Jesse Ferrell

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You Can't Always Believe the Morning Weather Map

January 29, 2013; 12:28 PM

Two anomalies stood out to me on this morning's weather map. At first, I thought that temperatures ranged from 66 at Pittsburgh to -3 at Vermont, which is very extreme. But looking closer at the Pittsburgh reading, it didn't match those around it. Looking at the graphs of the temperature at Alleghany County Airport online, it "flatlined" yesterday at 50, then spiked up 15 degrees suddenly overnight, suddenly falling back this morning. Inconsistent graphs like this, plus disagreement from surrounding stations in a calm weather environment usually points to instrument malfunction.

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Still, a temperature range from 52 in northern Maryland to -3 in New Hampshire is fairly extreme, and it illustrates the power of the cold air entrenched in the Northeast versus the record highs that are coming this week. The next oddity to examine is Mount Washington. They're normally the coldest spot in the nation, but today they checked in at 27 F while surrounding stations were in the single digits or below zero.

This was no instrument malfunction. Cold air had sunk into the valleys overnight, leaving the top of the mountain warmer (technically the middle of the mountain, at 3,300 feet, was the warmest, with 33 degrees according to the Mount Washington Vertical Temperature. The atmosphere exists in different temperature layers, and there's no easier way to see that than looking at multiple weather station on a mountain. The "SKEW-T" (a graph showing the temperature profile as drawn by a computer forecast model on our Pro site) also confirms this. On average, Mt. Washington's peak @ 6,000 feet would be located around the 800 mb "pressure level" (variable height). You can see that the mountain would be sticking up into really warm air.

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

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About This Blog

Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.