The science behind the snow in the Northwest, and how it relates to our weather

Weather

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — While we are experiencing record heat and dry air in the Southeast, the Northwest is undergoing an early season snowstorm due to a deep low-pressure system. This storm is expected to and has already started to drop over one foot of snow in lower elevations and 3-5 ft in higher elevations. This coupled with hard freezes and possible blizzard conditions will make any travel in and out of the Northwest nearly impossible.

Temperature forecast for the next 6-10 days

In our area, we are stuck in this hot and dry pattern due to a dome of high pressure that has been parked over the southeastern United States. This high pressure has acted similar to a bubble over our area, trapping in the warm and dry air and not letting anything that could change our weather in such as cold fronts, storm systems, or showers and thunderstorms.

Fundamentally, the reason that we have weather in the first place is so that the atmosphere can restore a balance of energy. The big picture is illustrated in a video at the top of this article. As the ridge of high pressure has built in the east, a trough of low pressure has dug into the west (balance). While high pressure is associated with clear, and in our case, warm weather, low pressure is a weather-maker and produces showers, thunderstorms, and snowstorms – what they are seeing in the Northwest.

There are winter weather advisories, winter storm warnings, blizzard watches, wind advisories and freeze watches and warnings that are pictured below. While it is somewhat unusual to have such a significant first snow in that part of the country, if you have a cold enough airmass with a deep enough low-pressure system, among other favorable atmospheric conditions, it is not out of the question. Behind this system, there is a very cold airmass that will usher in temperatures 15-30 degrees below average to the Pacific Northwest.

Watches, warnings and advisories out courtesy of The National Weather Service (weather.gov)

Next weekend into the following week could bring a pattern shift, where our high pressure will start to erode in the southeast and a trough of low pressure in the west will make its way eastward. This would bump up our rain chances while bringing us back to more seasonable temperatures. This is also shown in the video at the top of the article. This is still pretty far out, but it is something we are watching!

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