Friday, May 2, 2014

Nice Weekend Ahead!

By Jay Grymes & Steve Caparotta

WAFB Storm Team QuickCast:

- skies clearing this evening and overnight
- sunny & warmer through the weekend
- stays dry for much of next week 

Yes, it was a bit of a "bust" for this morning's forecasted low as the overnight clouds hung around longer than expected. The result? Lows in the mid to upper 50°s for many instead of something closer to 50°. Then some of us got a bit of a surprise as a small, weak mid-level disturbance floated over the region at mid-day, dropping some light showers on a handful of WAFB communities. But by the late afternoon, most of those pockets of light rain have fizzled out and the skies were clearing across most of the area, leaving us with a nice Friday evening.

Our weekend forecast remains essentially unchanged. Mainly clear skies overnight will allow BR metro area temps to drop into the low 50°s for Saturday's sunrise with sunshine expected throughout the day. Saturday does get a little warmer, with highs getting into the low 80°s for most of us. After our recent run of "dry” airflow (low humidity) from the northwest, the surface winds on Saturday will be from the west to southwest. That means a touch of Gulf moisture into the low-levels but the day still will be very comfortable as dew points will remain in the 40°s and 50°s for most WAFB neighborhoods.

By Sunday, the Gulf influence will be a bit more noticeable but still not uncomfortable. We'll start Sunday in the upper 50°s (lower 60°s closer to the coast) with afternoon highs climbing into the mid to upper 80°s. You’ll likely feel a slight increase in the humidity on Sunday, but still nothing that you'd call “muggy.“

The forecast for the upcoming work week calls for a slow rise in the morning minimums thanks to a steady inflow of Gulf air (rising dew points, slowly-increasing low-level moisture), with afternoons that return to the mid to upper 80°s each day. The outlook stays mainly-dry through Wednesday with only the possibility of isolated rains on Thursday ... then a better rain chance headed into Friday.

With all the sunshine we are expecting through the weekend and well into next week, you'll have a tough time trying to find something to complain about, unless … unless you want to complain about the recent lack of rain. If that's your beef, then maybe you've got a little something there.

We are far from reaching any kind of serious "drought" condition in our area but you can't deny that most of us have been dry. Although a few spots have seen some noteworthy rain in the past two weeks, much of south Louisiana has been almost 'rain-free' since mid-April. As a result, the latest installment of the Weekly U.S. Drought Monitor shows "Moderate Drought" creeping into portions of southwest Louisiana and Acadiana. Most WAFB communities to the south of metro Baton Rouge are labeled as "Abnormally Dry" for this time of year.

Dry spells in the spring is not all that unusual: over the past couple decades we've seen a number of spring season dry spells. The obvious question becomes, "How long will this 'dry' weather pattern last?" Sadly, we don't have a good answer for that right now.

The NWS Climate Prediction Center's (CPC) latest outlooks suggest "equal chances" for near-normal, below-normal, and above-normal rainfall over the next three to four weeks for our area. Translation? There are no really useful clues as to what to expect in terms of rainfall for the rest of the month.

Many of you might consider the CPC forecast as useless since it essentially says, "We have no idea what to expect in terms of rainfall over the coming weeks for south Louisiana." But if you think about it, maybe there is some useful information to be gained: the forecast says that there is roughly a 1-in-3 chance that the current dry spell continues through the rest of the month.

Now venture into the realm of weather-related risk assessment: if you're in a business that would be seriously impacted should we remain dry for the next month or so, you now have some statistics to work with. Do you take the chance or do you consider some mitigation tactics or begin some pre-emptive activity? Admittedly, some may not have any options and are forced to take whatever Mother Nature delivers. But if you have the resources (such as irrigation options for farmers), you also now have a little heads-up to start planning around. 

In the end, some information is better than none at all, even if the guidance is not especially clear-cut.

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