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Don't get your hopes up for 70-degree days this weekend

Don Paul

The last time I really scoured computer guidance it was Monday, at which time temperatures were looking rosy for this weekend, especially Sunday. Hey, I’m semi-retired and I was probably busy with goofing off. That takes time, properly done.

Anyway, the first hint I received it was time to take another look came from a very pessimistic Facebook friend who was already gnashing his teeth over deflated expectations. Darned if this hobbyist might not be on to something!

Upon further examination of the models and ensembles, pattern recognition is creeping across my horizon. The upper air pattern at the 500 millibar pressure level in the atmosphere, or about 18,000 feet, still looks favorable for real warming. See that bulging northward of those black lines, and the flow coming in from the southwest? At this upper level of the atmosphere, this is a classic signature of warm ridging of high pressure stacked up into the atmosphere. This is the kind of ridging which has been missing for the vast majority of this sorry, soggy spring.

If this was all I had to go by, I could say “Huzzah! We’re on, baby!” However, we don’t live at the 500 millibar level.

Down here on the ground, my pattern recognition — from 35 years living in Western New York and five years before that in Detroit — reminds me that the shallow, colder air near the surface over the Great Lakes is literally heavier. It’s more difficult to dislodge by approaching warm fronts. We also have excessive soil moisture, which also cools the surface air. All too many times when warm fronts appear certain to be approaching five to seven days out, we can too quickly conclude they’re going to just bump the chilly airmass out of the way.

Now, the models and ensembles, which do have climatology built in, are mathematically computing a form of pattern recognition. In fact, the lead forecasters at National Weather Service headquarters are seeing much the same. Below is their Saturday forecast surface map (well beneath the aforementioned 500 millibar map).


The so-called approaching warm front isn’t even depicted moving north. The front is shown as stationary, keeping the much warmer air well below our region. Here are the forecast high temps for Saturday from the National Weather Service, reflective of the boundary placement.

Look at the difference between the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley to the south, beneath the front. True, 62 degrees is no great shakes, but it is better than what we’ve had for several days. The average high for this time of year is in the mid-60s and will be in the upper 60s by the weekend.

Here is a look at Sunday, when 70s were looking good back on Monday. The warm front is still way back near Cincinnati on Sunday morning, leaving us in a cooler east to northeast flow with a cold high pressure center near Hudson Bay dominating the Great Lakes. Here are the depicted Sunday high temps.

Even with the leading edge of the warm air suppressed so far south, the National Weather Service does lend a little more optimism with a 67 'round these parts. I’m not so sure I can share as much optimism just yet, and I’ll get back to that shortly.

South of the warm front and ahead of the low pressure area’s cold front, there will be a risk of violent thunderstorms and a few tornadoes. At least we’re free of THAT worry, which in my book is a lot worse than disappointing temperatures. By Monday, the warm front finally draws near and we finally may crack 70.

Throughout the weekend, the best chance for the mildest temperatures will be closer to the Pennsylvania line.

If we went purely by model output without meteorologists’ input, the numbers look worse in most models (not all) than those put out by National Weather Service headquarters, especially north of the southern tier. Below is one weather service model’s output for mid-afternoon Saturday temperatures.


The Canadian GEM model is similar Saturday. I don’t even want to show you the American GFS for Saturday, because it’s crazy chilly (40s). Its numbers aren’t impossible, but they are unlikely. If that changes, I’ll update you in the comments section as the week goes along.

As for Sunday, the GEM at least allows the southern tier to moderate, but not the Niagara Frontier.

The GFS is even warmer south of the metro area, but cooler to the north. I’m not quite sure how the southern tier gets so warm with the actual warm front so far to our south.

We can end with a note of real optimism from the European/ECMWF, which brings a high of 76 to Buffalo on Sunday. The big caveat, though, is the ECMWF model run is more than 12 hours old as of this writing. The next run won’t be out until later today. Let’s just say, as of now, I’m not buying into that 76.

It would be nice if I’m proven wrong. I have my pride about accuracy, but I would enjoy 76 just as much as normal people. So would our muddy-pawed pack o’ dogs.

I should also add that Saturday is looking mainly dry with some sunshine. There is more uncertainty for Sunday, with the threat of a few showers for a part of the day, but no sign of a washout.

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