This blog provides commentary on interesting geological events occurring around the world in the context of my own work. This work is, broadly, geological fluid dynamics. The events that I highlight here are those that resonate with my professional life and ideas, and my goal is to interpret them in the context of ideas I've developed in my research. The blog does not represent any particular research agenda. It is written on a personal basis and does not seek to represent the University of Illinois, where I am a professor of geology and physics. Enjoy Geology in Motion! I would be glad to be alerted to geologic events of interest to post here! I hope that this blog can provide current event materials that will make geology come alive.

Banner image is by Ludie Cochrane..

Susan Kieffer can be contacted at s1kieffer at gmail.com

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Warm Gjulf Stream may portend energetic spring-time storms in the midwest

From Washington Post Capital Weather Gang on 3/22/17.
Weather in the Midwest is a fight between the receding Arctic cold air and the encrouching warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. The battle scars of this fight are the tornadoes of the Midwest. Today the Washingto Post summarized the current situation: "freakisly warm" waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Houston to Miami have had historically warm days (while we in the Pacific Northwest have had unusually cold and rainy times). Please see source in the figure caption for details and credits.
     The average sea surface temperature in the Gulf never fell below 73 degrees for the first time ever. Galvaston Texas broke 33 temperature records since November 1, and Houston had the warmest winter on record. Gads, I go there in a couple of weeks, and afternoon temperatures in Houston are projected to be in the 80's. Overnight temperatures have also remained high, a concern for health officials. Sea surface temperature in the Gulf is loosely correlated to tornado activity.  Additional requisites are: mixing layer with hot dry air at altitude that flows into the southern and central US to interact with this warm moist Gulf air. Another favorable ingredient is that there is a warm pool off the coast of Peru, and a cold pool of of the U.S. West coast, a pattern that correlates with high tornado activity.
    This report quotes: "A vigorous jet stream disturbance, originating from the Pacific Ocean, will crash into the southwestern United States around March 28. Once it enters the Plains around March 29 and March 30, it is likely to tap into the warm Gulf water and encounter the elevated mixed layer. Then severe storms may erupt." Not a great time to plan a cross-country trip, which is exactly what I've been doing! Will bring camera.....

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