Thursday, March 22, 2012

3/22 - 4:30pm - Heavy Rain is Gone, but Warm Temps Remain!

Heavy Rain

Did you get drenched? I think we all did. The rain over the past 24 hours has been tremendous, especially across Mississippi as inches and inches have fallen from the pesky system that has been slowly churning through the Plains and now the South. Check out the estimated rainfall map from today below to see what I mean (the totals for West Tennessee are underdone but you get the picture of who saw some tremendous rainfall earlier today!) Most of the rain is now east of West Tennessee and North Mississippi, but a few showers remain and will continue this evening.

More rain will fall tomorrow afternoon as another piece of energy from the same system rotates around the Mid-South. The area in red with the directional arrow coming from it is called a vorticity max. Usually the area where rain and storms develop is east of the vort max as it moves along. Tomorrow's rain won't be as heavy as today's by any stretch of the imagination and it will be more of a scattered nature than today's washout. Once this rain is all said and done by Saturday morning we should be left with a very nice weekend and temperatures warming back up through the upper 70's across West Tennessee and North Mississippi.

The Big Picture

Let's zoom out more and look at the system that's been causing all of this rain as a whole. What we have is an upper-level low in the Plains that is slowly moving eastward. An upper-level low like this one is basically a ball of cold-air that gets cut off from its northerly source because the jet stream kicks north leaves whatever is in the base of the former trough behind. It moves slowly because the jet stream, which usually drives big weather features, is absent from the process after the low gets cut-off. The satellite and radar images coming in from area where the low is are striking... you can see very well the rotation of the low pressure center, which makes it look like a land-based hurricane.

The jet stream being way up north is also why it's been so warm lately. In the winter the jet stream usually dips down from Canada and brings cold air to the USA. Areas north of the jet stream remain cold due to the influence of an arctic air mass while to the south of it there is usually a warm, moist air mass. This winter and now into this spring the jet stream has not really come down from Canada to the eastern half of the nation. The West has had it come down a few times though, which meant snow and cold temperatures for the Pacific Northwest and even down through California. The reason the jet stream stayed so far north is that La Nina (colder than usual ocean temperatures off the coast of Peru) remained pretty consistent throughout the season. In an El Nino pattern, the jet stream comes down to the US with a vengeance.

Record Warmth

The above-average temperatures from this pattern will persist for quite a while it looks like. A cursory glance at some of the long-range models shows that the jet stream will remain somewhere close to this northerly position for the foreseeable future. With that said, comparing this year and month to years past is incredible. This March so far has been the warmest on record in Jackson, TN and Tupelo, MS and the second warmest in Memphis. Jackson is running 10.6 degrees above average for this March. Comparing the year so far to years past, this is the warmest year so far in Memphis and Tupelo, and the second warmest so far in Jackson. These are remarkable numbers and we'll likely see more of these records flash by as the warmth continues. A running list of how this year's heat compares to previous records is available from NWS Memphis.

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