Snowballs?… Snowballs?!!?

May is the time most people start to think of warm weather, sunshine, and the fun summer activities ahead. However, Mother Nature likes to sometime put a monkey wrench into our cheery outlooks. An area of low pressure is developing today over the Central Rockies and will push into the Central Plains by later this evening. A slew of moisture is streaming up from the Gulf ahead of it and will get wrapped around on the north side of it, and will result in some snowfall over the Northern Plains. In addition, as the low shifts eastward through Friday evening, another swath of snow looks to fall over northern MN and WI, with a couple inches possible. We’ve had a ludicrously warm spring we’ve had here in the Twin Cities, we haven’t had snow since February 23rd which led to our first ever snowless March and April on record, so this possible snowfall isn’t going to make people in Central MN and WI very pleased. Snowfall isn’t uncommon over the northern tier of states in early May, but after the warm spring this part of the country has had so far, it’s certainly not a welcome visitor.

Windy

When I look at a surface map, I think of it like a topographical map. The high pressure is like a mountain, low pressure is like a valley. The closer the lines are (the isobars, lines of constant pressure) the greater the change in elevation on our topographical map. The air is like, say, water. It will always try to flow downhill, and will move faster in steeper elevation changes.
This is obviously an over simplification, especially since it doesn’t accurately describe the directionality of the winds. Due to forces like friction and the rotation of the earth, the wind blows roughly 90 degrees to the right of a straight high to low pressure line. Basically, if you stand with your back to the wind and lift your left arm, you are pointing to the lower pressure. That said, it does do a slightly better job describing the speed with which the wind will blow. A steeper pressure gradient does mean stronger winds, just like my mental topographical map would indicate.
This is, by the way, one of the most fundamental things a meteorologist knows. The first thing I remember learning about in my meteorology class was high and low pressure and the immediate effect on wind. I remember walking home from that class lifting my left arm, trying to figure out where the nearest low was. Memories…

Vatican City

The Holy See is the official name of the leadership body of the Catholic Church, and it’s reach is obviously global. The Holy See has been around for centuries, and for being such a small group of people, they are extremely powerful. That said, their territorial location, Vatican City, has only been around for about 90 years, and occupies only about 110 acres in the middle of Rome. Territorially, it is St. Peter’s Basilica and Square, the Sistine Chapel, the Papal offices and other administrative and religious landmarks. Their climate, therefore, is a lot easier to describe specifically. They have a Mediterranean climate, which of course means where the winter is the rainy season, and it is drier in the summer. It’s never cold, and it can get downright hot in the summer. The climate of the Vatican can be described so specifically, as we can even say that the paved St. Peter’s Square leads to slightly warmer temperatures on sunny days. The water from the numerous fountains (no joke) and position along the Tiber means the Vatican is anomalous compared to the rest of Rome in terms of available moisture, and can be more humid and misty as compared to the rest of the world. It’s an unusual nation, being so small, because you can look at such micro details and their impact on overall climate.
Lastly, the Vatican’s daily administrative details, like police and yes, weather advisories, are operated by Italy.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

In one sense, we couldn’t have asked for a better week to talk about the weather of Tennessee. Of course, the reason for that is devastating and melancholy. Perhaps we can bring some better news to Chattanooga.

At 953PM, ET, Chattanooga was reporting a temperature of 68 degrees with clear skies. They are presently between systems, and will enjoy a quiet night. The front that had dumped so much rain on Tennessee is now sitting along the Carolina coast, and the next system lies over the northern Plains, with a cold front tailing through Iowa.
This system is likely not to spread it’s influence as far south as Chattanooga, and is going to occlude rather rapidly thanks to a fairly east-west flowing jet. This will mean a warm up, uncomfortable perhaps to some, thanks to the flow associated with the system, and the cold front likely will not dip further south than the Great Lakes. A minor cool down is a possibility on Thursday with a change in wind direction to come more from the west-northwest, but it will not come with precipitation.
Tomorrow – Partly cloudy and hot, High 89, Low 59
Thursday – Continued hot, with a some clouds in the afternoon, High 90, Low 62

TWC: Tomorrow – Sunny skies. Warm High 87, Low 56
Thursday – More sun than clouds. High 89, Low 59

AW: Tomorrow – Very warm with sunshine High 88, Low 56
Thursday – Mostly sunny and very warm High 87, Low 60

NWS: Tomorrow – Sunny, High 87, Low 57
Thursday – Sunny High 87, Low 57

WB: Tomorrow – Sunny High 89, Low 59
Thursday – Sunny High 89, Low 59

And the NWS point forecast done broke again. That’s a shame. Here is the satellite, showing you where the recent front pulled off to.

Soaker

A cold front has stalled itself along the Appalachians and Smokeys. The city of Nashville is underwater, if you haven’t heard, and the state of Tennessee is in the midst of a full blown catastrophe, with dozens dead due to the rising floodwaters. Kingsport, our forecast from Saturday, was spared that degree of unpleasantness, though the beginning of the week was not enjoyable to say the least. After a brief tease of some rain in the midst of near 90 degree heat on Sunday, they got over an inch of rain on Monday. As it turned out, Weatherbug tied us for the top spot on this one.
Actuals: Sunday – .07 inches of rain, High 89, Low 60
Monday – 1.08 inches of rain, High 79, Low 65

Grade B

Evansville, Indiana

Far southern Indiana, along the shores of the Ohio River for today’s forecast. What mysteries does Evansville provide?

At 954PM, CT, Evansville was reporting clear skies and a temperature of 71 degrees. A fairly inactive cold front lurked to the west over central Illinois, generating a temperature drop off of 10-15 degrees. At this time, however, Evansville was looking at another unseasonably warm day with sunny skies.
A frontal passage over the weekend brought dew points down to the more manageable 50s, and will allow temperatures to spike with the drier conditions. The warmer temperatures may generate enough energy for some showers and storms, particularly to the north later today and into early tomorrow morning.After those scattered showers and storms move out, likely around sunrise, Evansville will see a prolonged period of pleasant weather. A system moving along the US/Canadian border will bring a slight chance for inclement weather late on Wednesday, however the bulk of the forecast period will be dry and the system to the north will aid in southerly flow which will keep things quite warm.
Tomorrow – AM Showers and storms, High 79, Low 55
Wednesday – Increasing clouds late, High 83, Low 57

TWC: Tomorrow – Mainly sunny. (AM showers/storms) Warm. High 82, Low 55
Wednesday – Sunshine. High 87, Low 56

AW: Tomorrow – Partly sunny (AM Showers) High 82, Low 55
Wednesday – Very warm with sunshine high 85, Low 55

NWS: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy (AM Rain), High 79, Low 54
Wednesday – Sunny High 84, Low 57

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny (AM Showers). High 79, Low 54
Wednesday – Mostly sunny. High 84, Low 56

Not bad for hours that residents of Evansville are actually awake. A look at the satellite shows that front that swept through over the weekend, and some poofy clouds that may end up as thunderstorms tonight.

Two disparate forecasts, both very wrong

There were two schools of thought on the forecast in Bangor. One said that things would warm up on Sunday after a warm front passed though and some stout southerly flow picked up. Another said the temperature would drop off precipitously on Sunday as clouds and drizzle rolled in. The forecasts could not have been more different. As it happens, they were both wrong. Extremely wrong. The temperature was able to climb to near 80 both days of the weekend, and the lows were also much warmer than expected. On top of that, the rain that was supposed to come on Sunday never came, and instead we looked at some isolated drizzle on Saturday. We could say that The Weather Channel was the winner in Bangor, but the truth is, there was no winner. Well, except for the people of Bangor, who saw such excellent weather.
Actuals: Saturday – rain reported, not measured, High 79, Low 45
Sunday – High 79, Low 55

Grade: D (very close to an F)

April Forecaster of the Month

The past 18 months or so have been tough for the folks from State College. They have been missing on a lot of short term forecasts and have been putting out some ludicrous long range forecasts, Well, this past month, they managed to stay at the top of the standings with several quality prognostications. It came down to the last forecast in Allentown, however, when they had the top forecast and The Weather Channel came in 4th, allowing Accuweather to sneak by the denizens of Atlanta for the top spot. Congrats Accuweather, it’s been a long time coming.

Now here is a look at some tornado safety tips.

Bangor, Maine to Kingsport, Tennessee

Usually when we do these road trips, I break them into 8 hour days, and if there is any left over time (according to Mapquest), I add an extra day if there is more than 2 hours. Today’s trip from Maine to Tennessee is 18 hours and 1 minute’s worth of driving. Awesome. it’s a 1073 mile trek through the busiest corridor in the United States, I-95, so we’ll go at the relatively slow pace of 59.6mph, and cover 476 miles on those first two days, leaving about 120 miles for the third day. I think that will be manageable.

DAY ONE

By the time we are in Parsippany, New Jersey, the first stop for today’s journey, we will have covered 35 of our route’s turns, according to Mapquest. Amazing. The drive through Boston and New York will be mostly agreeable in terms of weather, though hot, humid conditions will build, necessitating the use of air conditioning or a rolled down window in order to hear the denizens of New York calling you a moron. Not that you are, of course. A boundary shifting towards the east, kind of a cold front associated with a low over eastern Canada and kind of a warm front associated with the strong system in the Mid-Mississippi Valley will mean a threat for some isolated sprinkles after Hartford and until we reach Parsippany.

DAY TWO
Our second day of travel will be considerably wetter, as we drive right along the east-west oriented part of our cold front/warm front combo, from Parisppany to to about Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. In that line, there is a good chance we will see very heavy rain and some isolated thunderstorms. There may be a break in the action when we get south of Chambersburg, because after passing through the 34 combined miles of Maryland and West Virginia, we will be on the lee side of the Appalachians, which will help stamp out the thunderstorms for a while. Sure, there will be a few showers as we approach Dublin and Newbern, Virginia. Pick one of those cities, and that’s our destination on Monday.

DAY THREE
Hey, good thing we waited to finish this trip! The front will be through, and clearing, cooler conditions will be taking hold of the Smokeys when we arrive. Instead of torrential downpours, we will arrive in Kingsport in style, with pleasant weather all around us.

Kingsport, Tennessee

We’re taking a trip to the far eastern tip of Tennessee for the second week in a row. This may be a messy beginning of the week.

At 1153PM, ET, Kingsport was reporting a temperature of 83 degrees with partly cloudy skies. A line of showers and thunderstorms extends from the Daniel Boone Forest in Kentucky to just east of Crossville, and is marching methodically to the east towards Kingsport. The systems primary cold front was generating a line of thunderstorms and an energetic environment ahead of the cold front and the SPC has issued a “high risk” for parts of western Tennessee. This energetic part of the system still has a while before it can reach the Smokeys, and will likely be taken apart before any severe weather can reach Kingsport.
Expect just a few showers and storms today and tomorrow ahead of the primary system, but not anything particularly intense. The primary cold front will arrive instead late on Monday with the heaviest rain and thunderstorms. With this frontal passage, there will be a threat for some strong winds and even some small hail, something that is not expected today or tomorrow. With strong southerly flow ahead of the front, expect hot and humid weather tomorrow, with only a minor cool down with rain and precip on Monday.
Tomorrow – Isolated midday thunderstorms, High 88, Low 63
Monday – Strong storms and heavy rain in the afternoon, High 80, Low 62 (Non Standard)

TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy and windy with a thunderstorm or two possible in the afternoon. A few storms may be severe. High 89, Low 68
Monday – Showers and thunderstorms High 77, Low 68

AW: Tomorrow – Intervals of clouds and sun with a couple of thunderstorms around; breezy High 85, Low 62
Monday – Mostly cloudy with a shower or thunderstorm around High 80, Low 63

NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Breezy High 87, Low 62
Monday – Showers and thunderstorms in the morning…then showers likely and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Breezy High 77, Low 62

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Breezy High 89, Low 64
Monday – Showers and thunderstorms in the morning…then showers likely and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Breezy. High 81, Low 63

It should be noted that the NWS was having problems with their site, and those numbers are estimates of things like “upper 80s” and whatnot. They’ll still do better than the Weather Channel, who I am not sure knows what they are doing on this one. A look at the radar shows rain on the way.

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