Weather news: Spring starts today, at least for meteorologists


You did NOT go through a time warp; Tuesday is not March 20. It’s March 1. Google is not mistaken, the astronomical spring (based on the rotation of the Earth around the sun) is at the vernal or spring equinox.

But in the weather world, spring begins on March 1.

Groupings make it much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from monthly statistics.

One thing you might not know is that what happens in the winter months can impact what happens in the spring to some degree.

Will a dry winter lead to a dry spring? Or will a cold, snowy winter lead to a cooler spring?

Whether it’s hot or cold this spring

There is no doubt that this winter has been brutal for some. Throughout the northern part of the country, an already cold region, temperatures were well below seasonal norms.

As I write this and culminating in the week ahead, things are looking promising if you want warmer temps. But so many things play into forecasting, especially when you’re looking three months ahead.

Jon Gottschalck is Chief of the Operational Prediction Branch of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC). It is one of the experts who will establish the long-term forecasts, and to arrive at a forecast, you have to look at the past.

He noted that one of the things that stood out to him about winter was the incessant rain that fell on the Mississippi River valley, leading to flooding.

In the West, lots of rain fell early in the season, but stopped when California was supposed to get its peak rainfall, causing the region to end the season well below normal.

Gottschalck recognized how wet or dry a region is currently, could impact the next three months.

He explained that a region’s soil moisture can affect longer-term temperatures, meaning that if an area is very humid, its temperatures could end up being a bit cooler. On the other hand, if an area is exceptionally dry, its temperatures could end up slightly above normal.

“Lots of surface water, whether from floods, or just higher rivers, or just above normal soil moisture, can tend to keep temperatures below normal or below normal. what they normally would be,” Gottschalck said. “Some areas that have been quite dry, for example, are going to have a bit of a bump, potentially, for higher than normal temperatures.”

An example: California. We were all optimistic at the start of the season with all the rain they got in December and then nothing, proving how quickly things can change for better or for worse.

“We had all this enthusiasm for improving the drought and there was certainly a lot of that out West at the start of December,” Gottschalck recounted. “But right now, if you look at the 90-day starts for normal, Northern California and Oregon are significantly below normal for the last two months, so it’s actually exceeded.”

Going forward, California may pick up where it left off, with a drier and warmer pattern continuing, much like Texas.

“Texas had one of the hottest Decembers ever,” Gottschalck reported. “These conditions will play some role in the outlook for the future, as this feedback can produce warmer temperatures.”

Unless one

One thing to note is the continuation of the La Niña pattern, a phenomenon where colder than normal sea surface temperatures occur in the Pacific near the equator. It is impacting weather patterns around the world, including an increase in hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Find out more about La Nina

La Niña has influenced this winter, including early season rain events in the west, colder than normal temperatures in the north, and warmer than normal conditions in the south.

“The La Niña pattern often produces cold in the Pacific Northwest and along the west coast, and even in the northern plains, and this can persist well into March,” Gottschalck pointed out. “If it persists further into March, it could be a colder start, more like La Niña in early spring.”

Gottschalck added that we will start moving away from a La Niña pattern later in the spring.

Here is the three-month temperature forecast from the Climate Prediction Center.  Red areas indicate where it is likely to be warmer than average.  Blue shows where it is likely to be cooler.

“When you go into more neutral conditions, you lose some of your climate reliability, in terms of forecasting,” Gottschalck explained.

“We’re starting to focus a bit on where we have deficits and/or excesses of snow cover and snow water equivalent and soil moisture in the spring, because these can impact atmospheric temperature,” Gottschalck said.

Places like the Ohio Valley and the Tennessee Valley will likely stay cooler, in part because of all the rain they’ve received.

And as we know, this outlook is for the season as a whole. There will be ups and downs, wet periods and dry periods throughout the season.

But can I just say one more time: Hooray! Spring is just around the corner, no matter when you consider spring to be “officially” beginning!

A new weather satellite will launch into orbit

Artistic rendering of the GOES-17 satellite with the full GeoColor GOES-17 satellite disk (GOES East)

Ironically, on the first day of meteorological spring, March 1, meteorologists (like me) will rejoice! NOAA will launch a new weather satellite named GOES-18.

The satellite will be more than 22,000 miles above Earth and will keep an eye on the western United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America and the Pacific Ocean.

It will have a wide range of instruments and will be able to return ultra-high definition images, which will greatly improve weather forecasts and the computer models we rely on for forecasts.

“Observations from these satellites are even more critical now, as the United States experiences a record number of billion-dollar disasters,” said Pam Sullivan, director of NOAA’s GOES-R program, during an interview. a press conference. “Compared to the previous generation, the GOES-R satellites provide 60 times more imagery, and they have a new flash camera to track severe storms that spawn tornadoes and damaging winds.”

We will be able to watch these storms develop in the Pacific Ocean and track them all the way to the United States.

Like atmospheric river events on the West Coast, where the West receives the majority of its annual precipitation. However, they can also lead to fatal flooding and landslides. Being able to better predict where these systems will be installed will protect life and property like we have never seen before.

  • Years ago, CNN meteorologist Judson Jones, who writes the weather report with me, went to visit GOES-R and GOES-S before he canned them. You can find out more here.
  • Our Science Editor Ashley Strickland and author of our amazing science newsletter, Wonder Theory, is following the launch of GOES-T closely. You can read more from her here.

The first GOES-18 images won’t be available until next summer, which is a bit of a shame, as they would be really useful across the West this week.

Possible deadly floods and avalanches

An “extreme” Level 4 of 5 atmospheric river is reaching the Pacific Northwest this week, bringing flooding and avalanche hazard. Flood watches are in place for more than five million people in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, including Seattle.

The rain will persist for several days. A combination of warmer temperatures will bring heavy rains to the mountains where there is currently snow. This could lead to rapid melting and runoff of water, leading to dangerous floods and wet avalanches.

“Wet” avalanches usually occur when warm air, sun or rain cause water to flow through the snowpack, which lowers the strength of the snow.

The Northwest Avalanche Center has issued a stern warning as the risk of avalanches has increased exponentially.

“The avalanches triggered today could be big enough to bury or kill you. It won’t be the day to tiptoe around danger.”


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