan’s Prime Ministers?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 22 2014 10:29 AM Apple TV Could Still Work Here’s how Apple can fix its living-room product.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 22 2014 11:30 AM Where Does Ebola Hide? My nerve-wracking research with shrieking bats.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.