Cold Wave

What is cold wave? 

Cold wave is characterized by a rapid and marked fall of temperature. The term ‘cold’ describes an unusual fall in temperature that is triggered by the transport of cold air masses into a specific area. 

The “wave” in cold wave is apparent in the upper-air flow (the jetstream), which is usually amplified into a strong ridge-trough pattern during a major cold outbreak.

Cold waves affect much larger areas than blizzards, ice storms, and other winter hazards. 

Formation of Cold Waves 

The core requirement of a cold wave at the surface is a strong high pressure center that forms during winter in high latitudes.

Cold polar or Arctic air masses are relatively shallow, extending one to several kilometre above the surface.

What damage can arise?

• The cold wave can negatively impact the safety of aviation operations. 

• Fatal accidents can occur if people fail to adapt their driving to road conditions. 

• Ice rain can cause ice fractures in trees and telephone wires. 

• Exposure to extreme and especially unexpected cold can lead to hypothermia and frostbite, which can cause death and injury.

 Cold waves can be forecast by modern weather forecasting. The weather forecasts can disseminate useful warnings to prevent traffic accidents.

Contemporary examples of cold waves 

• February 2016 North American cold wave

• January 2016 East Asia cold wave

• February 2015 North American cold wave

• November 2014 North American cold wave 

• Early 2014 North American cold wave