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LEROY SAYS, SAY NO TO WINTER

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PACK AWAY THE PARKA, IT'S OVER...

Eastern Iowa's favorite rodent, Leroy Lowden, a groundhog out of Lowden in Cedar County, did not see his shadow Friday morning. To a handful of believers, he declared winter over, ate a Caesar salad, and crawled back into his hole. The onlookers quickly dispersed, happy and relieved at the promising prognostication. Even Nostradamus attended.

Leroy may be arguably be the most famous local groundhog around, but he was not the only fur laden critter pushing a forecast Thursday. Punxsutawney Phil of Pennsylvania, Buckeye Chuck in Ohio, General Beauregard Lee in Georgia and Staten Island Chuck in New York, all emerged from their burrows to take a stab at forecasting the next six weeks.


A few years ago, my daughter had a hamster named Dew who was a descendant of groundhogs. I thought why not and took him out to the yard to make a call one early February. (After all, he had a 50/50 chance). Here's the two of us as dawn was breaking that groundhogs' day.

He clearly stated no more winter, and dang if he didn't nail it. Dew was 3 for 3 before passing over the rainbow bridge. That boy was a rascal and a solid forecaster, I miss him!


DOWN, BUT NOT OUT...

No doubt about it, the weather around the Midwest took a couple of steps back Friday, something we could afford to do after record highs in many spots Thursday of 55-60. The cloudier, cooler look is likely to be tough to break through Saturday with a stout inversion aloft. While some models do bring breaks and periods of sunshine in the afternoon, I'm leery of E/SE winds trapping moisture under the inversion. With the weak sunshine of early February, it may be tough to break out of the clouds. I'll go conservative and call for mostly cloudy skies much of the day. If I get beat with a sunnier solution, I'll happily live with it.


The massive rex block that's locked in place will keep the storm track locked in place well to the south for the foreseeable future. For that reason, the sensible weather is void of forcing and the moisture necessary for precipitation through at least Wednesday of the coming week. WPC agrees with a dry forecast, showing this for total precipitation through the day next Wednesday.

After that, we get a change in the upper air pattern that will be conducive to colder air masses with stronger and deeper penetrations of polar air. One teleconnection that implies the shift is the SOI (Southern Oscillation Index), a measure of pressure near Australia. Previous to last week, pressures were low, resulting in a positive index of 31.60 on January 16th. Since then pressures have been rising and now the index has dropped to -29. The negative burst signifies the MJO (Madden Julien Oscillation) is on the move towards colder phases.

That is likely to open the door for more ridging over the western U.S. That in turn amplifies the jet, opening a pathway for colder air to enter the central and eastern U.S. This is not an immediate outcome, but rather a gradual amplification that will take another two weeks to be fully realized. However, by February 17th the EURO indicates a pronounced PNA (Pacific North America Pattern) with a ridge west and deep trough east.

That's clearly a significantly colder pattern. On the other hand, the mean trough is shown centered over the Great Lakes. That's important in the sense that we get cold shots, but they are transitory. By that, I mean they come and go. Additionally, moisture with such a flow would be minimal and the amplification for storms will take place to the east. That generally indicates a fairly dry pattern unless we get clipped by a NW flow clipper (even those are generally moisture starved).


Watching things unfold the past couple of days, the position of the evolving trough, its cold air, and any storminess will be the challenge going forward. The GFS keeps the worst of the cold and storminess just to the east. It implies the core of the cold shots may be centered further east. That type of set-up brings significant temperature swings as we transition up and down as fronts come and go. Precipitation would also be light. The EURO, especially the ensemble control, is flat out colder and snowier. Obviously, we have some issues to work out here.


Meantime, we are locked into an upper level flow that remains stagnant and void of the cold one would expect to see at this time of the year. That means more unseasonably mild temperatures the next 10–12 days. Highs will moderate from the 40s this weekend to the 50s next week. A 60 is even possible in the south next Thursday ahead of our next potential rainmaker. After that, the downward spiral begins as the jet reconfigures to colder NW flow. Here's what the GFS shows for temperatures the next couple of weeks. Not much to complain about, that's for sure.

With that, another week has come and gone. For me, it was a flashback, filled with the memories of a lifetime. Watching my heart beat on a monitor, I wondered, how do you thank so many for sending such positive energy and strength? While this is woefully inadequate, I want you to know the depth and sincerity of my words when I tell you all how much light and hope your encouragement brought to me and my family. As it should be, we are all brothers and sisters in spirit. When we lift each other up, the world is a better place. By your caring actions, I know that to be true. May peace and love be with you all. Roll weather...TS


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