Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Thanksgiving Tradition of Nature's Big Feast Put on Hold This Year
This time of year is when we usually are feasting on great food and company and nature is feasting on us with wild weather and blockbuster storms. Check out the heavy snow that hit areas near Pontiac, Michigan yesterday. Michele Kidder sent in this great picture of white-out conditions. We were just a few degrees away from having our own snowstorm. You would think everything is on track for another wild and woolly year, but not so fast. I have been up much of the past few nights actually working on putting together one of the nicest Thanksgiving forecasts for America the Beautiful in my lifetime. It is the Super Bowl for meteorologists and one of our most important weather weeks of the year. There is no second place finishes acceptable for forecasters this week. Why do I sound like Vince Lombardi? There will be over 100 million travelers. So the pressure is on but I am confident this year will not be a stormy year leading up to our big holiday. We will not have to worry about naming a storm, not this year. We have championship weather and the trophy is ours.
The reason we see an increase in the big storms is the cold air from Canada is building up quickly with the shorter days and larger snow pack. The warmer air located across the Deep South still has a stronger sun angle to work with and you can go from highs in the 80s along the Gulf Coast to just single digits across the northern tier of the country. Yesterday we had a temperature range of about 50 degrees as you see above. This big temperature contrast allows rapidly rising air to take place and the formation of low pressure. In addition the jet stream is energized by these temperature contrasts. This adds even more lift and the potential for heavy precipitation. As these storms form their impressive dynamics many times phase warm and tropical air to the south with polar air to the north.
Here is the latest Thanksgiving forecast for the entire country. The reason we do not have to worry about any big storms this year is the drier northwest flow that has overtaken much of the country. There will be a low pressure bringing light snow to mainly Canada and another cut-off low pressure with rain showers in the southwest. The northwest flow cuts off most of the available moisture needed to form any major storm systems. Now by late weekend and next week this could change and our cold air could mix with some moisture and a more active storm track. But I think this will be slowly evolving and the "big one" will not be in the news until at least next week and even here at home we will have to watch things carefully.
But for now all the talk of our normal doom and gloom this time of year has turned into enjoying some fun in the sun. Highs here at home will be in the middle to upper 40s. You can even get outside and toss a football around or walk off those several helpings of good food! Here are a few good storms that have hit during our Thanksgivings in years past that you can talk about on your nice stroll. The pumpkin pie took a back seat to the great Ohio blizzard that buried Midwest during Thanksgiving weekend in 1950. Eastern Ohio was rocked with 2 to 3 feet of snow. We only had a light coating of snow here in Lafayette but wind gusts reached up to hurricane force. New York state had 100 mph winds and the Appalachian Mountains had wind gusts up near 140 mph. Now that is a Thanksgiving storm! More recently in 2007 we had severe weather break out during our big travel day last year just before Thanksgiving from near St. Louis to Texas delaying and causing headaches for several thousand travelers. In all about 4 dozen reports of damaging winds and hail kept meteorologists very busy. In 2006, I will never forget calling down to friends and relatives in Florida just before Thanksgiving and asking if they saw snow. My Mom thought I was nuts! But Orlando did in fact have snow flurries. It wasn't a normal kind of snow. It was ocean-effect snow flurries caused by tropical moisture interacting with a polar air mass. Savannah, Georgia and parts of the Carolinas had their earliest recorded snow on record. Of course in 2005 I remember tracking the one to two feet of lake-effect snow that hampered travel across much of lake belt area of New York. This year we are looking much better and weather will be one of the many things we can be thankful for.
Now how long will this honeymoon last? I am very curious to find out more about why some of the new long-range maps in at this late hour are showing highs only in the teens here in the next 2 to 3 weeks along with plenty of snow. We may have missed the big one for Thanksgiving but remember if you snooze you lose and December could be our biggest snow month in Lafayette since 2000 when many areas had over 18 inches of snow. I will talk more about this here on the blog and on the tube make sure to check back. Last week Rochester, Indiana had over 8 inches of snow in our northern viewing area. That is how close we were to seeing some record-setting snow. These close-calls are telling us something. We are getting close. I better go do some golden snow shovel exercises immediately.