Winter’s sunny days are rarely calm & warm

Today’s sunshine was a welcomed sight across much of the Midwest after a windy and snowy day for Indiana and Michigan yesterday.

As we head into the winter months sunny and warm days will only occur with a considerable amount of wind, or they’ll be downright cold!

Let’s look at three different sunny scenarios for the Upper Midwest. First, the sunny, windy, and warm day. This usually occurs when a strong high pressure system lies to our southeast. If the temperatures are quite significantly above normal, there’s probably a sizable low pressure system to our northwest (as I’ve put in this graphic). This allows the air to stream between the two systems from the southwest. Remember the tornadoes that affected Caledonia and Poplar Grove in recent years? This was the set up that brought the record high temperatures before the tornadic thunderstorms.

The next scenario to look at is the exact opposite of the previous one: the sunny, windy, and cold day. You can see, all I did was switch the placement of the low and high pressure systems…and reversed the wind direction. This is the scenario we had yesterday that brought all of the snow to Indiana and gave us 40mph wind gusts here in the morning. This weather pattern shows a relatively weak low pressure system working from southwest to northeast and an incoming stronger Canadian or Pacific high pressure system. If the high pressure system is stronger than the low, or the low is far enough to our southeast, we have sunshine, wind, and cold. In the heart of January, be on the lookout for this type of pattern as the coldest wind chills occur with this type of pattern.

In the winter it is almost impossible to have an above normal, sunny, and calm day. The reasons? First, we have more hours of night than daylight so our solar budget is in a deficit…and it’s colder. Second, calm days and nights are usually caused by high pressure systems. High pressure systems in winter typically originate in the higher latitudes of Canada with colder airmasses. Even if there is a high pressure system that arrives from the southwest or west, it’s still typically colder. That’s because the light wind at night causes any warmth built up during the day to be radiated into space.

To make a long story short, it’s very rare to have a warm, sunny day with little/no wind in the winter months. By the way, our three-month Meteorological winter begins tomorrow. -ES

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Posted under weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on November 30, 2011

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