Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter weather and New Years could be a bad mix!

As the year 2012 finally draws to a close, it looks as though Mother Nature is going to throw the Forsyth Missouri area one last slush ball!

I find it equally, both amusing and concerning, that whenever those giant weather computers can’t agree on a model forecast. Some areas of the country are naturally more difficult for them than others due to climatic and geographic peculiarities. Forsyth, Branson and even Springfield Missouri just happen to be one of those areas! That said, the challenge for New Years will be to figure out who gets snow, who gets only wet and who gets a little ice!

As of this posting on Sunday morning, the best thinking out of the National Weather Service in Springfield will be for ‘slush’ south of the I44 corridor and snow to the north. And, there may not be much of either as the plume of moisture streaming in from the Pacific will be traveling over some high elevations before making its way into our region. And when it does get here, the lower levels of the atmosphere will be quite dry. It will take some time for that body of air to become saturated enough to produce much of anything in the way of precipitation. In addition, yet another plume of moisture that they were watching come out of the Gulf also looks to be pretty much ‘scoured out’.

The bottom line for Tuesday will be all about timing as a cold front sliding in from the north begins to mix it up with the incoming Pacific moisture. The weather service is still sticking with the idea that much of the county wide area will see some snow overnight tonight (Sunday) which will change over to drizzle during the daytime hours on Tuesday and then become problematic after nightfall. The main concern in all of this forecast will be the chance for slick bridges and a few spots in low lying areas. So be on your toes if you’re traveling at those times.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weather for New Years Eve termed problematic!

Due to the complexity of the thermal profiles as seen by the weather computers, the model predictions are all having a hard time with the type of moisture that will fall from the heavens on New Years Eve, be it snow or rain or both! All the models are in agreement that we will get a ‘slug of pacific moisture’ across the countywide area beginning sometime around midnight Sunday and that it should persist on through the early morning hours on Monday. (This system may even be supplemented with a shot of low level moisture from the Gulf just to spice things up a bit)!

At any rate, it mat be touch and go as to who gets the frozen stuff and who does not. The most likely scenario for the Forsyth area will be for us to see an all snow event during the nighttime hours of early Tuesday with a change over to rain or mist sometime after 6AM. This mess will persist on through the day and into Tuesday night with a light snow redeveloping after dark on Tuesday evening. Accumulations, assuming the rain doesn't melt everything, could be from 1 to 3 inches.

The real fly in this ointment will be the possibility of slick conditions forming in some low lying areas and bridges on a night when many people will be out celebrating the New Year. Travelers would be encourage to stay updated during this period of time and to plan accordingly.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

We ducked a bullet this time!

While I was sad that all the kids in Forsyth missed out on a white Christmas (by geographical inches as it turned out), it’s worth noting that this particular storm caused (is causing) a lot of grief all up and down the eastern portions of this country. Three people died and scores have watched as their plane rides home from the Holidays were canceled. Areas like the Connecticut seaboard are going to be lashed even as that state is still digging out from the effect of Sandy. Gosh! Tornadoes, ice and blizzards! All of which is perfectly normal in December. What?

What interests me as a resident of southwest Missouri, however has bee the rather rapid change from near normal weather conditions to…something else. Even the Weather Service will admit that computer models are ‘all over the board’ as they try to deal with the next system coming in from the West Coast. This winter just might yet be one for the books!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Weather trends for SW Mo. for January 2013

With the El Nino Southern Oscillation looking to stay more or less normal at least through mid 2013, I don’t think that configuration will be much of a factor for the month of January 2013. However, what is of interest is the swing of the Arctic Oscillation from a slightly positive posture to one that is looking more negative! Could this change be tied in some way to the historic rate at which the arctic sea ice is melting as some scientists think? I’m not sure, but what is sure will be an increased chance for the jet stream to allow really cold air to invade the North American continent as we move into January and February. Add that to the slightly improving chances for precipitation across the Central Midwest and my thinking is that there is a somewhat increased likelihood that southwest Missouri will see periods of extreme cold along with some form of wintery precipitation. Well, only time will tell!

Disclaimer: The author is not credentialed as any form of a scientist, climatic or otherwise.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Does less arctic sea ice mean warmer winters?

With arctic sea ice at record low levels this year, you’d think that might imply warmer winters are on the way for continents in the northern hemisphere!

Well, think again. According to some climatic scientists like Charles Greene of Cornell University, just the opposite may occur. Less ice means more radiational cooling and that, in turn, leads to changes in the course of the jet stream.

According the professor Greene, “Everyone thinks of Arctic climate change as this remote phenomenon that has little effect on our everyday lives, but what goes on in the Arctic remotely forces our weather patterns here." He went on to state that, “What's happening now is that we are changing the climate system, especially in the Arctic, and that's increasing the odds for the negative AO (Arctic Oscillation) conditions that favor cold air invasions and severe winter weather outbreaks."

If what Mr. Greene say is true, then we may well be in for so interesting weather conditions here in Forsyth on this the first full day of winter!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Recap: December 2012, the first half!

Wow! Talk about your global climate change! Or, perhaps is what’s going on is really only ‘normal’. Here's a recap for the first half of December 2012 for the southwest Missouri area.

For the days numbered 1 through 14, I looked at both my data recorded where I live in Forsyth Missouri and the next closest city where the National Weather Service has a station, which is West Plains Missouri. I also included Springfield Missouri which is about forty five miles to the north of my location also. Here’s the results:

Click on to enlarge
 To say that it was warm would be a real understatement! With an average temperature that was just a bit over nine degrees above average was startling to me. On the other hand, the lack of rain, should it persist could be very damaging in the long term sense to our area farmers. The drought, which is intensifying across the Midwest, is coming at a very bad time when America is still struggling to climb out of an economic barrel.

Friday, December 7, 2012

December 2012 Week One Recap!

Let me see now... are there two b's in the term Global Warming. Guess not. For a month that averages somewhere around 34°F. Down here in southwest Missouri, the first week's average of 53 degrees was beyond belief! During this first week of meteorological winter, four out of the seven days saw temperatures of in excess of seventy degrees. The big question in my mind one of climatic payback or averaging as it were. History dictates that whenever something swings too far in one direction, you can bet you'll experience some event that will balance it out in the future. For instance, in order for the month to end up somewhere near the normal average of 35°F, that means that the balance of the month (the next three weeks) would have to average somewhere in the high teens to make the whole month average out to 'normal'. Think about that for a second. We're talking daytime temps somewhere around 30°F with lows that would be dropping into the single digits. (Think January with an edge), Now, in all likelihood, that happening is not very likely. What is likely will be that this December will come and go as perhaps a bit warmer than average and hopefully the temperatures will settle down into a more normal pattern. That's what's likely at any rate.

On a more promising note, the rainfall, which has amounted to about an inch so far (normal for the month is about 4 inches) , looks a heck of a lot better than the disaster that was November.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November 2012 weather summery for the Forsyth Mo. area!

As the month of November 2012 has now come to a close, I thought it a good point in time to make a few observations concerning this year's weather.


For anyone out there who might still be living in a 'bubble of ignorance', I thought to touch on our continuing/worsening drought situation first. They say that pictures tell a thousand words and this one I took of a local creek says a lot. I've been living in the area for decades and, in that time, I cannot remember Swan Creek being this dry!
According to NOAA, the weather service and others, the drought in the Midwest is not expected to improve anytime soon as this graphic  would seem to indicate. Here in southwest Missouri, we find ourselves in what they describe as a 'moderate' drought situation. From what I can ascertain, 'moderate' means that while it's dry out there, no crops or drinking water supplies will be adversely affected. (A situation that might become worse with time as more and more farming districts have begun switching over to irrigation as a primary way to water their crops).

This month, I've recorded only 1.0 inches of rainfall, month to date, versus an average year that should have seen four and a half inches.

Fire Weather

On the heels of any prolonged drought, come the conditions that can result in more widespread wild fires. Dry vegetation in association the occasional with brisk winds can set the stage for fires that burn off large areas of land. And, as damaging as the destruction can be from these fires, there is the side effect on everyone's health that's caused by all that particulate matter being thrown into the air. Studies have shown that some of the constituents of the smoke from burning vegetation contain carcinogens which can endanger ones health....

“Biomass Burning is a problem of long standing. Huge amounts of air pollution are produced worldwide by the annual burning of 3 billion metric tons of biomass such as wood, leaves, trees, grass and trash (Abelson). Biomass burning represents the largest source of air pollution in many rural areas of the developed and developing world. Biomass burning is used create heat, to clear forests, to dispose of leaves, crop stubble, trash and wood. Globally, biomass burning is estimated to produce 40 percent of the carbon dioxide, 32 percent of the carbon monoxide, 20 percent of the particulates, and 50 percent of the highly carcinogenic poly-aromatic hydrocarbons produced by all sources (Levine).” [Luke Curtis, MS, CIH- from Human Ecologist- Fall Issue 2002 Burning Issues Special Edition Nov. 11, 2002]


For many of us, I'm guessing that this November was a month where heating bills played a somewhat bigger role in impacting the family budget. This would be especially true considering the cooler than average temperatures that November brought (2 degree lower mean than average). It's understood that millions of Americans have recently found themselves either under-employed or perhaps not working at all; this happening at a time when every penny counts. Unfortunately, the drop of average or mean temperatures in November will cause a small spike in everyone's bill when they receive theirs next month.

Days marked in blue saw temps below 30°F
The question remains, is this lowering of the thermometer a trend? Last year, overnight temperatures got down into the twenties on just three occasions (see chart). This year we dropped below 30°F no less than 13 times and believe you me, it's the overnight lows that really affect home heating performance in a significant manner! (I hope I've made it clear in a previous post that temperature readings below 35°F really drive up heating costs, especially for those of us who use heat pumps)!

So, next comes December and wow what a change! This first week of that month looks like it just might break a lot of records all over the place as seventy degree days were more the norm for my area than not. Time will tell, as the that month progresses...