It's that time of year again! We've made it through another wi- . . . wait a minute. That's how I normally start out my annual celebration of meteorological spring. The problem is that meteorological winter is going to be hanging on for much longer this year, longer than I can remember seeing for many years. In fact, here in St. Louis, we received another dusting of snow last night (it's still snowing at the time of this posting), and that 'bite' is still in the air. Since the concept of "meteorological seasons" is weather-based and not calendar-based, I'm not ready to declare that "storm observer's spring" is here just yet simply because it's March 1.
Nonetheless, the arrival of March 1 always feels good to me, regardless of what's happening outside. At the very least, March is a month of transition into spring storm season - by the end of the month, we should all be in 'chase mode'. I have almost always had at least one good expedition in March. So, in keeping with March 1 tradition, I'll talk about the long-range model forecasts that all expeditioners everywhere are straining at to see the first signs of tornado season's return.
The news for the first half of the month isn't good for storms. The primary problem is that deep moisture has been pushed into the far southern Gulf of Mexico, and none of the long-range models show a substantial improvement in that situation for as far out as we can reasonably see (a little less than 2 weeks from now). Here's the GFS model's take on next Thursday morning the 7th. Even though a potent shortwave trough is about to pass over the Great Plains, there is no moisture in place ahead of this feature, and not much in the Gulf to give the trough any chance of producing meaningful northward moisture return.
So when will 'real' meteorological spring begin? We know it's coming and will eventually get here, there's just no sign of it out there yet. The aforementioned upper trough will allow temperatures to warm across the Plains into early next week, providing a brief taste of spring for places like Denver, Oklahoma City and Amarillo. But this looks more like a temporary pre-trough warmup that will end with the passage of a cold front on the back side of the trough - a common mid-winter event in the Plains and Midwest. All I can say is that by the end of the month, we should be into spring in every sense of the word - Gulf moisture moving north, daily average temperatures moving back into 'short sleeves' weather, and regular severe storm events.
Oddly enough, despite the posteponement of the 2013 severe weather season's start, this winter has felt more like a nonstop continuation of storm season here in the lower Midwest. During our meteorological winter from December through February, we had six thunderstorm events here in the St. Louis metro area, with a couple of those meeting severe criteria. Those events - the most winter thunderstorms I've seen in my lifetime in a single season - have allowed me to complete last year's "lightning every month" streak, and even continue it into this year.
As always, I'll keep looking ahead for signs of spring, and will begin posting once I see something worth posting about. Until then . . .
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