Summer. It's the time of year where beach-balls and barbeque are on everybody's minds. While planning for beach trips and backyard get-togethers, we all seem to have to take one thing into account: the chance at a pop up storm that prompts us all to take things inside.
What is it about this season that makes these storms a near-every day occurrence? Like all "weather geeks," I feel the need to explain.
The last meteorology professor I had in college talked about three major ingredients needed to even think about thunderstorm development. Those ingredients are heat, moisture and lift.
Think for a second about summer.
1. Do we have heat? Check!
2. Do we have moisture? Most days we can say that we do. It seems that we've talked a lot this year about high pressure in the Gulf of Mexico helping to direct the moisture our way.
Here's where the hiccup usually comes...
3. Do we have lift? That's always the tricky part. We live in an area where the terrain drastically affects the weather. Depending on the wind direction, we could have terrain-induced lift that is enough to develop a storm or two. On a grand scale, we usually look for fronts to supply the lift needed for more wide-spread storm development. In the summer, stronger fronts are hard to come by. You hear us often talk about the jet stream, which essentially provides a separation between warmer and cooler air masses. With the jet stream displaced so far north during the summer, it's hard for fronts this time of year to really gain much strength in our region. By the time the front makes its way here, it's too weak to support anything widespread. So, we're usually left with more scattered activity. Last summer, the fronts had a little more "umph" than they've had this time around (thanks to the jet stream usually being a little bit more south than normal), which is only part of the reason why most haven't seen much in the way of rain.
This is why summer forecasting is so tough. We can't rely on dynamics in the atmosphere, simply because they aren't that strong. It's not that we sit here answering the "Is it going to rain?" question by replying, "I don't know." Rather, we look into how much heat, moisture and lift are available and make our forecast based off of that.
I hope you all find this as interesting and thought-provoking as I do. Dave, Donnie, David and myself all love the weather, and we want to share as much as we can with you! Any questions or comments you may have can be sent to me in the ways listed below! We would appreciate your input.
---Meteorologist Chris Michaels---
Facebook: Chris Michaels WCYB