World and Nation

Rite of Spring

Rite of Spring

While our weather in New England can be cruel at times, Mother Nature’s most impressive display of sound and fury is reserved for the Midwest during the spring months. This time of year, the jet stream begins its slow drift northward, sending storms through the Rockies into the nation’s heartland. Particularly strong storms are able to tap in to plentiful amounts of warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, sending a torrent of energy laden air out ahead of the storm.

Meanwhile, winter’s icy remnants surge in on the backside of the storm, producing a very sharp boundary called a front. The cold, dense air forces the warm, moist air out ahead of the front up into the atmosphere where it becomes unstable and accelerates upwards, yielding severe thunderstorms. The frequency and intensity with which this process happens makes the Midwest the most prone region to severe weather in the world.

If the temperature aloft is very cold, one then gets impressive hailstones up to the size of softballs. If the winds are strong aloft, these winds can be transported down to the surface in the form of damaging microbursts. If the winds change very quickly with height, the spin or “helicity” can concentrate and tilt into a violent tornado. Any of these can have devastating consequences, but it is easy to forget flash flooding and lightning produces far more deaths than hail, microbursts, and tornadoes combined.

Extended Forecast

Tonight: Clear. Low 29ºF (-2ºC).

Tomorrow: Sunny and warmer. High 49ºF (9ºC).

Tomorrow night: Clear. Low 35ºF (2ºC).

Sunday: Sunny and mild. High 53ºF (12ºC).

Sunday night: Mostly cloudy. Low 30ºF (-1ºC).