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March 21, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Spring Is Here! But Maybe Not Everywhere…

Spring has finally arrived (at 7:21 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20 to be exact), but today will be the first full day. Both the spring and fall months are without a doubt my favorite two seasons. Summers here in Houston are pretty hot and even though it doesn’t get very cold here during the winter months, I’m still not a fan of the cooler weather, especially the occasional freezing temperatures and snow/ice we get. I’ve been looking forward to spring’s arrival since just after the New Year because, let’s face it, Christmas and New Years just wouldn’t be the same to me without the cooler weather…well, unless you live in the southern hemisphere and your used to “Christmas Time” being in the middle of summer. 

The northern hemisphere is just now entering spring, but it’s now fall in the southern hemisphere. The seasons vary in the northern and southern hemispheres as a result of the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the plane of revolution. During the spring months, the axis of the Earth is tilted towards the sun and the length of daylight rapidly increases. As for the weather, it tends to be a bit more unstable in the spring as the warmer air starts to invade from the lower latitudes and cold air is still pushing in on occasions from the polar regions. Severe weather season occurs this time of year and this is when Tornado Alley—which refers to the area across the Plains that has the greatest number of tornadoes—is often the most active.

Tornado Alley is indicated across the Plains in red. Image: Wikipedia

It feels like spring throughout the southern U.S. with lots of sunshine and highs near 80ºF in places like Houston, New Orleans, Jackson, Birmingham and Atlanta. However, the opposite is true for portions of the West and Northeast today as snow is likely. Deep Pacific moisture is spreading through the Rockies and this will lead to periods of heavy mountain snow. Snow accumulations in excess of a foot will be possible over the higher elevations with the foothills and valleys seeing 1-4 inches today. Across the Northeast, a low pressure system will quickly move across the area bringing periods of snow. The Adirondacks, Green and White mountains as well as inland Maine could pick up 4-8 inches of snow today. Light snow accumulations will be possible across northern New England.

 Snow (indicated in white) is expected into the higher elevations across the West as well as parts of the Northeast today. Severe storms (red) will be possible across the central Plains into the Midwest ahead of a strong storm system. The best chance for severe storms will be from eastern Nebraska into Iowa this evening and tonight. The main threats will be hail, frequent lightning, strong wind gusts and an isolated tornado. Severe storms will also be possible from southern Ohio into western Virginia as a weak disturbance interacts with a stalled frontal system. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

 Surface map for Monday, March 21. Image: ImpactWeather

Tomorrow, it’s still not feeling like spring across the northern Rockies into the Upper Midwest as a strong low pressure system brings moderate to heavy snow across the area. The heaviest snow will be across the northern Rockies, northern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota where 5-10 inches of snow will be possible. Locally up to a foot could fall.

 Snow (indicated in white) is expected from the northern Rockies into the Upper Midwest. A low pressure system and front will move across the Rockies tomorrow and will interact with warm unstable air across the Plains/Midwest. Strong to severe storms will be possible, especially over central and southern Iowa Tuesday afternoon and evening. Large hail, damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes will be the main concern. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

 Snow will continue to fall on Wednesday across the Upper Midwest as a low pressure system moves into the Great Lakes and eventually Northeast. Snow accumulations of 1-4 inches will be possible, with isolated heavier amounts up to 5-10 inches not completely out of the question just north of the track of this low pressure system. Severe storms will also be possible ahead and south of this surface low and in advance of this cold front. The best chance for severe storms will be southern Ohio through northern Tennessee and West Virginia.

 Snow (white area) is expected into early Wednesday across the Upper Midwest with snow spreading across Great Lakes into the Northeast. Isolated severe storms (red) will be possible in advance of a cold front. Image: ImpactWeather

 The snow (white) will linger as we head into Thursday across the eastern Great Lakes and Northeast. Higher elevations across the Northeast and favored lake effect areas could see in excess of 4 inches of snow with lighter accumulations elsewhere. The next storm system is expected to develop over the Plains and bring a slight risk of severe storms (red) to the area Friday into Saturday. Heavy rain (green) can also be expected over central and northern California Thursday and Friday as a strong disturbance moves inland. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

The first week of spring looks relatively unsettled across the northern half of the country as snow is expected for portions of the Rockies, Upper Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast the next few days. However, the southern half of the country looks relatively quiet with warm temperatures and lots of sunshine the next few days. Hopefully the weather will quiet down across the northern U.S. as we head into the weekend so everyone else will be able to get a taste of this nice spring weather that we’re already enjoying in the southern U.S.

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