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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who put Loki in charge of the weather this year?

For almost everyone in the United States, this has been an unusual winter. Here in the Great Lakes area, we have been blasted with cold front after bitter cold front, and many of them have been powerful enough to plow their way all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, bringing snow all the way to New Orleans. In the past couple of weeks, we have been teased with some almost 60° days, only to have those hopes of Spring squashed with another coat of snow.

We're entering the first of the semi-annual unsettled weather periods, albeit a bit late. The first unsettled period happens around March or April, as cold winter transitions to warmer summer, and the second one happens around October or November, as the fronts battle back southward and summer cools to winter.

This is why the old adage goes, "March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb," but the particularly strong cold polar air has been able to keep the transitional warm southern air from making its way up to us for later in the season than usual. Normally by March the warm air is pushing up against the cold air and fighting it out over the Great Lakes, and as the month goes on the cold weakens and the warm strengthens and has made its way to Canada by April. Not this year.

The old stalwart of aviation weather sources, the unsurprisingly-named, rolled out a new look yesterday. While checking out the changes, I see that the weather this year still isn't done with the surprises. Check out this prog panel:

24-hour NWS prog chart for 3-26/27-2014. Click to embiggen.
The areas in green are areas of precipitation. The warm front extending from the Texas/New Mexico border all the way up to South Dakota in the left panel shows the classic trajectory of warm, moist air getting sucked north by a low, leaving a trail of wetness in its wake. If the panel went out another 12-24 hours, you'd probably be able to see it turn into an occlusion as what is left of the warm front spirals around the low like spaghetti being wrapped around a spinning fork.

That is a lot of moisture over a lot of the country! But wait—there's more! Order in the next 20 minutes and we'll throw in this spiffy NCEP forecast chart for no additional charge:
Can't get enough of rain and/or snow? Well, you've come to the right place! Just wait another 12 hours and there's a bonus deluge for you—that's three charts for the price of one:
Buy stock in umbrella and road salt companies today.
Even for this time of year, when the weather is still unsettled and there is a lot going on in the atmosphere, this much green and pink is unusual. Days like this are what make all the work that goes into an instrument rating worthwhile.

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