Original article posted Jan. 28, 2011
With the Super Bowl on the horizon, I keep thinking of a line I heard while watching the Packers game. "Football is a game of inches". Very true. And it's a similar story in meteorology. It's a game of inches...at least on my computer screen. Those inches translate to miles in real life, but the fact remains that a relatively minuscule difference (relative to the big picture) can have a HUGE effect on our weather .
Our upcoming weather pattern is a prime example of that. Be warned...I'm going to throw a bit of meteorology at you. Let's take an area of low pressure. We know a few things about it; lows generally lead to precipitation, and winds around the low rotate counter-clockwise. That second part is the important tidbit. This means exactly where you place that low on a map will dictate the temperatures all around it. We all know southerly winds tend to bring warm air, while northerly winds usher in the cold. That means we can designate a "warm" and a "cold" side to that area of low pressure. Because of the counter-clockwise flow, warm winds from the south are found to the east of the low, while cold winds from the north reside to the west. Makes sense.
So let's say you're sitting in front of your television at your Anchorage home at six in the morning watching your favorite morning show (the one on channel 11). You hear your favorite meteorologist tell you there is an area of low pressure moving to your east, near Cordova. What does that mean to you? Chances are...it's going to get cold! You are now located to the west of the low...and winds will start to come from the north. Provided there isn't a heat wave going on upstream in the Interior...things are going to get chilly. Now let's paint a different picture. You're still doing your thing watching Lauren and I and you hear that same weather guy tell you an area of low pressure is heading toward Bethel. You go and start rummaging through your dresser looking for shorts. Why? Because you're on the tropical side of that bad boy...and the heat is on!
Obviously...our weather is a bit more complicated that that. There's also the occasional area of high pressure, type of season and plenty of small scale features to toss into the equation, but what I just described is a usually a pretty good barometer for temperatures. And as I peek at the mid to long range models...it's looking like the info you've just learned is going to come in handy!
Late January-early February is not typically a time period for areas of low pressure to be passing to our west. But guess what? It hasn't been a typical winter. Next week, our pattern appears to be moving to one in which storms will shoot across western and southwestern Alaska, which will keep us in south-central on the toasty side of things. It's not going to be 70 and sunny, but mid 30's is still pretty darn good. We'll have our fair share of moisture being slung at us (that's one of the caveats of being in the warm sector), but this storm track tends to promote downsloping winds in the city...so we won't be getting dumped on.
It's looking like the middle part of next week will be balmy, but that doesn't mean this weekend won't be pretty mild too. I'm expecting temps in the mid 20's this weekend, rising to the mid 30's by Wednesday. Any precip that overcomes the downsloping might actually fall as some rain! Remember, we're still a few days out from being able to write anything in stone. The information I've provided is what models are shaping things up to be today, but there will likely be some tweaking in the coming days. Regardless...moral of the story is that I don't see any arctic intrusions of cold air anytime soon. And for this time of the season in this state...that is certainly a pleasant surprise.
Have a great weekend,