Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, March 2, 2009 - 2:53PM

Annual March 1 post - 2009 edition

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I had this post in the queue for yesterday, but the NC snowstorm pushed it back. Still haven't got around to working on the photos/video from the NC trip - those are still to come.

As a storm chaser, no other month is as welcome to see arrive as March - and so I can't help but commemorate it with a blog post each year. April and May are great, yes - but it's March that means 'we've made it through winter'. March is the start of meteorological spring, the month when we have the pleasure of watching winter lose its annual battle with the higher sun angle and the return of more regular warm, southerly flow patterns. The cold spells will be giving way to warm spells, and by the time this month is over, in West Virginia we can expect only one minor April snowfall (on average) before we break into perpetual frozen-precip-free conditions (at least until October). And of course March also sees the rapid return of thunderstorm days, which by the end of the month eclipse snow events in their regularity.

As we've seen time and time again, winter usually gets a few good punches in during the month of March - so it's not yet time to let down our guards against snow, ice and slick roads. In fact, most of my icy road car accident footage has been shot in March - which is attributable to warmer ground temps keeping snow accumulations confined to bridges (the most dangerous configuration). The good news is that most winter events this time of year are brief, not the week-long Arctic outbreaks we see between November and February.

So let's take a look at the models to see what the first week or two of March could hold.

GFS 500mb winds for next Monday

We're in the center of a big upper trough currently, which is responsible for the cold and snow we've been dealing with in the past 2 days. But the GFS and the ECMWF (The 'European' model, another long-range model commonly used by forecasters) are painting an encouraging picture for us by the end of the week. A prolonged warmup seems to want to begin by this coming Thursday, with daily highs in the upper 50s to low 60s by the beginning of next week. The upper air configuration features a western trough by the weekend, typically a classic severe weather-maker for the Plains region (pending moisture quality at the surface).

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