Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Dramatic Change in Weather

As the New England snowstorm developed today, many TV meteorologists couldn't stop talking about how dramatically the conditions had changed in 24 hours.  Indeed, on the day before the storm, dozens of Northeast cities had set record highs for the date (in the 50s and 60s F).

Of course, despite the hysterics of the TV weathermen (who know better), such a dramatic change of weather is typical with potent winter storms.  As the system approaches from the west, strong southerly winds ahead of the front sweep warm air well to the north.  Then, as the cold front knifes in from the northwest, winds shift from the north and Arctic air blasts across the region.  Meanwhile, the storm's central zone of low pressure, surrounded by strong, counterclockwise winds, sweeps the warm, moist air above the dense, frigid air, producing snow, sleet or freezing rain (depending on the depth of the invading cold air).  Farther south, the clash of air masses results in severe thunderstorms.

Too often focused on entertainment as much as on public education, TV meteorologists would better serve their viewers by explaining the nature of the storm dynamics.  After all, there is a scientific explanation for that dramatic change in weather and, when we downplay science, we open the door to mysticism.