2 March 2014

Meteorological Spring Arrives- Can I Borrow Your Snow Shovel?

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 9.39.45 PMSaturday afternoon model runs show a stripe of heavy snow from Arkansas to Maryland Sunday into Monday. (Note this is just one model run and not a forecast).

Meteorological spring began at midnight Saturday but the winter of 2014 keeps giving. A blast of very cold Arctic air is moving through the plains and will combine with a developing trough to produce a wintry mix from Arkansas to Maryland, and the Jersey Shore. The Arctic front across the panhandle of Texas was extremely sharp with 82 at Tulia, just south of Amarillo, while Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle reached 22 degrees! A nearly 60 degree drop in a two hour drive!

Surface map for 7 PM EST. Saturday. Notice it i sstill in the 70's at the south end pf the Texas Panhandle while Western Kansas is below 20 degrees. This is true Arctic air.

Surface map for 7 PM EST. Saturday. Notice it’s still near 80 at the south end of the Texas Panhandle while Western Kansas is at 10 degrees! This is true Arctic air.

Amarillo Meteorologist Mackenzie Morris saw this temperature display across hi sviewing area today. 80's in the south and low 20's north with wind chills below zero!

Amarillo Meteorologist Mackenzie Morris saw this temperature display across his viewing area today. Balmy 80′s in the south, and low 20′s north with wind chills below zero!

In the 1800′s, it was cold fronts like these that would catch settlers by surprise and turn a 20 mile trip into a life and death struggle to reach warmth. This is an exceedingly cold air mass for March and it will produce a swatch of freezing rain, sleet and snow. Winter Storm Watches are now posted by NOAA for a large area and the DC and Baltimore area may see over ten inches of snow. Here in Maryland 4 to 12 inches will likely be widespread across the state.

All this cold might make you think this is has been one of the coldest winters on record, but over the last 65 years here in Maryland, it ranks about average as this graphic produced by Climate Central for me shows:

From Climate Central dot org.

From Climate Central dot org.

We have become so used to the milder temperatures of the late 20th and early 21st century, a rather cold and harsh winter seems extreme. I can tell you the winter of 1977 was far worse..I lived through it! All in all, this has been a cold and snowy winter in the Eastern USA, with the Great Lakes mostly freezing over. NOAA data shows this is the most ice on the lakes since 1994.

And On The West Coast:

Water vapor imagery shows the latest storm that moved into California Friday night and brought some relief from the unprecedented drought.

Water vapor imagery shows the latest storm that moved into California Friday night and brought some relief from the unprecedented drought.

The drought in California is FAR from over, but heavy rains fell from Wednesday into Saturday over much of area. I showed the image to the left on air Friday of the storm approaching the west coast. Meteorologists were talking about how it looked almost like a cinnamon roll on the water vapor imagery from the GOES!

Long range modelling is showing a return to dry conditions over the area, this week but at least they got some snow pack in the Sierra’s. The fact remains that there is already too many people for the available water to go around, and climate change over the next 60 to 80 years (along with population growth) will make the situation this year look like the good old days. Several studies have shown that this region of the country can expect severe droughts that last several decades, (based on proxies of past rainfall like tree rings etc.) and that is before you add in the effects of a warmer drier climate.