Saturday, February 25, 2023

Despite a couple cool days, February warmth (and wind) continue next week

The month of January went into the books as one of the warmest and wettest on record (both ranking in the top 10th percentile). February has mainly continued that trend on the temperature side, with average temperatures 5 degrees above normal, and even threatening (and exceeding once) records earlier this week. 

Daily temps and precip for February 2023 to date. Note the generally well above average temperatures with only a couple of short exceptions. Though it seems like it has been raining a lot, we're about a half inch below average to this point in the month. (NWS)

Cool and damp to start the weeekend

That pattern was interrupted by a strong cold front that dropped high temperatures 25-30 degrees between Thursday and Friday. Cool, damp weather Friday continues into Saturday with temperatures in the 40s. The overall pattern though is still one that favors above average temperatures and we'll find ourself back there again to end the weekend, as highs climb back into the upper 60s with that Thursday cold front moving back to our north as a warm front. 

Back in the "warm sector," we'll have an unsettled regime in place leading into next week. This seems appropriate as we move towards meteorological spring, which starts on March 1 (Wednesday) and typically brings fairly large swings in temperatures and frequent showers, as well as warmer unstable air that can result in seasonal thunderstorms. This past week has also been Severe Weather Awareness Week, which is a good reminder that this time of year, the dynamic systems of wintertime often start tapping into more unstable air, which means the threat of severe storms starts to ramp up.

Starting the week windy

Looking ahead to the coming week, our first system of note arrives early and will bring showers late Sunday night and Monday morning. But more importantly, we'll have yet another very windy day (I think this is the third in the past 10-14 days) with wind gusts near 40 mph or higher starting after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning and continuing through Monday mid-day before starting to diminish a bit going into Monday afternoon. 

A strong front moving across the southern Plains with severe storms on Sunday night arrives in Memphis as mostly showers by Monday morning. HRRR forecast radar valid Sunday 6pm to Monday 6am. This front will also generate a lot of wind. (WeatherBell)

This potent low pressure system will produce the potential for severe weather Sunday in the southern Plains before quickly moving through the Mid-South, where unstable air is not nearly as big a concern. However, because of an anomalously large and strong high pressure system anchored over the far southeastern U.S., a strong low moving by our area will produce a pressure gradient between the two systems that will result in a #SkirtAlert at minimum and maybe some scattered power outages like the wind system we had earlier in the week. 

The NWS Blend of Models depicts maximum wind gusts with Monday morning's system. (WeatherBell)

Active pattern continues for the latter half of the week

Once this low and front move out, we'll catch a break for about 48 hours with a pleasant spring day on tap for Tuesday with just some high clouds moving by and temps near 70. Rain chances start moving back in Wednesday afternoon or evening, and this time stick around for much of the rest of the week as two weather systems pass by. The threat of severe weather looks to stay south of Memphis in the last half of the week, though a few thunderstorms are possible. Temps start warm (low 70s Wednesday), but gradually decline - to the mid 60s behind a rainy Wednesday night into early Thursday, and then the mid 50s by Friday.  

Generally the mid-range global models are not in great agreement on timing and position of a system that moves through the southeast at end end of the week, but a very potent low pressure system looks to slide by just to our south, with a threat of heavy rain somewhere near or south of the metro and severe weather in the Gulf Coast region. 

The Friday night run of the European model, valid Wednesday morning through Saturday morning (March 1-4) is not to be taken literally, but presents a similar picture as the American GFS model. One period of rainfall moves across the areas Wednesday PM to Thursday AM with another more potent system moving through the southeast on Friday. (WeatherBell)

Looking into the crystal ball

By next weekend, we'll be looking at mild temperatures and dry conditions. Beyond that, the week two outlook favors near or slightly above average temperatures and and precipitation. And there are some long-range signals (still just very generalized based on climate models and teleconnections) that temperatures could turn cooler as we head deeper into March. For now though, that is still in la-la land.

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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