Joe Lundberg

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Spring Is in the Air

February 29, 2012; 11:53 AM

Wednesday, 12:15 p.m.

Yes, I see the snow and sleet across portions of the Northeast. I see the snow falling north of the storm in the Midwest and some wraparound snow lingering west of the storm over portions of the Dakotas and Iowa into Nebraska this morning. And I also see the snow in the Sierra. However, if you removed the dates from the calendar, looked at the weather map and saw the storm in the Midwest, you'd think it was a spring storm.

Why is that? Spring storms are much more known for severe weather and wind. Yesterday into last night, severe thunderstorms erupted across portions of the Plains, including over a dozen reports of tornadoes:

The severe weather has lingered through the morning hours of today in a more narrow channel extending from northeastern Arkansas into Kentucky. It will decrease further this afternoon and evening and should die off overnight.

Meanwhile, winds around the storm are quite strong. There are numerous reports of wind gusts in the 35- to 40-mph range from Kansas to South Dakota, with some 40- to nearly 50-mph wind gusts in Iowa and northern Missouri. That wind is helping to push a lot of dry and mild air across Missouri and Illinois into Indiana and portions of western Ohio. Where it has cleared, that strong wind is creating a well mixed atmosphere, meaning we're getting every degree of warmth that we can out of the atmosphere with the dry adiabatic lapse rate. Temperatures neared 60 in Chicago and are near 70 around Cincinnati at this hour.

If we can do it once, we can do it again, and that we will Friday. Look at the latest NAM forecast for Friday evening:

That's at least a 984mb low forecast near Rockford, Ill. The air mass in the Ohio Valley to Texas will remain balmy between now and then, so as this next storm winds up, and it is forecast to be stronger than the current one exiting the Midwest, it will bring another round of very mild air to the mid-Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley with highs at least in the 60s. If there's any appreciable sun with 850mb temperatures of +10C or higher, it'll make a run past 70 in some areas. That in combination with a strong cold front should ignite some severe thunderstorms late Friday and Friday night from southeastern Texas all the way into the Ohio Valley, with a continuing risk of severe thunderstorms on Saturday from the central and eastern Gulf Coast region into the mid-Atlantic states.

This time around, there won't be the snow and ice over the interior Northeast, as the cold will be routed by strong southern surface winds later Friday and especially Friday night into Saturday well ahead of the storm and its attendant cold front. I bet some of the snow that is deposited the rest of today and tonight (and into tomorrow in parts of New England) will be wiped out in a hurry on Saturday by the surge of mild air that's coming.

And just like a good spring storm should do, this one will generate an area of snow on its northwest flank. It will originate tomorrow night and Friday morning over parts of Colorado, then streak out later Friday into Friday night across northern Kansas into southern and eastern Nebraska, then into northwestern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota before really dumping on parts of northern and western Wisconsin into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan late Friday and Friday night.

In addition, there will be another round of ferocious winds with this storm, too. They'll be strong and gusty in the warm sector ahead of the cold front on Friday between the Mississippi Valley and the Appalachians, then that will be repeated Saturday east of the mountains. However, the strongest winds will likely be southwest and west of where the storm passes and that should include portions of eastern Kansas, eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota, eventually impacting Wisconsin and Michigan into the Ohio Valley.

After that, then we get a reminder that it is still winter, astronomically speaking, as a shot of arctic descends upon the Great Lakes and Northeast into the mid-Atlantic Sunday and Monday before beginning its hasty retreat on Tuesday.

Then spring really will be let loose. I don't know if this is right just yet, but the GFS ensembles are now consistently painting a blow torch for late next week and next weekend. Look at the forecast temperature departures for Monday, March 12, from the 6z GFS model run:

That is a massive area being projected to be at least 10 degree above normal, with the core of it nearly 20 above average! Granted, it is 12 days out, and it may well end up being a little cooler than that. For now, though, the screaming message is that the atmosphere is already chugging along full speed ahead into spring.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran AccuWeather.com forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.