This morning, as surfers rode the warm, churning waves off the Big Island of Hawaii, 13,000 feet above them, on the top of Mauna Kea, a weather station recorded a temperature of 31 degrees. Congratulations, Hawaii: even you can't escape the cold! At least one weather station in each of the 50 states recorded a temperature below freezing today.
For a while, the title of this article was going to include the words "49 Of The 50 States," but Hawaii got in on the act just in time.
A month before the official start of winter, an unusual November weather pattern is pushing the 50 states into temperatures normally reserved for January and February, CNN is reporting.
Even The Sunshine State - that is, Florida - can't buck the freezing temperatures. Temperatures in the Panhandle were in the 20's, according to KCPQ (Tacoma). Further south, in Orlando, shivering tourists tried to enjoy Walt Disney World in coats and scarves, while the mercury topped out at 47, according to The Orlando Sentinel, giving the Magic Kingdom's new Frozen theme a rather literal meaning.
In the northern states, it's much, much worse. The Great Lakes haven't yet gotten as cold as the air above them, meaning that as the Arctic air hovers over the comparatively warm water, so-called lake-effect snow is about to bury just about everywhere from Chicago to Buffalo, and all points in between. Erie, Pennsylvania has already received some 40 inches of snow, and Buffalo could have as much as 70 inches - almost six feet - before all is said and done.
In fact, according to CNN, just over half of the country - 50.2 percent, to be exact - had snow on the ground.
So what's causing the freezing temperatures all across the country? This time, it's not the Polar Vortex, but a much less-cool-sounding system known as an Omega Block, according to Northwest Public Radio. Basically it's a combination of high- and low-pressure systems positioned in such a way that it resembles the Greek letter Omega, and it pushes the jet stream out of whack. This particular Omega Block is positioned perfectly over Alaska, meaning that the entire continental U.S. will be getting cold temperatures for the next several days. (Hawaii's sub-freezing temperature isn't a result of the Omega Block; at 13,000 feet, Mauna Kea is always cold in November, so Hawaii's sub-freezing temperature today is more of a technicality, but it counts.)
The good news is that this cold weather isn't directly a result of Climate Change; Omega Blocks happen naturally. The bad news is that they can last for weeks, meaning that at least 48 of the 50 states can expect freezing temperatures for the foreseeable future.