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Commentary

Winter fades but makes a slow exit

Don Paul

Despite the fact Friday will finish as an increasingly raw, wintry-feeling day, some more springlike conditions will be arriving by Sunday this weekend.

First, though, if you’re going to be driving out and about Friday evening, watch out for some slick spots as moisture refreezes. Spotty snow showers will produce some minor accumulations. Amounts may approach 2 inches on some of the hilly terrain to the south Friday evening. The snow coverage will diminish by later tonight.

By the way, you may notice that deep storm system off the East Coast in this model. That will intensify into a true monster of a cyclone which may brush Cape Cod with strong winds and snow, but it won’t impact us:

Saturday morning may get off to a slow start as far as appearances go, with stubborn clouds slowly giving way to more abundant sunshine by midday/afternoon.

Temps will be running a little below average on Saturday, reaching the low to mid-30s, with a 10-15 mph southwest breeze in the afternoon.

Sunday will bring a major warmup with plenty of sunshine. The caveat, though, will be a gusty southwest wind off 34-degree Lake Erie, keeping metro area highs in the 40s. Interior sections away from the lake influence will have no trouble reaching the mid-50s. However, the wind speeds of 20-30 mph (with stronger gusts on the Niagara Frontier) will take the edge off the warming.

We’ll keep the warmth into Monday, when clouds will increase ahead of another disturbance, and some showers arrive by or during the evening. We should approach the low 50s Monday, with a little less wind. More rain showers are likely Tuesday, especially in the morning. A cooler-but-not-cold air mass will return to the region by later in the day, and a few spotty rain and wet snow showers will be possible by night. It will remain unsettled with a chance for scattered rain and snow showers on Thursday as well, but no potent storm system will be impacting our region.

Skiers, with no real replenishing natural snow in the forecast picture, you might want to consider this weekend — particularly Saturday — as the day most likely to still feature some decent conditions. Obviously, no fresh powder is to be found, but head to iskiny.org or individual websites for reports from Holiday Valley and Kissing Bridge.

On the national scene, one of our concerns for at least early spring are indications of an active severe weather pattern beginning in the south, mid-south and parts of the Midwest. We’ve already observed the tragic loss of 24 lives in the mid-Tennessee tornado outbreak in and near Nashville early this past week.

There are early signs in extended range models of favorable conditions for additional violent convective cells in that region and parts of the Midwest later next week, in advance of a storm still out over the Pacific.

A powerful westerly jet stream aloft, which has been prevalent over many parts of the northern hemisphere during the last month, in combination with a moist, low-level flow from the south closer the surface with the approach of a strong low pressure system, can set the stage for severe convection with tornadic supercells, as occurred in Tennessee. Even during more benign days this weekend, the lurking jet stream is there.

For example, my flight back from LAX to JFK Wednesday night reached a ground speed of 735 mph.

Another region to watch during the summer and especially the fall will be large portions of California. Winter, normally the wet season for that state, has come up very short on rain and mountain snows.

California always has a very dry late summer and autumn, when the fire season accelerates. The state can suffer an earlier season when the ground is already parched. Note the percentages of normal precipitation, especially since Jan. 1.

The San Francisco National Weather Service reports zero to just a trace of rain for the entire month of February for all the many area airports. Conditions are just about as bad in southwest California, as detailed by the Los Angeles NWS.

Elsewhere, the threat of flooding is elevated due to enormous rainfall amounts already having produced excessive soil moisture as of the end of February.

I segue now to an editorial comment. If you look at the soil moisture content over the Great Lakes region, and then look at both current and forecast Great Lakes levels (including forecast departures from normal levels), there is no escaping the fact it has been another wet winter over all five lakes.

In other words, despite comments made by elected officials, the science behind the Lake Ontario outflow changes set into motion in 2014 and the destructive record and near record lake levels is essentially nonexistent. Even with the greatly increased outflow from Lake Ontario initiated by IJC, these destructive levels are inevitable due to excessive precipitation and runoff. Some proportion of that excess may be due to the predicted and realized increase in precipitation in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions tied to climate change. (More water vapor is transported from the Gulf during a warming climate.) As long as the drainage basins and the lakes receive excessive precipitation, there is precious little the IJC can do about the problems on Lake Ontario, or the upstream damage on the other four lakeshores, including large-scale beach loss and property loss which has occurred near Chicago.

Not to insult anyone’s intelligence, but when lake levels are very high on Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie, that excess HAS to end up coming down the Niagara River into Lake Ontario.

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