Going the Wrong Way

With a feature moving through New England, it seemed fairly logical that temperatures would tumble in Springfield. It seemed even more likely that the rainier day, Monday, would be cooler than the drier day. As it happened, neither of these things were true, as the cloudier, rainier day ended up several degrees warmer than the drier Sunday. The National Weather Service correctly navigated the less than intuitive forecast for a victory.
Actuals: Sunday – .02 inches of rain, High 64, low 51
Monday – .46 inches of rain, High 68, Low 49

Grade: B-C

Savannah, Georgia

I don’t know how Savannah got it’s name. It’s spelled different than the African savannas. Maybe it’s just because it’s so danged hot, just like a savanna. The extra h is for “humid”.

At 1153AM, ET, Savannah was reporting a temperature of 83 degrees with clear skies and a relatively manageable dew point of 59 degrees. There is a jet streak over the northern Gulf of Mexico which is at present providing the nearest cloud cover, as well as the nearest inclement weather, which is developing over east Texas and promises some headaches before the week is through in Savannah.
Low pressure is developing in East Texas with a jet streak that will phase into a broader jet trough that extends into the Canadian Prairies. Expect Thursday to remain fairly tranquil, if hot and humid, but showers and storms will be primed to arrive on Friday morning. The association with the broader trough will mean less organization in the storms over Georgia, and the pivoting nature of most high amplitude waves will reduce the chance of a real influx of cold air Friday evening. It will still rain and potentially storm a bit, but Friday would be much worse if these two features didn’t merge.
Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, increasing clouds, High 84, Low 63
Friday – Rain, maybe some thunder, generally clearing out in the afternoon, High 82, Low 64

TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy skies in the morning will give way to cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 87, Low 62
Friday – Showers in the morning, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. Thunder possible. High 81, Low 67

AW: Tomorrow – Partly sunny; warm High 87, Low 61
Friday – More clouds than sun, a couple of showers and a thunderstorm; not as hot High 82, Low 65

NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny,High 86, Low 64
Friday – A chance of showers and thunderstorms, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 7am. Cloudy, High 80, Low 68

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, High 83, Low 63
Friday – Showers with a chance of thunderstorms, High 83, Low 67

WN: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, High 86, Low 64
Friday – Mostly cloudy with showers likely, High 80,Low 68

FIO: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy starting in the afternoon. High 83, Low 61
Friday – Mostly cloudy until afternoon. High 81, Low 66

Forecast.io is so bold as to think this system is going to dissipate before it even arrives on the Georgia Coast. Here is the satellite imagery with clouds over the northern Gulf.

A terrific recovery

Low pressure was sliding it’s way northeast and away from northern Minnesota during the middle of last week. There was even the suggestion that a snowflake could fall near Duluth early on Thursday morning, with some chilly raindrops a sure bet. Indeed, there was a drop or two of rain but it never cooled enough for snow at Duluth. Temperatures did plummet on Friday morning, diping to the mid 20s, but then, they recovered all the way to the low 60s on Friday afternoon. The Weather Channel and Victoria-Weather ended up locked horns for the tie in Duluth.
Actuals: Thursday – .09 inche of rain, High 52, Low 37
Friday – High 63, Low 26

Grade: C

Syracuse, New York to Tucson, Arizona

Today we embark on a 5-day, cross-country road trip that’ll cover 2,337 miles. That’s a lot of snacks we need to stock up on! Let’s get a move-on, not a moment to waste!

DAY ONE

An area of low pressure is shifting through far southern Quebec/New England, with a cold front trailing through NY/PA back to the OH Valley. There might be an isolated rain shower lingering in the Syracuse area at dawn, but most of this activity should be off to the northeast of the city as we depart on our westward journey. The day should be dry but cloudy to start, then clouds clear out as we pass Buffalo and follow the shores of Lake Erie to Cleveland. From there we turn southward and end our rather uneventful start to the trip in Columbus.

DAY TWO

An area of low pressure looks to shift into the OH Valley to start the day, bringing some rain shower activity to the Columbus area as we head westward. Conditions improve a bit as we make it to Indianapolis, but a second round of showers is possible as we move through IL towards St. Louis as the tail end of a cold front works in from the north. Heavier stuff should remain off to the south as another area of low pressure lifts northeastward from the Lower MS River Valley, but keep an eye out on some shower activity as we pass St. Louis and finish the day in Rolla, MO.

DAY THREE

A fairly quiet day is expected today as our leg is between systems. Some clouds may increase during the afternoon hours as we head out of southwestern MO past Joplin. Southwerly winds are expected to increase as low pressure begins to intensify in the foothills of CO/WY, but conditions will remain dry as we finish our relatively short day in Oklahoma City.

DAY FOUR

Low pressure speeds off to the north of our route today as it moves through NE to IL, while the tail end of a cold front sags into OK. Cloudy skies and perhaps a shower or two will greet our morning as we start heading towards Oklahoma City, but nothing particularly heavy is expected. Cloudy skies continue as we pass Amarillo but late afternoon/evening storms look to stay north of I-40 as we press onwards into New Mexico. Our day ends in Vaughn, NM.

DAY FIVE

A dry day is in store as we finish our lengthy trip. While low pressure gets situated over the Four Corners region, precip should stay well off to the north over central UT/CO. Gusty winds, particularly in mountain passes, could make for some interesting sections as we head west out of Las Cruces along I-10, but shouldn’t be too bad as we finally make it to Tucson!

Learn your geography!

One persistent problem that hasn’t gone away, even with improvements to forecasting and technology is the reception of a weather forecast, in particular during alert or warning periods. NPR recently released an article that highlights the number one issue with weather forecast reception among the public.

People just don’t know where they are.

I reached out to some meteorologists and social scientists in the process of writing my book, (which comes out next month!) and more than any discussion on a particular type of weather phenomenon, the dissemination of alerts and warnings stood out as the most problematic issue with regards to operational meteorology. While meteorologists can continue to refine our communication of the severity and immediacy of a weather situation, it’s hard to tell someone to be vigilant of the weather in their area, if they don’t even know where their area is.

The NPR Facebook post for this article had many commenters claiming that James Spann’s methods for testing this out were flawed. How can anyone figure out where they are if you are given a map with only county and state lines? If you are given a state, I would posit, you should be able to know, roughly, what part of the state you are in. This should take only a couple of glances at the map to get yourself a rough idea. Failing that, warnings are given on a county basis. Learn county names, and you are a step ahead of the game.

Admittedly, I grew up as a kid who loved looking at maps and knowing where I was. I’m visiting relatives as I write this, and I know exactly where I am on a map of South Dakota, just as much for my own interest as for the benefit of receiving weather information (we did get thunderstorms overnight, though they were not severe). Also, I’ve been looking at maps for my entire professional career, so that is surely a benefit to me. That said, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to address one’s physical location in schools across the country at an early age. If it’s too late for some older people, perhaps we can inform young students and THEY can help their parents along the way.

Springfield, Massachusetts

For it’s small size, the state of Massachusetts is a compelling weather state. From the exposed Cape Cod to the mountains of the western Berkshires, there are a lot of different scenarios at work. It’s a difficult place to get a handle on for meteorologists, and not just because Massachusetts is hard to spell.

At 3:53PM, ET, Springfield was reporting a temperature of 67 degrees with overcast skies and a brisk south wind. Low pressure over western Pennsylvania was becoming quite occluded, with warm air surging up the east coast and pushing the occluded/cold front offshore. An inverted trough was brining general rain showers to the eastern Great Lakes, and would be drifting through New England through today.
The upper level trough will be overridden by a more laminar flow through eastern Canada. The surface low pressure is going to continue to weaken and lose momentum as it slides into New England. Still, a little bit of shower activity will sneak in tomorrow, and the system will revitalize over the ocean and increase the chance for rain and thunder through the day on Monday.
Tomorrow – Scattered showers, High 70, Low 54
Monday – Mor overcast with a better chance for rain, High 67, Low 48

TWC: Tomorrow – Cloudy. Slight chance of a rain shower. High – 67, Low 54
Monday – A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. Slight chance of a rain shower. High 68, Low 48

AW: Tomorrow – Times of clouds and sun High 67, Low 52
Monday – Periods of rain High 66, Low 47

NWS: Tomorrow – A chance of showers, mainly before 9am. Mostly cloudy, High 66, Low 52
Monday – Showers likely, mainly after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, High 66, Low 48

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy. A chance of showers in the morning, High 65, Low 54
Monday – Showers likely, High 65, Low 46

WN: Tomorrow – Cloudy with heavy showers, High 66, Low 55
Monday – Nostly cloudy with light showers likely High 66, Low 48

FIO: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High 68, Low 54
Monday – Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High 68, Low 48

Showers earlier today encircled the region, but looked ominous south of Long Island.

The cold side

Not unlike today, there were strong thunderstorms over the lower Mississippi Valley. When we looked at the weather in Texarkana, many outlets sounded the alarm, prospecting for severe weather in the region. In fact, when storms really got going, Texarkana was entrenched in heavy rain and wasn’t destabilized enough for severe storms. Temperatures couldn’t even climb out of the 60s, but in better news, it remained cool because the system was almost out of the area already, and Sunday was a much quieter day. Forecast.io had nearly perfect numbers
Actuals: Saturday – 1.26″ of rain, High 59, Low 55
Sunday – High 65, Low 45

Grade: A-C

Ogden, Utah to Duluth, Minnesota

Google recommends two routes between Ogden and Duluth. One of them only has Fargo as the largest town between the two destinations. We’re going to take a more southerly route, in which we will pass through the Twin Cities. It’s a little less lonely. The drive will take 2 1/2 days and cover 1381 miles. Our pace will be 67.1mph, which means that the first two days will intend to conclude after 536.7 miles. Hope you like country music, because I bet there isn’t much else on the radio.

DAY ONE (Friday)
The worst place to get stuck in the weather is the mountains. Slick roads plus climbs and drops and it can get a little dicey. Well, we are in Utah, and they don’t like dice. There will be high pressure in the northern Rockies tomorrow, holding a developing area of low pressure up in Canada while it warms up along our route. We will get to the sleepy eastern Wyoming town of Mule Creek, which is north of Lusk.

DAY TWO (Saturday)
Another advantage to the southern route, aside from seeing actual human beings, is that the area of low pressure moving through Canada won’t carry enough cold air or momentum to intercept us as we pass through South Dakota or southwest Minnesota. We’ll make it to Mountain Lake, Minnesota with dark clouds with no rain on the northwestern horizon as we end the day.

DAY THREE (Sunday)
If there is any precipitation with the passage of this cold front, it will be overnight as we recline in Mountain Lake. The cold front will be through southern Minnesota, so cool conditions will return as we head towards Duluth. Duluth is a very nice town, and because of Lake Superior it is always a little cool. Bring a jacket!

Duluth, Minnesota

It’s the middle of April, and, disgusting though it may sound, we can’t officially exclude snow from the forecast. Not without a thorough examination, anyway.

At 416PM, CT, Duluth was reporting a temperature of 41 degrees with drizzle and a brisk northwest wind. The temperature across the border in Superior, where wind was more directly coming off the Lake of the same name, was only in the mid 30s. No snow is presently being reported in northwest Wisconsin, but it is certainly not out of the question as cold air continues to filter in.
Low pressure will track from southeast Minnesota, through central Wisconsin and into northern Michigan, which will be near enough to Duluth that cold air won’t really sneak in until late in the game. There will be a little bit of leftover moisture overnight when the temperature profile is most likely to permit snow in the early morning hours tomorrow. There will be a quiet period Thursday afternoon, followed by a very pleasant day on Friday. An area of low pressure moving through northern Saskatchewan will drag warmer air north by Friday evening.
Tomorrow – Cloudy with drizzle in the morning, then sunny, High 51, Low 37
Friday – Sunny and warmer, High 60, Low 36

TWC: Tomorrow – Cloudy with light rain early. Snow may mix in High 51, Low 36
Friday – Sunny skies High 56, Low 31

AW: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy, a brief shower or two, High 49, Low 36
Friday – Mostly sunny; not as cool High 56, Low 33

NWS: Tomorrow – Rain likely before 7am, then showers likely, mainly between 7am and 2pm. Mostly cloudy, High 49, Low 37
Friday – Sunny, High 57, Low 32

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy. ain showers likely in the morning then a chance of rain showers in the afternoon, High 51, Low 38
Friday – Sunny, high 57, Low 33

WN: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with light showers likely, High 48, Low 37
Friday – Sunny, High 57, Low 32

FIO: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High 54, Low 40
Friday – Partly cloudy overnight. High 63, Low 36

Forecast.io went way warmer than the rest of the group, suggesting faith in model guidance. Makes sense since it is a computer algorithm. I captured the radar much later than I started the forecast, but there is still a bit of light rain in the Arrowhead of Minnesota.

Early start to the severe season

Generally speaking, Tornado Alley is at its most active during the late spring and early summer. The most treacherous tornadoes in Oklahoma’s history have all seem to come in the first week in May, for example. Here in 2019, however, we have been reminded that the so called “Dixie Alley” sees its busiest time in the early part of spring.

We’ve already seen the deadliest tornadoes in 6 years on March 3rd, as a twister in Beauregard, Alabama killed 23 people there alone. Earlier this week, destructive tornadoes rumbled from Franklin and Alto, Texas to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

This pattern is expected to continue in the next couple of days. There is a chance for strong thunderstorms today in the southern Plains, a bit further west than what we have seen so far, but tomorrow poses a risk for a return of severe storms, with an emphasis on tornadoes in Dixie Alley. There is an enhanced risk for severe storms from Louisiana to Georgia and the Panhandle of Florida.

The jet stream hasn’t quite retreated to Canada yet this early in the season, so surface moisture doesn’t build all the way back to the Plains. Cold air is more dense and has more momentum than warm air, so it has no problem intruding on the southeastern US, touching off the strong storms of early spring.

It will get a little bit further away, that cold air, as the summer approaches and finally arrives. The severe threat in the southeast will lessen, but the oppressive heat and humidity will certainly arrive.