Saturday, December 27, 2014

5 Lessons Learned from 'It's a Wonderful Life'

I don't know about you, but I love watching Frank Capra's, "It's a Wonderful Life". Whether it's the charisma, the story arc or the underlying message, there's simply something magical about the experience, especially this time of year.

And so...after attending a recent matinee showing at the Franklin Theater, I couldn't help but leave reignited...stirred by fresh perspective and driven to seek its application. 

Thus, in the spirit of seasonal illumination, I present you with five inspired musings from "It's a Wonderful Life" based upon my most recent viewing.

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1) You can't loan love.

While the plot's periphery outlines the decisions and dealings of George Bailey, the heart of the film flies on his character. Take away George's compassion, and suddenly, you have a stalled storyline with significantly less pizzazz. Clearly, George's selfless service is a sort of "ex machina" that not only keeps the plot going, but offers the timeless reminder that the best things in life are the things that can't be loaned. Thus, it's no surprise while George is successful in his loanings, he's even better in loving the people he loans to. And yes, I know this sounds a little cliché. Nevertheless, the point rings true. When it comes to leaving a mark, loving one another is the ultimate trigger in setting off a difference-making domino-effect.

2) You don't have to prove your worth.

This truth is one we've all struggled to believe at some point or another. As much as George playcalls in the downtrodden's direction, the moment the wheels start falling off, he begins to fall victim to the "I am what I do and have done" mentality. By movie's end, we find George having come full circle in a rousing catharsis that teaches us how the best way to live is to bask in the wonder of who we are...and what we've been given...all the while perceiving our worth through the lens of established blessedness (i.e. being born blessed with the gift to love, share love and enjoy the experience of being loved).

3) No man is worth more dead than alive.

As George's life starts to spiral out of control, he's forced to beg financial aid from Mr. Potter, who retaliates by issuing a warrant for his arrest. Despite George's desperation, Mr. Potter takes no sympathy and upon learning of his weak collateral, callously claims George is worth more dead than alive.


After watching this scene for the tenth time, it finally hit me how this is one of the worst word curses one could ever say or believe. In the clip above, note how George's demeanor changes when he hears these words from Mr. Potter. It's actually quite haunting when you think about it: a sweet, innocent man suddenly thrust into battle on the heels of a vicious verbal assault. Unfortunately, many, like George, fail to take the thought captive on the front end and buy in at the risk of tragic consequences.

Bottom line: Regardless of one's past...regardless if one's treading over troubled waters, no one has, is or ever will be worth more dead than alive. You just can't put a price tag on a human life.

4) Nice guys finish last...unless you're a nice guy.

When it comes to nice guys, it's hard to find a nicer guy than the character of George Bailey. Whether it's offering quality financial relief to the working poor or rationing out $2,000 in honeymoon money to scores of citizens during a market crash...it's pretty clear George is gifted in loving his neighbor...and then some.

Yet, when it comes to kind of love George models (see Hebrews 13:1-2), it's the complete lack of hesitation to show kindness and hospitality that really blows me away. 'Cause no matter how hard life got for George, he didn't let it cloud his mind to the point he didn't know what to do. He knew what he needed to...did it...and showered people with tender-hearted kindness along the way.

Ultimately, this can be an inspiration to everyone.

'Cause in a "me first" society, it can be easy to think kindness isn't a rewarding virtue; however, this couldn't be further from the truth. In actuality, kindness has a way of establishing its own account within the hearts if people. Need proof? Just reference the final five minutes of the movie. When George finds himself In a pinch, all the people he'd made a deposit into in years past pitch in to provide exactly what he needs. Does this sound like a man finishing last in any way? In the words of Kevin McAllister: "I don't think so."



Truth is: the movie's grand finale is a fitting representation of God's providence. He's always faithful to give us exactly what we need...exactly when we need it.

5) No man is a failure (especially ones who have friends).

I conclude with a slight tweak of a popular line. When Clarence states, "No man is a failure who has friends" in his farewell to George, he should have said: "No man is a failure"...period (Granted, I get the need for storyline consistency and to re-establish George's positive social impact).

For all men fail, some more than others. But regardless if a man has one true friend or a hundred, one can't base success entirely and/or quantitatively on relational statistics. For love is a transcendent reality with the capacity to be expressed to anyone, whether a loved one or a complete stranger. 

Maybe you've moved to a new town and don't have any friends yet. Fear not! You're not a failure. In the same way your identity is not equivalent to a day dream or day job, it's surely not rooted in the number of people who accept your party invitations. 

'Cause truth isit's the thankful heart, wide awake, unafraid of singing someone else's praise...of going the extra mile to make someone's day...that ultimately gauges the real heart of a man...that allows us to take our brokenness and convert it into grateful surrender. 

After all, is not life, in part, a reflection of our response to begotten love? And are we not called to beget the same heart to our fellow brethren...regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in? 

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At the end of the day, there's much I don't know. But what I do know is this: I want to channel my inner "George Bailey" like I've never before in 2015, not because I want to feel tethered to a fictional character, but because I want to be forthright, like Christ, in loving people where they're at...without a single second wasted on what it will mean to me.

So cheers to a wonderful life and the God that makes it all possible. And cheers to you, my friends, as you continue along the journey God has for you. May you be sparked by begotten love this holiday season...and be courageous in begetting it to others in the coming year. 

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Willpower

I’ve always loved Christmas lights.

The sparkle. The illumination. The flair of color.

 The whole works.


In fact, when I was a toddler, rumor has it I would break down crying if a light burnt out or if a bulb broke (Clearly, I wasn’t aware of a magical, little thing called a spare).

Regardless of infant emotions, point is: it didn’t take long for a fascination to spark.

And as I grew older, I made it a tradition to put up the outdoor Christmas lines every Black Friday, while the rest of the family focused on internal décor.

So as I recently returned to my big box of lights and started decking the brush, I couldn’t help but wonder how Christmas lights are actually fitting reminders as to why we celebrate the season as passionately as we do.

For before Christ could come to be the light of the world, there had to be a willing vessel with the faith to contain it. Pretty crazy, eh? To think at any point in history, a teenage girl would accept one of the most sacred calls in bearing the Son of God at the cost of everything she once held dear.

It honestly blows my mind…especially in today’s world, where it’s so hard to let go of things.

I mean…think about it.

Mary had to be willing to lay it all on the line: her reputation, her identity, her relationships…everything.

And I know we like to make Christmas all about little, ol’ baby Jesus, but when we pause to broaden scope, it allows us to appreciate the incarnation’s supportive cast in greater measure.

Thus, for Christmas this year…I suppose I’ve been in “There’s something about Mary” mode…specifically, the example of her character in the birth narrative.
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When we backtrack to Mary’s encounter with Gabriel (Luke 1:28-38), we find a fascinating dialogue between the two. After Gabriel’s incarnational announcement to Mary, note her response in v. 34:

"How will this be…?"

Man...you talk about radical faith!

I mean…Mary could have easily said, “Why me” or “How can this be”.

But what does she do? She puts the emphasis on “will” over “can”…and I’m telling you, friends…the ramifications of what may appear to be a subtle variance is HUGE!

For her response revealed a strong, anchored faith rooted in a God whom she trusted. Thus, by confessing, “How will this be”, she was essentially saying: “I know this will happen. I just want to know how it will happen. ‘Cause all I know is what God says, goes…and I want to go with it!”

And that’s saying something, especially when we consider the 400 years of divine silence preceding the moment.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Check out how Gabriel initiates his response to Mary’s question:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you...”

Wow! So apparently, Gabriel only needed seven words to not only answer Mary’s question…but also capture the true meaning of Christmas while he was at it.

For Gabriel wasn’t simply telling Mary she would mother the Savior, but he was assuring her: the promise of what’s to come is going to meet with you now.  God is putting a new spirit within you (Ezekiel 11:19-20)…and the miraculous outcome is going to not only going to take on flesh, but take on the sins of the world!*

Again, Mary could have very well freaked out at this point, laughing in the same way Sarah did in Genesis 18:12.

But what do we see? We see a steadfast belief in the ways of God, further evidenced as Mary declares her identity in v. 38: “I am the Lord’s servant…may your word to me be fulfilled.”



Ultimately, Mary’s response in Luke 1 can be a rallying cry for us this Christmas season. ‘Cause when we start to believe in God and the way He wants to use, speak and accomplish mighty things in and through us…then it makes sense why we’d want to respond to Him with the same kind of confidence.
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So as you reflect on the true meaning of Christmas (i.e. Jesus coming into the world to restore God’s original intent)…as you celebrate Jesus as the holy infusion of Immanuel and Hosanna…don’t forget the light of God had to spiritually and physically sown…and had to have a container (Mary) willing to foster it.

How great is our God who threads His redemptive plan through those who are unafraid to yield…of those who respond to God’s call in Isaiah 6:8 fashion: Here I am, Lord. [Use] me…according to your will.

May His will warm…and the wonderful purposes He has for you…saturate your hearts with joy this Christmas season.

Blessings,

~ Cameron
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Footnotes

*In other words: the promise is going to promise a promise…but that second promise is going to preview itself through you as assurance that the first promise is underway.


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Saturday, December 13, 2014

LEGACYouth: "Do You Remember Me?" // Spoken Word






Do you remember me?
And how I came to set you free
The chains of death, I came to break
The sin of man, I came to take

Yet, before nails could pierce my hand
A manger was my promised land
The desert sparkle giving gleam
On son of man, a Godsent dream

The hope of glory, laid to rest
The depths of hell, my life to test

Yet for a time, my skin lay bare
In stable hay, in tender care
My baby anthems shouts of joy
For love divine was now in ploy

Do you remember me?
And how I came on bended knee
How I was sent to become flesh
So you could start a life afresh

Yet, before I could bare your shame
I knew your face, I knew your name
I saw the sparkle in His eye
And that is why I came to die

Do you remember me?
And how I came to turn the key
To reconcile God to man
To redeem His initial plan

Of everlasting life and rest
With all of heaven, highly blest

Behold your King! Behold him dear
For I came to love, for love to be near
So all of men could surely see
The God-revealing light in me

Do you remember me?
And how I came to let man see
Oh, weary world, now full of light
Can you still feel that holy night?

When Gospel peace became our hope
So lasting love could broaden scope

To free all those who trust in Him
To shine His life in places dim

So as you set around the tree
Fear not, be still
Remember me
  
Written by: Cameron J. Fry

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Flash Weather: So You're Dreaming of a White Christmas?

Thought it would be fitting to post a brief weather update on the day of my 10th prime birthday...
I'm going to be honest: the weather outside doesn't feel anything like December...which is rather anticlimactic and depressing; however, we did have the 7th coldest November on record here in Nashville, so a reverse/seesaw pattern isn't too surprising. 
Around this time every year, I get asked if we'll see a 'white Christmas'. The last two times it's happened here in Nashville was 2010 and 1993...and climatologically speaking, we see one in Nashville every 14-15 years. Thus, I wouldn't invest in the idea of one this year, especially if you buy into the law of averages. 
However, the main reason I doubt it will happen this year is due to the current positive AO/NAO, which is bottling up the colder air in Canada and causing the northern snowpack to diminish. If you check out the first map (valid on 12/14), you'll see a classic ridging setup over the eastern half of the US, with above average temperatures tied to above average heights. But even though this may look like a blowtorch forecast with highs in 60's/70's, I believe we'll only see slightly above average with high temps holding mainly in the mid-upper 50's through the middle of the month (given the Pacific zonal flow's tendency to buckle every now and then).
The end of the forecast period looks tricky as we approach Christmas. There's some evidence that our next pattern change (to a colder regime) will take place just in time for Christmas (see second map valid on 12/22), which would up the odds of a wintry conclusion to 2014. While the devil is in the details this far out (primarily in how far the AO/NAO will decrease in week 3/4), point is: it shouldn't be mild all month long. So for those dreaming of a white Christmas, don't stop dreaming; keep on believing. Several big weather minds agree with me in thinking the first month of 2015 will be quite cold...getting a head start around Christmas. 
At any rate, if you're a warm or cold weather fan, the pattern should oscillate back and forth all winter like it has been the past month...so there should be something for everybody...which I'd consider good news. 
Have a great day, everyone.
Cam out.


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Thursday, November 27, 2014

'Tis the Season...to Be Thankful!


Does it ever bother you how Christmas seems to start a little earlier ever year?

I know I fall into that camp.

Seriously…it’s like our culture is allergic to Thanksgiving.
Fall arrives…and it’s Halloween for two months. Halloween ends…and it’s Christmas for two months.
Yet, lost in between…within the crazy carousel of “to do” lists, peppy parties and shopping sessions is the most underrated holiday of the year…
 … (*turkey drumstick roll please*)…Thanksgiving.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love me a cup of Yuletide bliss. I’m not trying to undercut the most wonderful season of all.
It’s just that I balk at the idea of jumping on the premature Christmas celebration bandwagon.
And note: for those who don’t know, yes, I do consider pre-Thanksgiving Christmas celebration to be premature.
I mean…think about it. Our American calendar is not friendly to ‘Turkey Day’ at all.
Not only is it sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, but every year, you have Black Friday encroaching on its territory. In fact, one might as well call Thanksgiving, ‘Black Friday Eve’, just because our culture is more consumed with ‘getting stuff’ than not ‘for-getting’ the very things that make it possible in the first place.
But I guess…in the end, it’s less about the timeline and more about what’s overlooked.
Cause I’ll be honest. I think it’s all too easy to miss out on the true spirit of Thanksgiving…what the day stands for…and its place as the front door to worship…
…whether it’s the inundation of consumerism or the white noise of masses trying to convince others they’re worth buying into… no matter how you slice it, there’s just so much competing for our attention this time of year.
It’s almost as if our culture exalts gratitude as a secondary priority…along with the notion that if there is any “relevance”, it’s because we somehow earned the “right” to appreciate the attitude.
But only if we’d be willing to celebrate the life we’ve been given*…imagine how the world around us would change.
If we just took more time to reflect on the privilege of being alive…of being created…of having a unique purpose…and having the opportunity to live it well…
…that’s ultimately what Thanksgiving is all about!
And sure, I know we should be thankful every day of the year. It’s not like Thanksgiving is the only day we can demonstrate gratitude.
But that doesn’t mean we downplay the day as a fun, little extra that primarily serves to jumpstart Christmas.
‘Cause truth is: Thanksgiving is not Christmas’ footstool.
It’s not a holiday filler to get us through the dog days of fall.
And it’s certainly more than a day to [solely] rejoice in what we have.
For if we truly dig deep into the stuffing of Thanksgiving, we find its first and foremostly a day to celebrate who we are.
For what we have is a byproduct of not only who we are, but who we reflect. And hear me, I’m not saying it’s meaningless to be grateful for achievements and milestones; however, if we limit expressions of thanksgiving to just the people in our midst and the roof over our head, then we’re not quite hitting the bullseye of why we celebrate what we celebrate.
Thus, I contend the best way to be thankful is to applaud God…to bring a gift of laughter…of joy…and lay it at His feet. You may not be musically inclined, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sing yourself into his presence (Psalm 100:1-2,MSG).
Because what matters most…is knowing God is God, and God, God. He made us. We’re His people…the well-tended sheep of an all-generous Shepherd with the blessed opportunity to enter His gates with thanksgiving (v. 3-4, MSG).
How flippin’ awesome is that?
So I guess…upon further review, maybe it’s not such a bad thing that Thanksgiving comes one month before Christmas.
‘Cause bottom line: The heart of Thanksgiving is the gateway to embracing the reason why we’re here…in understanding why God would send His only son to take on flesh and die for us.
In other words, Thanksgiving positions us to know the real reason for the season**…and calibrates our entrance into the year’s most joyful month.
I don’t know about you…but I’m super grateful to rest secure in that fact.
And on that note, I bid a fond Thanksgiving/Thanksliving farewell to you and yours.



Be blessed in all you say and do,

~ Cameron
Footnotes:
*as opposed to saying “life we have
** i.e. the Christmas season
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Friday, November 14, 2014

A Brewed Awakening

We’ve all been there before.
  • The crave for caffeinated fulfillment…
  • The mid-afternoon coffee rush…
  • The anticipation of one cup of steeped goodness igniting the day’s doldrums…
When you think about it…it’s pretty amazing how a single coffeeshop stop…and a demitasse of brewed bliss with its steamed satisfaction…can seem to alter the day’s course.

Granted, not every pitstop can afford to be so rewarding.

Take yesterday, for example, when me and some TDOT colleagues moseyed down to a local Starbucks to take advantage of a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ holiday drink special.

As we approached the main entrance, we noticed  the coffeeshop was highly congested with a line nearly extending out the door into the brutal cold.

Thankfully, having purchased coffee at the store before, and seeing how the line progression worked, I was able to educate my group in navigating the shop’s awkward floor plan. Essentially, to keep upcoming guests from waiting out in the cold, we decided to walk through a second entrance (a signature mark of a downtown corner Starbucks) and wait at a point in the store where the line should have been.

Yet, despite what may have appeared as an anomalous maneuver, under no condition were we trying to cut our way ahead in line. We were simply trying to stay ahead of the curve (pun intended) and recalibrate the line to honor future guests.

Unfortunately, our move was severely misinterpreted by a pack of…well, let’s just call them an older, alterative version of “mean girls”.   

PshWe were here first,” cried the alpha.

Yeah, we were definitely here before you guys,” said another.

Oh, yeah. I know. It’s just the line usually starts back here in the mornings,” I replied. “I wasn’t…”

“Well, it starts right here today! So…move aside.”

I was stunned…
…crossed between my inner Madea and my external suavity.

 

Seriously, I was thinkin': those chicks are gonna brew the day.

I mean…goodness gracious…you talk about brazen barking and a nasty, condescending attitude, completely contraire to an otherwise serene ambience…let me tell ya, they were settin’ the bar high.

After taking a few more snarky pelts, I decided to leave the premises before I was tempted to give them a generous piece of my mind (which may or may not have been partially inspired by this iconic scene from Disney's Brink).

After all, it’s not like I was the one running on an assumption and using it to falsely accuse a complete stranger as if his moral character could be so easily appraised.

But though my intent had been brutally misjudged, even though a gesture intended for kindness had been falsely interpreted, I realized there was only one thing to do…
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Yes, that's right.

I had to shake it off.

No way around it.

Even as one far removed from the Taylor Swift bandwagon, I recognized some powerful truth when applying the lyrics to the situation.

‘Cause truth is: Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate.

They might even berate, berate, berate…

But under no condition, does this mean we have to deflate, deflate, deflate (i.e. internalize unjust criticism)

Instead, in those moments, we just gotta shake, shake, shake…shake it off! Shake it off!

 How freakin’ awesome is that?

We can’t control the liars and cheats of the world…we can’t prevent others from misjudging us from time to time…

…but what we can do is turn the other cheek in a way that says, my dignity, my value is found in Christ. I don’t need to retaliate or prove my innocence, when my heart is perfectly known by my Creator. Besides, respect from men doesn’t validate my identity, my call or my will. Thus, I don’t need to exert power to prove a point, but rather rest in the soothing lounge chair that is God’s heart…with my holiday expresso in hand.

‘Cause if we truly trust God, then we’ll give Him the honor of dealing with those who persecute, violate and disrespect us for His sake. In other words, we don’t have to steal God’s thunder by striking back in the same spirit when we trust that He will ultimately confront everyone’s humanity. This is why, when we zoom out and think big picture, we should rejoice when God convicts and disciplines us, as opposed to the blind man who has no clue of his ways.

Going back to Taylor Swift, I have no idea whether or not she had Matthew 5:39 when she wrote her acclaimed hit. Regardless, the provoked takeaway is: Don’t underestimate the value of the left cheek. It will ultimately keep your hands free so you can not only hold on to your coffee…but give someone else a cup of the life you have inside you.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Love by Association

Recently, I was reading in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, discussing the passage with LEGACYouth, when a coupled things jumped out at me.

When Paul says in v. 11: "I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one"...it can be easy to misinterpret or misapply this passage. 

Paul isn't saying 'wall up' against those who are backsliding or lost. He isn't saying ignore or cut off all ties with those who are struggling in their faith/to live righteously. On the contrary, he is saying don't associate...don't join in with the decisions they're making...with the lies they're buying into. Again, we have to remember to filter our interpretation of Scripture through the lens of Ephesians 6:12, in the sense what we wrestle with is principalities and powers of darkness, not flesh and blood. When we remember the real war is not with man, then we should find greater strength to show compassion for the unbeliever, while speaking the truth in love to those who do believe.

In essence, this is what Paul is getting at.

We can love the person without loving their choices.

In other words, we can love unconditionally without tolerating or associating our lifestyle with those mired in pride or self-centered forms of gratification.



Thus, we can eat a meal with our lost friend without the shame...'cause when we examine the ministry of Christ at large, we find Jesus living this out in full. Time after time, he intentionally went out of his way to pursue the idolater, reviler, drunkard, adulterer and swindler, knowing they needed the light of his love the most. Yet, with his disciples and close followers, who already believed in him and were consistently exposed to his light, Jesus spoke firmly and honestly (i.e. "Oh, you, of little faith", "Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things", etc). In other words, they already had the hope, they just needed the correction. 
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Note how Jesus addresses both crowds in the clip below:


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So whether we're looking to communicate hope (demonstrating love through compassion) or direction (speaking the truth in love), the point is we need to be intentionally loving in the process, without putting ourselves in any compromising situation.

And I believe if we aim to live both of these charges out, we'll be more effective in being like Christ and reaching others in a transformational way.

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flash Weather: Get Ready for Frozen Turkeys

When it comes to long-term weather forecasting,  as I've said before to quote the great James Spann: "There's simply no skill in pinning down details past seven days."

In other words, while it takes specialized training to know how to dicpher real-time computer model data, when the conversation changes to, "Will we see snow on Christmas Day this year?", it's really anyone's guess.

Thus, I completely understand if one considers long-term forecast specialists to be professionals in "crap shooting". After all, the weather can seem to have a mind of its own.

However, as the clock has turned into November, there's been considerable buzz surrounding the weather pattern for Thanksgiving week...which is only fair as it's one of the most traveled weeks of the entire year.

And though I remain fairly conservative in posting any resemblance of a forecast 2-3 weeks out, I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed with model consistency regarding weather happenings in the 18-25 day time frame.

Seriously, I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

'Cause bottom line: I can't remember the last time there was so much model agreement on an large-impact event over 14 days out. Regardless if this event is currently overhyped (or even downplayed), it's pretty incredible what's going on in the weather world right now.

With that said, let me just cut straight to the point: If you live in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., we're headed for a pretty cold month...at least by November's standards. No, this isn't going to be like January, when the polar vortex trended almost the entire month; however, we could see several days with January-like temperatures.

Thus, in terms of negative temperature anomalies, I wouldn't be surprised if we a) end November around five degrees below-average and b) experience the coldest November since...(*gulp*)...1976.

Now, I won't go into any detail on the epic winter of 1976-77; however, I have heard several credible sources remark on how that winter is showing up as a top analog year for the upcoming winter. For those who are unfamiliar, when I say 'analog year', this simply means a featured year from the past that best resembles the current year, taking into consideration the state of current teleconnections (the ENSO, PDO, QBO, PNA, AO, NAO, etc.). So when a meteorologist says the atmospheric stage for winter 2014-15 is most comparable to 1976-77, this should be music to any snow lover's ears.

But enough bambling about.

For the remainder of this blog, I'm going to harp on three reasons why this month is going to be cold and why we should keep a close eye on Thanksgiving week.

1) The Arctic Oscillation

Check out the AO forecast chart to the right...and note how the AO starts to tank in just a couple of days. Pretty remarkable how amplified the AO outlook looks right now. For all you weather geeks reading this, you may notice how a similar drop occurred one month ago in early October...and how it helps ignite a stretch of below-normal temperatures and our first frost of the season. Being we're one month closer to the start of meteorological winter, it's fair to wonder how low the temps will go next week...and if they will be tolerable for wintry precip.

Now, some of you may be wondering: What does a falling AO mean? Fair question. Basically, a falling AO, especially once it drops into negative territory, means higher pressures set up in the polar regions, in turn, promoting weaker zonal winds and polar, continental air to dive southeastward from Canada into the eastern third of the conus. This is a) why a negative AO is virtually synonymous with colder-than-normal temperatures for this part of the country and b) why the GFS's depiction of the AO's behavior for the next week has caught many meteorologists' attention.


What's triggering such a drastic plunge? We'll get to that in just a moment.

But first, I want to provide a little visual refresher concerning the difference between a +AO and a -AO. Check out the graphics below. When it comes to comparisons, the key is where the ridging and troughing axises set up (which is influenced by lower pressures setting up at high latitudes and higher pressures setting up at mid latitudes).

With a +AO, the dominant players are the Aleutian and North Atlantic polar vortexes, which combine to maintain a strong, fast moving jet stream around the Canadian/US border. In essence, this becomes the dividing line between polar air locked up to the north and the mild, Pacific air caught up in a zonal flow to the south. Note how the jet stream is oriented west to east, with little amplification. This is a trademark of a +AO. See how all the cold air is confined to the arctic circle? This is why the majority of the U.S. experiences warmer-than-normal temperature whenever a +AO is established.

However, with a -AO, the pattern is practically reversed, where the polar jet is much weaker and more susceptible to blocking patterns, such as the Greenland Block and the East Pacific Ridge. With lower pressures at mid-latitudes and higher pressures at high-latitudes, the Aleutian polar vortex is displaced further west, while the North Atlantic polar vortex becomes a non-factor. This allows the Hudson Bay polar vortex to take center stage and deliver much colder air further south. In extreme cases, a cross polar flow can establish itself through the 'Siberian Express' and deliver record-breaking or record-threatening arctic outbreaks. This is essentially what happened back in January.

2) Typhoon Nuri, The Bering Sea Rule & The Lezak Recurring Cycle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Nuri_(2014)Typhoon Nuri - According to NOAA officials, forecasters are watching the development of what could be the strongest Bering Sea storm on record. Despite recent weakening, not only does the storm maintain strength equivalent to a category 4 hurricane, but will likely "bomb out" and encounter a period of rapid intensification. In fact, this past Monday night, the European model was forecasting the extratropical cyclone's barometric pressure to plummet down to a record-shattering low of 916 mb on Saturday morning, while other models, like the GFS-parallel, show an even stronger storm setting up at 914 mb (Note: These graphics below denote two things: 1) the geopotential height values in color and the mean sea level pressure (MSLP) values with the black pressure contours).

Folks, if this forecast verifies, this will easily break the all-time Bering Sea record of 927 mb set at Dutch Harbor in 1977. But while the ECMWF ensembles (a collected average of 52 members) forecasts the storm to be a little less strong at 938 mb, the main takeway for those thousands of miles away is that the most accruate forecast models in the world all show this very powerful cyclone merging with other atmospheric teleconnections to produce a series of arctic outbreaks across the central and eastern U.S. the next 2-3 weeks.
And just for perspective, check out the ECMWF MSLP Anomaly graphic to the right. See that giant black spot west of Alaska? That's the monster storm we're talking about. Note how much deeper the pressure is compared to other low pressure systems in the vincinity. There's really no comparison.

For those who read my 2014-15 Winter Weather Prediction piece, you'll remember how inferences on long-term weather outcomes can be determined by assessing the state of Pacific Ocean temperature anomalies at various locations. When we talk about low pressure events, this translates into colder, stormier conditions, while the opposite can be said about high pressure events. So even though we're talking about a more immediate scenario, the atmospheric principles still apply.

The Bering Sea Rule The Bering Sea Rule, a term that became popular when Joe Bastardi was still working at AccuWeather, takes the occurrence of high and low pressure systems in the Bering Sea and extrapolates their re-occurence over the US 2-3 weeks later. Thus, if a typhoon recurves north and east as it approaches Japan, say...by means of a strong cold front, the weather in the eastern US is often teleconnected to the event a couple weeks out.

This is why it makes sense to monitor what happens with Typhoon Nuri. If we take the storm in the image above (valid on 11/8) and apply 2-3 weeks to it, we can see how there could a significant storm in the November 23-29 time frame. Talk about crazy timing, IF the BSR happens to verify in this case.

The Lezak Reocurring Cycle - According to the theory developed by Gary Lezak in the late 1980's, the Lezak's Reocurring Cycle refers to the unique weather pattern that sets up between October 1st and November 10th every autumn. During this time, "long term" longwave troughs and ridges become established over the northern hemisphere, marking the weather pattern in a way in which it repeats itself every 45-60 days until it slowly weakens and falls apart in the summer.

3) Sudden Stratospheric Warming - When we talk about a SSW event, it means we're talking about temperature anomaly behavior at the 10 millibar level (almost 20,000 meters up). According to this animation from CPC, last month featured a very early stratospheric warming event expanding across Eurasia and the North Pacific. Like the Bering Sea Rule, there's a rough time period between pattern emergence and encountered effects. In this case, when we find evidence of a SSW, especially on the other side of the globe, it takes roughly 2-4 weeks for this to translate into a colder pattern in our neck of the woods. Essentially, what a SSW does is weaken the polar vortexes enough to the point they become more mobile and displace further south towards to the U.S., thus, reinforcing lows setting up at the low-lattitudes. As mentioned above, this correlates to a -AO, which is necessary if the mid-south/southeastern quadrant of the U.S. are to have a decent shot at seeing any snow. So overall, we can see how the duo of Typhoon Nuri and the ongoing SSW is going to radically shape the AO (and NAO) pattern for the rest of the month.



Conclusions

Perhaps you've scrolled down straight to this section just to get all the juicy details without the mumbo-jumbo. Well, when we combine all three of the forementioned ingredients together (Typhoon Nuri, the current SSW and the state of the AO), it translates into the increased likelihood of a blocky, cold pattern establishing itself pretty much everywhere east of the Continental Divide for the next few weeks. Thus, it's no wonder why the Climate Prediction Center is so confident with how the weather will fare in the medium and long-range. How about a 80% chance of middle Tennessee seeing colder temperatures in the 6-10 day time frame for starters? If you check your weather apps, you'll see how highs in the low 40's/upper 30's start to pop up next Wednesday. But this is only the beginning! What happens next week will, for the most part, stick around for the majority of the month. Could middle Tennessee see some early snow like we did last year? It's becoming more of a possibility, though climatology says: Don't get your hopes up too soon.


While the map above assesses the probabilities of temperature anomalie beheavior, the ECMWF map (valid through 11/13) below accounts for the actual temperature anomalies at 850 mb (or ~5,000 feet) in ºC. So if this map is correct, mean temperature values for the next week should be ~10-11º F below normal.


Believe it or not, the CFS ensembles suggest the colder air will likely continue into early December! By the look of the map below, you can see how temperatures way out in the 25-35 day time frame run 5-7 degrees below normal. So essentially, this cold pattern will not be a transient one. Such a notion lines up well with the -AO and the SSW/Bering Sea storm combo platter. 


So keep the winter coats handy...and stay tuned for a wild ride of weather as we approach the holiday season. As always, I will keep you posted & ahead of the storm...

~ Cameron

Sources
  • The Weather Centre
  • The Weather Prediction
  • The Washington Post
  • Kentucky Weather Center
  • Climate Prediction Center
  • Tropical Tidbits

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