For those cursing the November chill, there’s an ominous sign up north. It suggests this winter will be long and cold, according to one eminent scientist.
He’s the father of the “Siberian Snow Theory.” He argues that the more snow covering the ground in northern Eurasia, the colder we can expect it down below. And Siberia is looking pretty white already.
Judah Cohen, a renowned MIT climatologist, has been working on this theory for 17 years, despite some skepticism. Cohen, who figures his theory has been right 75 percent of the time, spies all the makings of an early, cold winter. “We have had this very textbook situation,” he said.
The first blast of Siberian-spurred cold could come in December this year, instead of the usual January, according to Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a unit of Verisk Analytics, which works with governments and financial-services and insurance companies.
While it isn’t certain where the frigid air will land — North America, Asia or Europe — Cohen is predicting that cold will envelop more of the U.S. than government forecasters expect. Cold, rain and snow could extend from the upper Great Plains to Florida.
Those who make money from natural gas, whose price dropped because of warm weather, may be in for a treat.
“If he is right that would be terrific,” said Teri Viswanath, managing director for natural gas at Pira Energy Group in New York. “I hope he’s right.”
Viswanath isn’t betting on it because of conflicting weather models. For example, this week’s forecast for Dec. 2 to Dec. 6 called for much of Canada and the eastern U.S. to be warmer than normal, according to MDA Weather Services in Gaithersburg, Md.
Since he was a graduate student, Cohen has explored the connection between snow in Siberia and weather throughout the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.
Cohen charts a kind of chain reaction. Climate change melts ice in the Arctic Ocean, resulting in more moisture in the atmosphere. That leads to more snow covering Siberia, which reflects sunlight — and warmth — from the terrain.
This chill sends energy toward the polar vortex, the vast weather system that traps cold air in the Arctic. As a result, the vortex breaks down, sending cold air south, as if a refrigerator door had opened.
Stephen Baxter, a meteorologist and seasonal forecaster at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., isn’t convinced. He called Cohen’s theory “weak.”