The weather pattern favoring relentless cold in the Eastern states and prolonged warmth in the West will continue through the end of January.
On multiple dates this month, temperatures have been warmer in Alaska than they have been in Texas, Louisiana and much of the Atlantic coast, including Florida.
Nome, Alaska, which lies at 64.5 degrees north latitude has experienced at least seven days so far this month where temperatures have climbed above freezing. The normal high for Nome is 13 F.
The City of Kotzebue, Alaska, which is nestled just above the Arctic Circle, climbed above the freezing mark on Jan. 23. The morning low in the city was only 27 F. Normal high and low temperatures for Kotzebue are respectively 3 and minus 10 F.
Comparatively, morning low temperatures on Jan. 23 were 27 F at Cross City, Fla., 8 F at Elizabeth City, N.C., and minus 2 F at Washington Dulles Airport, D.C.
During Friday morning, Jan. 24, temperatures pushed into the 40s in Anchorage and Fairbanks with rain in the vicinity. At the same time, temperatures in much of Texas and Louisiana were significantly lower with areas of ice and snow. Brownsville, Texas, and New Orleans dipped to 34 F, while Houston hovered near 30 F and Dallas bottomed out at 19 F.
The cause of the topsy-turvy weather pattern has been produced by a high amplitude jet stream pattern. The jet stream is a fast-moving river of air high in the atmosphere that guides weather systems along and often marks the boundary between cold air to its north and warm air to its south.
The jet stream often becomes distorted from its average January position around 40 degrees north latitude. However, this pattern, in recent weeks, has become quite extreme. It has allowed warmth to push well to the north along the Pacific coast of North America and at the same time has sent frigid air well to the south over the middle of the continent to portions of the Atlantic coast.
Indications from AccuWeather.com Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok are that the high amplitude jet stream will hold through the end of January, but during February the jet will shift a bit and may break into two parts.
"The pattern shift should allow Alaska to trend colder, less severe cold along the Atlantic coast and may allow some moisture to get onshore along the Pacific coast," Pastelok said.
The core of the cold air is projected to settle over the Central states and will be mostly contained between the Rockies and Appalachians.
However, this pattern will allow some cooler air to reach into the West and colder air to plunge into Texas.
"While we do expect some rain and mountain snow to reach parts of California and the West, but it may not be widespread and is not likely to be enough to have long-term impact on the drought," Pastelok said.
The upcoming pattern in February will also allow some storms loaded with moisture to track northeastward from the Gulf of Mexico to along the Atlantic Seaboard. With this pattern the chance of a heavy snowstorm would increase over much of the eastern third of the nation.