A Wednesday Surge Of Warmth

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For a complete look at the current storm see my previous blog here. I thought today we’d talk about a phenomena that has happened time after time so far in the “Winter That Isn’t”. That would be downsloping winds aiding in warming us up to well above average temperatures. This has been the case more than several times this winter season, and combined with a noted lack of snowcover across the Plains, and especially the Western Plains states, we’ve really felt the benefits of this phenomena.

They occur when the winds blow from the higher terrain out to the west of the region and that air is brought to us. You probably know that as you go west you slowly go up in elevation. The elevation @ KCI is 1026′ AMSL (Above Mean Sea Level). As you travel west you, on average, go slowly UP in elevation, so that by the time you reach Dodge City, the elevation is 2550′ and by the time you get to Goodland, KS the elevation is around 3700′. If you were to continue to head west towards Limon, CO the elevation would be 5400′ or so. So you can clearly see the change in elevation.Click on that image to make it larger.

Now just because the air aloft is warming, you need to bring that air down towards the ground, and for that we heavily rely on winds below 5000 feet. Here is a look at the temperatures off the GFS model for about 5000′. Notice how that bubble of warmth that is just east of the CO mountains moves our way during the day on WED. Look for the yellow and orange colors.

It eventually moves through by Thursday AM, allowing a cooler airmass to move in behind it. So with the air so warm aloft and assuming we have enough wind and a lack of clouds (still big ifs at this point) what can we potentially see for highs on WED? Well if everything worked out nicely we’d probably see highs in the 60-65° range.

There are some issues though with this idea, one being cloud cover. Model data suggests that there may be cloud issues out there for part of the day. You really need to get a good dose of late FEB sunshine to help the cause out. Also IF the surface winds aren’t strong enough, the warm air aloft won’t get “mixed” down towards the ground efficiently. This too can trim the potential highs a few degrees.

So the question is how will this all come together on WED, and can temperatures get out of control on us and really warm up. More on that on the newscasts tonight and on the blog tomorrow.

Finally there was some sad news out west as the avalanche season is getting together now. Avalanches occur when a combination of weather factors conspire to make the fallen snow unstable or loose. One of the biggest causes is heavy snowfall falling overly previous snowcover and not “binding” with with the old snow. This creates what’s referred to as “loose snow”. If there is a “spark” if you will, ranging from wind changes to temperature changes to even human caused changes an avalanche is possible. Yesterday in WA there was a bad one killing 3 people I think. CO is under the gun now as well. Here is some video I just saw that shows how a skier can loosen a whole slab of snow and trigger an avalanche.

There is actually a great resource these days for learning about these things. Go here IF you want to learn more.

Speaking of snow, we’re obviously not getting it, at least thus far. There are parts of the country though getting it, and that would be AK. Take a look at where Anchorage stands through the middle of the month

Meanwhile according to the NWS, Milwaukee and Madison in WI are going through their 6th/5th warmest winters in their weather history. In SD Aberdeen is having their 5th warmest winter, Pierre their 10th and Watertown their 3rd.

By the way, winter in the world of Meteorology is considered the time period from DEC 1 to the last day of FEB. Which may be a good thing because it looks like March may try to come in like a lion for parts of the USA. Long ways off for sure, but the modelling is certainly honking at me about something interesting happening. Whether it means winter precipitation for us, we’ll see. There should be some wild temperature swings though.

Joe

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