US Economy Shudders: East Coast Set To Freeze As Polar Vortex 2 Arrives

Remember when last December, a bout of cold weather crushed the US economy for the next 3 months, and subtracted about $100 billion from trendline growth, and when one after another economist (who were then predicting the yield on the 10 Year would "greatly rotate" to 4% by right about now, and who expected the US economy to have reached escape velocity in the second half only to see a 2014 GDP trendline as follows Q2: 4.6%, Q3: 3.5% (soon to be reviser lower), and Q4 now estimated just about 2.0%) blamed the then -3.0% GDP print on snow in the winter? Well here comes round two, because as CBS reports, "prepare for an invasion from the north. A blast of polar air is about to send temperatures plunging in the heart of America."

The polar vortex is back, and this time it means even less business: A mass of whirling cold air will dip southward this weekend, sending the mercury plunging. As the cold air moves south and east, it has the potential to affect as many as 243 million people with wind chills in the single digits in some places and snow.

Of course, the implication is that Q4 GDP is about to have its lights out moment. Either that, or if Q4 GDP mysteriously does not collapse, then scapegoating the weather for what was a fundamental flaw with the economy (and subsequent definitional revisions to GDP were the primary source of "economic growth" in 2014), will be just that.

According to CBS, the cause of the latest and greatest bout of abnormally cold winter weather is not "global warming" but a Supertyphoon named Nuri, currently located above the North Pacific.

Suomi NPP VIIRS Infrared image of the eye of Super Typhoon Nuri in the West Pacific Ocean on November 2, 2014

However, as CBS explains, "it would be wrong to think that it will affect only Alaska's far-flung Aleutian Islands or those famous fishermen who work in the North Pacific."

Images from the European Space Station show that Nuri is a growing meteorological bomb blanketing the Bering Sea. The 50-foot waves and 100 mile-an-hour winds will make conditions similar to those we had two years ago, and could make Nuri the biggest storm of the year.


"The remnants of Super Typhoon Nuri will create a big buckle in the jet stream," WBBM's meteorologist Megan Glaros in Chicago explains. "And in several days time, it's going to mean a big dip in the jet which will connect us with a big mass of Arctic air -- taking temperatures east of the Rockies down to 10 to 30 degrees below average."

So how does a typhoon over the North Pacific lead to what may be a several percentage points drop in US GDP?  The following sequence of events from EarthSky explains:

On November 2, forecasters thought Super Typhoon Nuri might strengthen further into a 195 mph storm with gusts near 235 mph. Fortunately, it peaked at 180 and started to gradually weaken on Monday. Nuri becomes the sixth Super Typhoon of the Western Pacific season, largely due to the unusually warm waters and favorable atmospheric conditions across the Western Pacific basin.

The storm will gradually weaken over the next couple of days into a tropical storm. It will stay east of Japan and move out into the Northern Pacific Ocean.

GFS model showing Typhoon Nuri on November 6, 2014. Image Credit: Weatherbell

As it gains latitude, the storm will transition from a warm-core low to a cold-core low, also known as an extratropical cyclone.The Northern Pacific jet stream will enhance the storm’s intensity. It will begin to “bomb out”, meaning the barometric pressure will drop drastically. Bombogenesis is a meteorological term used to define mid-latitude cyclones that drops at least 24 millibars within 24 hours.

Typhoon Nuri becomes extratropical as it gains energy from the Northern Pacific jet stream. Image Credit: GFS via Weatherbell

It’ll become a super strong storm with a pressure around 915 to 922 millibars. Imagine a “Superstorm Sandy” over the North Pacific instead of the east coast of the United States. The storm will affect the Bering Strait, and extreme winds and surf is expected.

A mega storm forms near the Bering Strait Friday evening into Saturday morning via GFS model. Image Credit: Weatherbell

The storm will affect parts of the Alaska coast by Friday into Saturday. Some areas will likely experience hurricane force winds, high seas of 30 feet or greater, and minor coastal flooding/erosion in parts of southwest Alaska coastal areas. Some of our weather models are even projecting waves as high as 50 feet!

Further color comes from Andrew Freedman of Mashable:

To put that into perspective, consider if the storm’s minimum central pressure bottoms out below 925 millibars — as is currently forecast by most computer models — it would set a record for the lowest pressure recorded in the Bering Sea. The current record holder is 925 millibars, set in October 1977 in Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Back to EearthSky:

The storm will influence the jet stream and atmospheric patterns across the Northern Hemisphere. It will likely trigger a ridge of high pressure across the Eastern Pacific and into Western North America. Meanwhile, it’ll likely contribute to a large trough that will dig down into parts of Central/Eastern Canada and the United States. As the jet stream digs south, it will likely bring the year’s first round of arctic air into the regions. Some of the weather models are indicating the potential for single digits in the Northern Plains by late next week (November 13-15). It is still uncertain if it will produce a big storm for the eastern United States. However, both the GFS and ECMWF models indicate a significant surge of cold air into the area.

The Climate Prediction Center is in agreement with a significantly colder weather pattern setting up for next week. They are forecasting temperatures well below average for Central and Eastern United States with above average temperatures likely along the west coast of Canada and the United States.

To summarize: Nuri will likely cause hurricane-like conditions along the Bering Strait as it becomes extratropical (no longer a tropical cyclone). It will help amplify the jet stream and likely produce a surge of very cold air that will reach parts of central/eastern Canada and the United States by November 12-15, 2014. There remains uncertainty regarding how cold the pattern will be, but as soon as models get within three to five days of the forecast, we will truly get a better idea of the overall setup and if a storm will develop.

Now, the only question is how the resultant tumble in Q4 GDP will be used by the Fed and econo-pundit talking heads to justify a further delay in rate hikes, which consensus expects to take place in Q2 2015 at the latest as a result of recent seasonally massaged "strong data", or better yet, force the Fed to resume liquidity injections once it is revealed that the ECB's intervention is limited to verbal jawboning, while Japan's runaway import cost inflation and plunging real wages lead to a revulsion against Abenomics and Abe in 2015, and a premature end to Japan's epic hyper-reflation experiment and the best laid plans of Goldman Sachs to boost "risk assets" and Goldman year end bonuses.