Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when chocolate treats and images hearts abound. But for me, it is George Bellows’ Love of Winter that always comes to mind as we mark the mid-point of what is usually New York City’s snowiest month of the year.
A longtime personal favorite, this 1914 painting captures the spirit of those who embrace the season. Filled with the blurred movement of skaters on a frozen pond and accented with spots of bright color that pop against the white snow, it conveys the joy of being out in nature on a cold winter day.
While Bellows is better known for depicting scenes of boxing matches and urban life, art historians say he enjoyed the challenge of painting the varied lighting conditions produced by a snow-covered landscape. In fact, he wrote a letter to a friend in January 1914 complaining about the lack of snow in the New York City area that winter. He said, “There has been none of my favorite snow. I must paint the snow at least once a year.” Then, on February 13, a blizzard hit the region. The wintry conditions inspired him to create this timeless painting.
Love of Winter is part of the Friends of American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.
“Love of Winter”, 1914 by George Bellows. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
January was another month of wild temperature swings in New York City. It produced two arctic outbreaks and a record cold day on one end of the spectrum and a few days that felt more like early April on the other. Highs ranged from a frigid 14°F to an unseasonably balmy 59°F. In the end, however, these extremes balanced each other out. The city’s mean temperature for the month was 32.5°F, which is only 0.1°F below normal.
In terms of precipitation, January was about average for rainfall. The city received 3.62 inches of rain, which is only .03 inches below normal. Most of that total, however, fell during a single storm.
Snowfall, on the other hand, was scarce. On average, the city gets 7 inches of snow for the month. But this year, only 1.1 inches was measured in Central Park. The cold air and moisture, which were both plentiful in the city in January, just did not coincide to produce a big snowstorm.
Credit: The Weather Gamut
After getting off to a relatively slow start, winter has kicked into high gear. For the second time this month, a massive arctic outbreak has sent most of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. into a deep freeze.
Here in New York City, the temperature peaked at just 16°F in Central Park on Thursday, tying the record cold high for the date set in 1935. The low dropped to 2°F, missing the record of -1°F by a few degrees. However, when you factor in the wind chill, it felt like a very memorable -17°F.
As cold as it was on Thursday, it was not the coldest day the Big Apple has ever experienced. That dubious honor, according to the NWS, belongs to February 9, 1934, when the air temperature reached a brutal low of -15°F.
The city’s normal high and low temperatures for this time of year are 39°F and 27°F, respectively.
This week’s unusually frigid conditions were the result of a deep dip in the jet stream and a lobe of the polar vortex reaching southward over much of the eastern part of the country. While a brief warm-up is expected over the next few days, it is still winter so keep those hats and gloves handy.
The temperature topped out at 16°F in NYC on Thursday, tying the record cold high for the date. Credit: Melissa Fleming
Temperature is one of the basic elements of weather. Our perception of it, however, is often influenced by other environmental conditions. Wind, for example, can make a cold day feel even colder. This phenomenon is called the wind chill factor.
Wind chill is a measure of the apparent or “feels-like” temperature. It calculates the heat loss from exposed human skin through the combined effects of air temperature and wind speed.
Essentially, the wind is carrying heat away from the body and allowing the skin to be exposed to cold air. As the winds increase, heat is carried away at a faster rate and the colder the body feels. For example, a temperature of 20°F and a wind speed of 5mph will produce a wind chill index of 13°F. At that same temperature, but with a wind speed of 10mph, the wind chill index would be 9°F.
Extended exposure to low wind chill values can lead to frostbite and hypothermia, serious winter health hazards.
After a relatively mild start to the season, winter’s chill has finally arrived in the northeastern United States. An arctic outbreak has sent the region into a deep freeze with many cities dealing with the coldest conditions they have seen since last January.
Here in New York City, the mercury fell to 4°F in Central Park on Monday morning and the high only made it to 14°F. While this type of cold shot is not that uncommon in January, it felt rather jarring after the temperature reached the mid-40s the day before.
The city’s normal high for this time of year is 38°F and the normal low is 27°F.
Produced by a deep dip in the jet stream, these current frigid conditions are not expected to last much longer. After a brief warm-up, however, another shot of arctic air is forecast to hit the city next week. So, keep those coats and gloves handy!
When arctic air invades NYC, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park often transforms into an icy sculpture. Credit: @nyclovesnyc
An arctic blast is expected to sweep across the northeastern United States this week. With temperatures expected to fall into the single digits, it is important to remember that, like extreme heat, extreme cold can be very dangerous.
Extreme cold causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be generated. Prolonged exposure, according to the CDC, can cause serious health problems, including hypothermia and frostbite.
Hypothermia is a condition of unusually low body temperature – generally below 95°F. It impairs brain functions, limiting a victim’s ability to think and move. Symptoms include severe shivering, drowsiness, confusion, slurred speech, and fumbling. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
Frostbite is a localized injury to the skin and underlying tissues caused by freezing. It can cause permanent damage and extreme cases often require amputation. Areas of the body most often affected include the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. Signs of frostbite include, numbness, skin discoloration (white or greyish-yellow), and unusually firm or waxy feeling skin.
While the symptoms of both hypothermia and frostbite can range in severity, victims generally require immediate re-warming and professional medical attention.
To stay safe in cold weather, the American Red Cross recommends:
The winter season can produce various types of precipitation – rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow. The form we see at the surface depends on the temperature profile of the lower atmosphere.
All precipitation starts out as snow up in the clouds. But, as it falls toward the Earth, it can pass through one or more layers of air with different temperatures. When the snow passes through a thick layer of warm air – above 32°F – it melts into rain. If the warm air layer extends all the way to the ground, rain will fall at the surface. However, if there is a thin layer of cold air – below 32°F – near the ground, the rain becomes super-cooled and freezes upon impact with anything that has a temperature at or below 32°F. This is known as freezing rain. It is one of the most dangerous types of winter precipitation, as it forms a glaze of ice on almost everything it encounters, including roads, tree branches, and power lines.
Sleet is a frozen type precipitation that takes the form of ice-pellets. Passing through a thick layer of sub-freezing air near the surface, liquid raindrops are given enough time to re-freeze before reaching the ground. Sleet often bounces when it hits a surface, but does not stick to anything. It can, however, accumulate.
Snow is another type of frozen precipitation. It takes the shape of six-sided ice crystals, often called flakes. Snow will fall at the surface when the air temperature is below freezing all the way from the cloud-level down to the ground. In order for the snow to stick and accumulate, surface temperatures must also be at or below freezing.
When two or more of these precipitation types fall during a single storm, it is called a wintry mix.
Precipitation type depends on the temperature profile of the atmosphere. Credit: NOAA
There is an old Scandinavian saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.” While it can be applied to any season, it seems most relevant in winter.
Since the weather is going to do whatever it is going to do, it is important to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature throws your way. In winter, that means cold temperatures.
Extreme cold causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be generated. Prolonged exposure, according to the CDC, can cause serious health problems such as hypothermia and frostbite.
To stay safe this winter, remember to bundle up in layers and wear hats and gloves to minimize the loss of body heat.
The Earth reached its Perihelion today at 5:20 UTC, which is 12:20 AM Eastern Standard Time. This is the point in the planet’s orbit where it comes closest to the Sun.
This annual event is due to the elliptical shape of the Earth’s orbit and the off-centered position of the Sun inside that path. The exact date of the Perihelion differs from year to year, but it’s usually in early January – winter in the northern hemisphere. The Earth will be furthest from the Sun in July.
While the planet’s distance from the Sun is not responsible for the seasons, it does influence their length. As a function of gravity, the closer the planet is to the Sun, the faster it moves. Today, the Earth is 147.1 million kilometers (91.4 million miles) away from the Sun. That is approximately 5 million kilometers (3 million miles) closer than it will be in early July. This position allows the planet to speed up by about one-kilometer per second. As a result, winter in the northern hemisphere is about five days shorter than summer.
The word, perihelion, is Greek for “near sun”.
Earth’s Perihelion and Aphelion. Credit: Time and Date.com
Today is the December solstice, the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere. The new season officially begins at 22:23 UTC, which is 5:23 PM EST.
The astronomical seasons, which are different than meteorological seasons, are produced by the tilt of the Earth’s axis – a 23.5° angle – and the movement of the planet around the sun. During the winter months, the northern half of the Earth is tilted away from the sun. This position means the northern hemisphere receives the sun’s energy at a less direct angle and brings us our coolest temperatures of the year.
Since the summer solstice in June, the arc of the sun’s apparent daily passage across the sky has been dropping southward and daylight hours have been decreasing. Today, it will reach its southernmost position at the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° south latitude), marking the shortest day of the year. This observable stop is where today’s event takes its name. Solstice is derived from the Latin words “sol” for sun and “sisto” for stop.
Soon, the sun will appear to move northward again and daylight hours will slowly start to increase. Marking this transition from darkness to light, the winter solstice has long been a cause for celebration across many cultures throughout human history.
Earth’s solstices and equinoxes. Image Credit: NASA