Matt's World of Weather: March, April & May

As a meteorologist it was impossible to ignore the number of comments regarding the 70+ degree days these past two weeks; “Is winter over?” “Have we finally broken Old Man Winter’s back?” “It was refreshing for a while, but I’m sick of the snow” Thus, to shake off the chill, this week’s segment will help shed warmth on the coming months. This three-month outlook ignores wild day-to-day temperature swings, but should help to put our next season, spring, into perspective.

Overall, eastern Carolina is in store for what looks to be a very mild spring season. During the winter we were under the influence of La Nina as well as a blocking pattern centered over Greenland. These two variables combined for a very interesting winter in which snow totals shattered their averages. Interestingly, both of these circulations have already started to weaken. Specifically, La Nina is projected to be over by June, if not the end of May. What does this mean for us? Disregarding 3-day cold spells or an abnormal 100 degree day, the feeling is that by taking these two, very large, variables out of the game our atmosphere we will begin to find a better balance. In turn, we’re looking at March, April and May temperatures coming in about average with a gradual warming trend to above average through April & May. On the other side of the weather coin, rainfall will be slightly below average through March before rounding out about average in April and May (specifics can be found in the video).

Chaos and Butterflies:
Long range forecasting is a beast of a science that is difficult to tame. The number of variables affecting our daily forecast is tough to work out, let alone trying to extend this out through an entire month, year, or decade. At its core, Forecasters are constantly fighting the “Butterfly effect” or Chaos Theory when putting together long range forecasts. This crutch of meteorology says that the smallest error in your starting data will eventually render your future predictions completely useless. To help explain away any confusion, take two calculators programmed to compute the exact same numbers, with the exact same operations (add, subtract, multiply, divide). Despite the identical procedures, it is possible both will come out with two completely different results/numbers...chaos theory at work. This is detrimental to any forecast in which the initial conditions are contaminated or lacking in data (tough to know the temperature at every point on the ocean/land). Despite these problems however, there have been big strides in data collection, supercomputer development, and overall knowledge of our global circulations. For example, satellite observations have helped fill the gaps between surface data while faster, more powerful computers have begun to resolve outlooks for smaller and smaller areas. In the end the biggest goal of long range forecasting is trying to obtain a perfect picture of the atmosphere now to help the forecast later… and we’re doing better at this. As a result, we are now beyond the days of throwing darts at a dartboard and hopefully on our way to more reliable climate predictions.


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