The Weather Fix is Back!!
It’s been a while since the weather team has featured our blog, but it’s back. We want to continue to share great content with our viewers and visitors to our website, and this is a great way to do it. Every week, we’ll discuss weather from the previous week, share interesting weather stories from around the country and world, give you some insight on the latest weather and environment research, and maybe even throw in a fun video or two. If you have any ideas or topics you’d like us to discuss, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us through social media or email. You can get all of our links here.
Winter Storm Recap
A big winter storm impacted the Deep South Friday, and its impacts lasted through the weekend. We knew for 4-5 days that we were going to get some sort of winter weather, we just didn’t know if it was going to be mostly snow, ice, or sleet. Well, we got a little bit of each. Freezing rain was first during the afternoon, then some sleet, then a little snow, then back to sleet before it was all over. The freezing rain created a glaze of ice that created dangerous driving conditions Friday night and Saturday, with some of that ice lingering into Sunday and Monday. The issue with the forecast was a layer of warmer air above our heads. We normally think of temperatures going down as we travel up in the atmosphere. However, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, we’ll get a pocket of warmer air that can make a winter weather forecast tricky. That warmer air made any snowfall melt before hitting the ground, where temps were below freezing. This is why we got the ice buildup. That warm layer of air cooled down because of a process called “evaporational cooling”. As snow or rain falls, some of it evaporates. Evaporation uses heat from the surrounding air to complete this process, in turn the air turns cooler. This was how the warm layer we had above us on Friday finally cooled off enough for snow to fall for about half an hour during the evening.
Snowfall totals were a little lower than we predicted, mainly because of that warm air we talked about above. Tuscaloosa got more than an inch, most other spots between an inch and half an inch. It was just enough to make some nice pictures and enough to make the roads, sidewalks or any other surface very slippery. Ice was still hanging around parts of Central Alabama because temperatures never got warm enough in shady spots to melt the ice. We were basically ice-free by Monday night and Tuesday morning as wind and warmer temps melted it all.
Hopefully we won’t have to talk about ice anymore this winter..but it’s Alabama..anything is possible.
Large-Scale Tornado Outbreaks Increasing (from Science Daily)
A new study from the University of Chicago says big tornado outbreaks are happening more often in the U.S., but climate change probably isn’t the reason. Previous forecast models hinted at the possibility of warming global temperatures increasing severe weather occurrences. However, this study tells us that increasing vertical wind shear is the reason for more numerous and stronger tornadoes. Vertical wind shear really has no known tie to climate change or global warming.
The researchers estimated that the number of tornadoes in the most extreme outbreak in a five-year interval doubled over the last half-century. This means that in 1965 the worst outbreak expected over five years would have had about 40 tornadoes, while in 2015 the worst outbreak expected over five years would have had about 80 tornadoes.
All this info leads researchers with a new set of questions, primarily what’s causing more frequent tornado reports. However, we think the answer may be sitting right in our pockets. Decades ago, the only way to know if a tornado had touched down was to assess the damage after one struck a town. Now, we have chasers, whose sole occupation is seeking out tornadoes before they even hit the ground. And, almost everyone has a camera in their pocket, attached to a smart phone, which can document a tornado, water spout or funnel cloud. The number of documented tornado reports may be due in large part to our ability to spot them, not some change in the atmosphere.
You can read the entire article and find links to the study at Science Daily.
California Flooding Continues
California has recently seen their dire drought conditions improve, however they don’t need all this. Rain and snow is pounding California this week, resulting in floods, mudslides and blizzards in the higher elevations. Interstates are shut down, and some towns have been cut off because of the dangers. Truckee, CA is a city that’s no stranger to heavy snow and blizzards, but they are snowed in. Even the routes in and out of the resort town of Lake Tahoe are impassable. You can check out some of the video from CBS News.