If you live in the eastern half of the country, you’ve probably noticed that it has been unusually windy in recent weeks. There have been stretches of several days in a row where the winds have been unusually strong and gusty. The month of March is certainly well known for being a gusty month, but it seems that the pattern of late-winter has persisted all the way through April. And now as we move into the month of May there doesn’t seem to be a let-up in what has become a seemingly endless series of chilly, blustery days. What’s going on here?
If you look at the upper-levels of the atmosphere and check out the prevailing winds above 18,000-feet, meteorologists will tell you that we have been looked into a pattern where there has been a persistent trough of low pressure — a sort of buckling of the normal west-to-east configuration of the high level jet stream winds over the eastern part of the country — while over the West, there has been a huge upper level ridge of high pressure.
What has been happening over the past couple of months is that storms have been sliding south and east from western Canada along that big high pressure ridge in the west. As these systems curve to the east, they interact with that trough of low pressure in the East. The result? These otherwise small, fast moving and innocuous storms — meteorologists call then “clipper systems” tend to slow down and get stronger and as a result, as they intensify their circulation field gets broader.
If you looked at a weather map at those squiggly lines — forecasters call them isobars (lines of equal air pressure) it would almost seem that when looking at storms undergoing intensification — it looks on the weather map that you’re looking at the inside of a wristwatch where the mainspring has been tightened a bit too much. Meteorologists would say that the pressure gradient has increased — the isobars have gotten closer together and as a result the winds have correspondingly increased as well.
In many cases over the past couple of months, as such storms have moved off the Atlantic Seaboard, they have evolved into some rather potent “stemwinders” and have back lashed many eastern cities with gusty winds. So long as the trough remains in place over the East, the chilly, gusty pattern will likely continue. How much longer will that continuance be?
It might be a while longer. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the long range outlook taking us through May 13 indicates below normal temperatures . . . and with them, the likelihood of a few more brisk/blustery days, across the Northern Tier of the US, going east into New England. Hopefully it will start warming up towards mid May.
Until then . . . hold on to your hats!