Weathering the Storm: Winter Lows and Shipping Woes', illustrating challenges in freight logistics during adverse weather conditions

Weathering the Storm: Winter Lows and Shipping Woes

by LJM Group


Both long-term climate change and short-term weather patterns can have a significant impact on shipping and supply chain costs. For the foreseeable future, climate change is projected to increase the frequency and intensity of some extreme weather events, with a corresponding impact on localized weather patterns. Heat waves will likely be more severe, a rise in sea level could amplify storm surges in coastal areas, and precipitation will likely be more intense.

A well-established corollary is that shipping capacity suffers as weather deteriorates. Cold temperatures and bad winter weather pose a threat to production warehouses, terminals, and highways, along with related supply chain components. Winter storms can close shipping ports, paralyze delivery networks, cause power outages, and strand ships at their docking sites. Additionally, customers often must bear the cost of added drayage fees to move containers out of port. In northern climates, warehouse workers may be unable to travel to their workplace, and power grids can experience sudden interruptions.

These changes can increase the risk of delays, disruptions, damage, and failure across land-based, air, and marine transportation systems. Most transportation infrastructure now being built is expected to last for 50 years or longer, mandating an understanding of how future climate and weather might affect logistics management in the future.


Developing and analyzing detailed weather data resources, with interpretation by experts, can improve the business bottom line through more effective logistics management. With access to an integrated network of carriers, forecasting tools, and advanced analytics, logistics management experts allow clients to explore carrier rates and their likely variation resulting from weather delays.

The ability to negotiate the best rates with carriers, lower existing rates, or obtain greater shipping options depends in large part on analyzing and understanding such current market trends. Having access to a team of trained logistics experts, along with advanced analytics, can provide business partners with a customized plan for each shipment and every carrier in the network. A cutting-edge transportation management system can identify which shipments can be consolidated into a single load, possibly saving costs, and reducing storage and processing capacity requirements.

Developing “Weather Intelligence” is a highly effective strategy. As one example, commercial weather forecasters, such as Accuweather, can enhance generic winter weather outlooks by looking at macro level trends, including climate change, El Niño and La Niña influence, and longer-range computer models.

This winter’s forecasted temperatures are a good example where both atmospheric and oceanic influences have come into play. The emergence of La Niña and the Polar vortex behavior are key to this seasons’ temperature forecast, where short-term, significant cold will heavily influence the rest of the winter temperatures, much like it did in Texas during a sudden freeze early in 2021, costing an estimated $10 billion in added supply chain costs.

Current EPA climate and weather studies further suggest the occurrence of a “triple dip La Niña,” noting the third consecutive winter that La Niña will shape the weather patterns across the US. This repeated climate phenomenon occurs when water near the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean is cooler than average, which in turn influences the jet stream and overall weather patterns in North America.

La Niña is not the only meteorological force that can shape weather patterns across the US this winter. One of the more unusual factors that could influence the overall weather patterns can be traced back to a cataclysmic volcano eruption that took place in the early weeks of 2022. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai underwater volcano located about 2,200 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia, erupted in grand fashion, sending a significant plume of gas, ash, and water vapor high into Earth’s atmosphere. This unprecedented amount of debris could still impact weather on a global scale.

The fallout from this eruption towered through the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere where most weather occurs and reached into the stratosphere. This “once-in-a-lifetime” eruption was so powerful that it sent shock waves around the world and caused the amount of water vapor in the stratosphere to increase by roughly 5%, according to NASA analysts. Such an eruption, and the sheer amount of water vapor injected into the stratosphere, could be enough to temporarily affect Earth’s global average temperature.

Unlike volcanic ash, which reflects sunlight, the water vapor acts like a blanket and keeps warmer air trapped underneath. Instead of cooling the surface, the reaction could be more warming, extending into the winter months. The resultant lingering water vapor from the January eruption could indirectly help to fortify the polar vortex over the North Pole, preventing it from dipping down across North America.

Much like Accuweather’s data-intensive predictive modeling, logistics management experts can help develop custom data solutions and evidence models that take the guesswork out of their customer’s shipping, routing and scheduling. Recognizing the increasing complexity of forecasting, a parcel management specialist like LJM Group offers clients overall Logistics Advisory Services and other expert planning strategies, leveraging their network of data sources to assist companies in solving parcel and logistical issues.

The result? Delivery of advanced business intelligence models that integrate weather and related proprietary information, and solutions to enhance a competitive edge.



1. NRC (2008). The Potential Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Transportation. Transportation Research

Board Special Report 290. National Research Council (NRC).

2. USGCRP (2014). Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Melillo, Jerry M., Terese (T.C.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe (eds.). United States Global Change Research Program. 841 pp.

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