Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why I Enjoy Broadcast Meteorology

I take pride in several things during an on air weather cast. The first is explaining the forecast in easy-to-understand points.  The second is explaining why the weather is happening in basic scientific terms when applicable.  Yet most viewers view the current state of the weather (whether its winter or summer, etc) here in northern Ohio as a chaotic, random system incapable of being projected more than 6 hours ahead of time. Many times, this is not far from the truth.  Yet by throwing in some local historic weather events as a good reference frame with the science and a narrative cocktail can be created which most people can drink without too many problems. Next week might be one of those instances where understanding the weather along with some history might make the colder weather a bit easier to mentally digest when it arrives. Note I said mentally.  I can only hope :)

Now the situation at hand: One of the main factors in predicting LAKE EFFECT SNOW is how cold the air is (5000 feet) above the lake. More importantly, its the temperature DIFFERENCE between the lake and the 5000ft level. As long as the difference is greater than 13 degree Celsius, lake effect has a very good chance of developing (among other factors too). Greater the difference, the greater the potential for snow development.  Usually the 5000ft temp has to be at least -5 to -7 in NOV for snow to get going (given the mild lake). -10 to -15 is ideal this time of year given the water temps at 39 degrees F(4 degrees Celsius). Sometimes, we get temperatures at -20 or colder at 5000ft which is super cold! Curiosity got the better of me over the last few days so I checked the 5000 ft temperatures each day over the last 4 winters including this one here in northern Ohio. There was only one time in the last 4 winter when we had a 5000ft temp at -20. That was JANUARY 29, 2009.

Guess what the long range projections have been saying since the weekend about how cold the 5000ft level would drop to next week? You guessed it. -20!  This could mean some LAKE EFFECT SNOW and daytime highs in the teens.

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