Warm and stormy spring appears to be on tap

Authored by Jim Langham on Mar 9, 2012

According to weather specialist Rick McCoy, last week's outbreak of tornadoes may not be the final appearance of the unwelcome violent weather this spring. McCoy said that National Weather Service (NWS) officials have told him that it is becoming more and more likely that the next 90 days could be well above normal temperature-wise, combined with wet and stormy weather.
"This could be another wet spring, but the difference between this spring and last year's wet April and May is the fact that this year is predicted to be quite a bit warmer," said McCoy. "A case in point would be the immediate extended forecast. After a short chilly period this weekend, speculation is that temperatures could rise into the 70s the latter part of next week."
While there is no immediate indication of a return to violent weather, McCoy said that by the very nature of the season, another strong long pressure is bound to form again in the not-to-distant future. If there is an abundance of warm air available, it could set off another series of severe weather and tornadoes.
"We thought we had a lot of tornadoes last year, but last Friday alone, the NWS recorded 95 tornadoes across the Midwest and the South," said McCoy. "That is more than has ever occurred in any one day in March in the history of NWS records and is more tornadoes than generally occurs in the entire month of March."
McCoy said that to make things interesting, he has done a study on winters that have been followed by strong tornado outbreaks. He noted that the winters of 1965 and 1974 were very similar to this winter, with large variations in cold and warm spells, but a tendency toward being mild winters. In 1965, there was the historic Palm Sunday tornado outbreak and on April 3, 1974, there was the largest outbreak in the history of the NWS with loss of life and millions of dollars of damage across the Midwest. That includes the huge tornado at Xenia, Ohio and the massive twister that roared through Monticello, Indiana.
Most agricultural experts agree with McCoy's observations.
"The outlook for the rest of March is for an active pattern with above normal temperatures, above normal rainfall and some risk of severe weather," noted meteorological agriculture experts at Ohio State University. "What will be different in 2012 versus 2011 is that the spring will not be as cool. It also will be wet but not as wet as 2011 and the wetness will likely end earlier than 2011. The threat for severe storms, however, is elevated due to the warm temperatures and active pattern. "
McCoy said the severe weather threat is starting early during this La Niña year. Last year Van Wert County experienced four spring tornadoes that began in April in what was also a La Niña spring. The difference in the timing is last year was a hard winter and storms waited till April when warmer weather began. This particular year was a mild winter and the severe weather season is ramping up early, he noted.
"This spells trouble going through the month of March because of warm ups followed by cold air masses moving in from Canada which in turn causes strong storms to develop," said McCoy. "Review weather drills and plans now and have a Weather Radio available for National Weather Service warnings, along with statements made by local media outlets."
Adams County Homeland Security director John August advised that residents plan now what type of procedures they would take and where would be best for them to take shelter in the event of an imminent tornado in the area.
"It would be well to post a plan of action for your family at a visible spot and review that with those in your home," said August. "Plan what you would do at home and what you would do if you were in your car and at another establishment. It is proven that those who have planned ahead of time are much safer and less likely to panic with the approach of a tornado."
McCoy said that NWS officials believe that the strong La Nina that has fueled much of the erratic weather in the continental United States over the past couple of years is starting to weaken. However, effects from that weather phenomenon will likely continue over the next few months.
"La Niña-like impacts are expected to persist into the upcoming season. Over the U.S. during March-May 2012, La Niña is associated with an increased chance of above-average temperatures across the south-central U.S., and below-average temperatures in the northwestern U.S.," said McCoy. "Also, above-average precipitation is favored across western Washington, the Ohio Valley, and lower Great Lakes, while drier-than-average conditions are more likely across Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the southwestern U.S."

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