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

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  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.