Omega Pattern setting up- warm weather through the weekend!

April 12, 2016: Hard to beat sunny, quiet weather around the region! It could be a little warmer, as temperatures in the low 50’s is around 10 degrees below average for this time of year. Luckily, warmer weather is building in over the rest of the week thanks to an “omega blocking pattern” setting up by this weekend.

Jet stream pattern for this weekend

Jet stream pattern for this weekend

By the end of the week, the jet stream will feature two deep dips southward, one over the Rockies and the second over the Atlantic.  In between, a strong area of high pressure builds in over teh Midwest. This pattern resembles the Greek letter omega (Ω) , and results in the weather staying warm and quiet over the middle of the country, with wet and cool weather in the West and over the Atlantic.

We’ll have sunny and warm weather for several days in a row, as this pattern “blocks” any new weather systems from entering/exiting, so look for more wonderful spring weather at the end of the week!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on April 12, 2016

Watching Out for a Wednesday Winter Storm in Wisconsin…

March 21, 2016: The calendar says “Spring!” but our weather will take a few days to catch up. After a day in the 60’s on Tuesday, we’ll drop to the 40’s with possibly some snow in the air by Thursday!

If you’ve heard rumors of a major storm dropping 6″ or more on Rockford during the middle of the week, you can rest a little easier.  While there’s a slight chance that may still happen, it is looking a lot more likely that we’ll see a lot of rain, some thunderstorms, and a little snow sneaking in by Thursday.

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Here’s a map showing the model runs from Monday morning. While there is still some wiggle room in how the low may track (as all four models listed have a slightly different take on the storm), the average path among them keeps the heavy snow to the north, with mostly rain showers over us. Even if the storm takes the southern-most storm track, we’d still see mostly rain, with only a few inches of snow.

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Possible storm tracks for Wednesday into Thursday (white- NAM, orange- GFS, blue- GEM, red- European

Regardless of how the storm performs Wednesday into early Thursday, by Thursday afternoon we should see light snow take over as the atmosphere cools off as the low pressure leaves and brings in much colder air. We’d likely see accumulations stay under 1″ during the tail end of the storm, especially with air temperatures staying above freezing.

Winter Storm Watch issued 3/21/16 for Thursday, March 24

Winter Storm Watch issued 3/21/16 for Thursday, March 24

With all this in mind, the National Weather Service has issued Winter Storm Watches highlighting where the heavy snow should fall, while keeping the “wiggle room” in the models in mind. As you can see, the watches are well to our north, so we should be in the clear.

On a side note- thunderstorms are possible within the rain showers Wednesday, a few could be on the strong side with strong wind gusts and small hail.  We’ll provide updates on the likelihood of those as we get closer to Wednesday, but be ready in case of strong storms Wednesday evening.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 21, 2016

Windy Wednesday

March 16, 2016: Unlike last night when severe thunderstorms kicked up strong winds, today’s very strong and blustery winds have nothing to do with thunderstorms.

WREX 2016

Instead, we can look to a deep area of low pressure near Green Bay, WI, for why we are getting pummeled with high wind gusts today.  The air around the region tries to fill in the “divot” in the atmosphere, but due to the rotation of the Earth, the strong air flow, which we know as wind, rotates around the low. A few other factors come into play, but the deeper the low, the stronger the winds.

Storm Spotters 5

Today’s round of very windy weather featured wind gusts over 50 mph, which knocked down trees, power lines, branches, and even some light posts in Chicago. Driving became very difficult, and likely more than a few trash cans escaped their owners’ yards for while.

The winds will be settling down this evening, but will remain blustery for a while through Thursday.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 16, 2016

Why do we have Daylight Saving Time?

March 11, 2016: This weekend is part 1 of our semiannual tradition of flipping the clocks ahead or back as part of Daylight Saving Time.  In this case, we “spring ahead” as Daylight Saving Time begins. We’ll be in Daylight Saving Time until November 1, when clocks will be “falling back” one hour.

2013_Daylight_Saving_Starts_Clock_USA

This is usually done at 2 am on the 2nd Sunday of March (which is this Sunday), when we move our clocks ahead to 3 am, though you can always do that before you go to bed Saturday night (or when you get up Sunday, just don’t forget!).  It’s not a bad idea either to replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, then test them to make sure they work.

So why do we do this every year? It boils down to energy usage.  The thought behind daylight saving is that by adjusting the clocks for the summer, you could take advantage of the “longer” evenings and not have to use electric lighting, etc. for a longer period.  This practice was first used in widespread fashion during the world wars to help conserve precious materials and fuel for the war effort. The US first used daylight saving time in World War 1, then stopped the practice until World War 2, when clocks were put ahead for an hour during the duration of the war.  After the war, daylight saving time wasn’t enforced, but some places still used it. From 1945 to 1966, there was a lot of confusion, as you could go from place to place and sometimes be changing your watch constantly!  In 1967, daylight saving time became the law of the land.

The practice remains controversial, however. We may save a little on energy usage with not having to turn on the lights earlier in the evening, and certain business and events like afternoon and evening sports benefit from the longer evenings.  However, we may be using our air conditioning and such more during the evenings while we are awake to stay cool, so energy savings may very little.

Daylight saving time is still in practice for the foreseeable future, so again, don’t forget to move the clocks ahead an hour on Sunday!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 11, 2016

Will it get cold again this March?

March 9, 2016: It’s easy to get used to this week’s weather!  Temperatures soared to as warm as the 70’s by Tuesday, but now temperatures will settle into the 50’s for the next week or so, which is still at least 10° above average.

Now that spring has sprung early, will it stick around? That’s a big question a lot of people are curious about, so let’s dive into it.

First off, we aren’t looking for cold air anytime soon. In fact, the weather looks to stay above average through at least next Wednesday! That means at least another week of the 50’s, with some days in the 60’s.

That means we’ll have to look further out for signs of cold air.  Keep in mind, the farther we go out from the present, the more could change with the weather situation, so the maps I show next won’t be exactly what happens in the coming weeks:

The GFS model showing the jet stream for next Friday night, March 18th.

The GFS model showing the jet stream for next Friday night, March 18th. Click on the image to enlarge.

Here’s one computer model’s thoughts on the jet stream about 10 days out from now (next Friday). Do you see that ‘U’ shape in the wind pattern, and how far south it goes? That doesn’t look good for us.  This pattern points toward bringing in much colder air out of Canada.

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the GFS model

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the GFS model. Click on the image to enlarge.

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the European model

Surface temperatures for Friday, March 18th, according to the European model. Click on the image to enlarge.

These next two maps are two different computers models (the GFS model and the European model) and what they think surface temperatures will be under that possible weather pattern next Friday.  Remember, take this with a grain a salt, but don’t put away the heavy jackets yet!  While the models differ on where to put the coldest air, they both agree that we’ll see highs in the middle to low 40’s, which by that point is closer to 10 degrees BELOW average!

Surface temperatures for Sunday, March 20th, according to the GFS model.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Surface temperatures for Sunday, March 20th, according to the GFS model. Click on the image to enlarge.

If we look even farther out, the GFS model wants to bring us highs in the 30’s by the following Sunday!

Remember, a lot can change with all of this.  As the models get more information, they’ll refine their forecast, plus getting closer to next Friday gives the models much more current information to work with.

It isn’t surprising that be might see cold weather before the month is over- it is March after all! This month definitely has a lot of back and forth weather!

-Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 9, 2016

Severe Weather Preparedness Week 2016

March 3, 2016: This week is Severe Weather Preparedness Week for the state of Illinois. Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, the state has its statewide tornado drill, so you likely heard the warning sirens, and your weather radio also may have gone off with a test message. The National Weather Service also held a storm spotter training class for Winnebago County.

The purpose of the week is to remind and refresh residents on the dangers of severe weather. Why so early in March, when there’s still snow in the forecast? Look at it this way- there’s still plenty of time to get ready and refresh yourself on your severe weather plan of action before the storms start to hit our area!

Billboard 2

So what should you do to get ready?  First, review your severe weather plan of action. Don’t have one? Here’s what you should think over and coordinate with your friends and family: where do you need to go to be safe from severe weather?  This includes tornadoes, severe thunderstorms with hail and high winds, and flash flooding. You may know where to go in your house or apartment, but do you know where to go at work, at school, at church, or anywhere else you visit frequently?  If you don’t know, start asking at those places or ask us at 13 WREX- we are hear to help!

Secondly, make sure you have multiple ways to get severe weather information.  This may include:

– outdoor warning sirens (***IMPORTANT***: remember that those sirens are only meant for people outdoors! You may not hear them in the house, so don’t completely rely on them!)

– local TV and radio stations

– a NOAA weather radio

– text message alerts or weather app alerts

– calls from family or friends to relay important information

– the internet

Multiple ways to get severe weather alerts is very, very important.  Only relying on one way to get warnings can lead to injury or worse, in case that particular method does not get your attention in time.

Severe weather season is coming up fast- while severe weather can happen at any time of the year (even in winter), our peak season for tornadoes is between April and June, with flash flood events mostly likely between July and August. Start getting ready now, and stay tuned for more information like this as we get closer to the start of severe weather season!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 3, 2016

Storm Spotter Training Season

Feb. 26, 2016: It’s that time of year again to start thinking about severe weather. I know we are barely out of winter, but that’s why it’s a good time: you have plenty of days to prepare before spring severe weather season kicks off!

If you are at all curious or enthusiastic about severe weather, do your community a favor and attend the National Weather Service’s storm spotter training class this upcoming Tuesday.  Why?

1) It’s free!  Well, almost free: the class is 2 hours long, so you’ll have to give up part of your evening.

2) You’ll be properly trained to report severe weather. Why’s that important? Storm spotters provide potentially life-saving observations.  Even as new technology emerges to help the NWS issue warnings with more lead time, NWS meteorologists can’t be everywhere at once, and technology can’t fully replace having trained individuals confirming on the ground what the radar is indicating.

3) You’ll help your community: as mentioned above, your reports help confirm what the NWS is able to see on radar, satellite, etc., which in turn helps get warnings out quicker.  The faster your neighbors know about a warning, the more time they have to get to a safe place.

The NWS will be in Cherry Valley to host Winnebago County on March 1st, and in Dixon to host Lee and Ogle Counties March 23rd. For more information, click here.  We at the 13 Weather Authority know how much of a help storm spotters provide during severe weather season, so we hope you are able to attend!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 26, 2016

Back to Reality (late February edition)

February 22, 2016: Who enjoyed the 50° warmth over the weekend? Wasn’t that nice? The weather pattern this week is a subtle reminder that winter isn’t over just yet.

Billboard 1

First off, having the 40’s in February is still doing pretty well. Average highs are between 37° to 39° this time of year, so even cracking 40° feels pretty nice (though not substantially above average).  We should remain close to average, if not a little above, each day this week.

Billboard 2

The winds are coming back as well, as a by-product of the temperatures whipping back and forth between the middle 40’s and the middle 30’s. While not like Friday’s hard-hitting 60 mph gusts, we should see wind gusts reach 30 mph each of the days listed in the graphic, making the weather blustery for a few days this week.

Billboard 3

Finally, we are keeping an eye on a major snow-maker…just not necessarily here. The latest major winter storm looks to hit Michigan with up to 6″ of snow, with areas of Indiana and Illinois getting in on the fun as well. Right now, Rockford looks to get flurries and windy weather out of the storm only.

Snow forecast for Wednesday (valid 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22)

Snow forecast for Wednesday (valid 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22)

However, if you have any business or reason to go into Chicago on Wednesday, keep a close eye on the weather. A few inches of snow plus the blustery winds are possible for the Windy City in the middle of the week.

For those unhappy with winter “returning” this week, keep in mind- the official start to Spring is less than a month away!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 22, 2016

Friday’s High Winds

February 19, 2015: Friday’s winds were a little much at times, with hazardous conditions even popping up at wind gusts topped 60 mph! A fast-moving, very strong area of low pressure combined with dry air and sunshine allowed the strong winds from higher in the atmosphere to reach the surface, blasting us with 50-60 mph wind gusts for parts of the day.

Top wind gusts for February 19

Top wind gusts for February 19

Not surprisingly, we had all sorts of issues with the wind, from power flickers and outages to semi rollovers to downed tree limbs and branches.

Courtesy: Lisa Cushman Hasting

Courtesy: Lisa Cushman Hasting

Take a good look at the semi, and remember, on very windy days like this, to take it slower and have a firm grip on the steering wheel.  Granted, semi trucks catch the wind a lot easier, but the power of the wind can cause accidents.

Aprilruary

High temperatures for February 19

High temperatures for February 19

On the positive side, check out our temperatures! Saturday will be in the 50’s, and highs almost reached the 60’s, which would have been the only the 9th time on record in Rockford. Enjoy the warmth while it’s here!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 19, 2016

50’s in February

Feb. 16, 2016: With the end of the week showing signs of 50° weather in northern Illinois (or warmer than that in central Illinois!), I got a little curious- how often do we typically see 50° weather in February?  The short answer: not very often.

February 50sIn an average February (from the 1980 to 2010 climate records (the National Weather Service sets our climate normals each decade based on the previous 30 years)), we get a whopping 2 days in the 50’s.  However, considering how cold February can get, plus the fact that we are still in winter, that’s doing pretty well!

Looking further into this, it has been a little while since we were treated to a day in the 50’s in February.  Feb. 18, 2013 was the last time the thermometer read 50° or higher in Rockford (the high was 52° that day).

In fact, it will be nearly 3 years to the very day that the 50’s return to the Stateline in February.  February 19th is this Friday, which is when the 50’s pop up next! How neat is that!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 16, 2016