Friday, January 30, 2015

Mixed Weather Bag for the Weekend

By Jay Grymes

WAFB First Alert Quickcast:

- closer-to-normal temperatures through the weekend
- rain rolls in for Super Bowl Sunday
- even cooler by early next week

Today surely wasn't a day to complain about by January standards. However, it was quite a change in terms of our afternoon temperatures over the past few days. After a run of days in the 70°s, metro Baton Rouge only made it into the low 60°s, with some of WAFB more northern communities barely reaching 60° this afternoon.

And get used to the cooler days too. Not just cooler either: we're expecting daytime highs in the low to mid 50°s for a number of days next week as winter weather makes a return. 

At the same time, many across the country will be waiting on the shadow-driven prognostication of that famous western Pennsylvania groundhog -- Punxsutawney Phil -- or the winter outlook from literally dozens of local rodent "forecasters." Groundhog Day is Monday, February 2nd.

A quick look back at January temperatures: climatologically, even with our recent run of spring-like days, it's been a cooler-than-normal January -- averaging about 48° for Baton Rouge's Metro Airport (BTR) -- about 3° below the monthly norm. By January historical standards, that's cool but certainly not cold. Looking back at the past 50 Januarys, BTR's January average temperature has been below 45° five times, including just last January!

BTR's 8 January days in the 70°s was just about average for the month (long term average is about 9 days), while the 8 January freezes -- including the bitterly cold low of 20° on the 8th -- was a bit above the long-term average of 6 days. By the way, the 8th was also the "coldest day” of the month for our area, not just because of the 20° low -- BTR temps stayed at or below freezing for more than half the day.

As an FYI, the NWS Climate Prediction Center (CPC) three-month outlook for February-March-April (FMA) indicates about a 70% chance for spring-season temperatures to run "near-normal to below-normal" for the WAFB viewing area. The CPC's rainfall outlook for FMA calls for equal chances for "below-normal," "near-normal" and "above-normal" total rainfall for the spring. (In other words, there are no indicators that are suggesting a seasonal trend in one direction or the other.)

So let’s get back to our local forecast: a 'dry' cold front moved through our region last night. Temperatures didn't fall too far this morning, with lows in the 40°s but it was a much more limited warm-up through the day. North-to-northeast winds kept pushing cool-and-dry continental air into the lower Mississippi Valley. And by early Saturday morning, many of us will have slipped into the mid to upper 30°s. Our Saturday forecast stays dry, although clouds will slowly increase during the latter half of the day. And just like today, it will be another cool afternoon with highs in the low 60°s. 

Storm energy from a system currently impacting the Desert Southwest will make for a wet Super Bowl Sunday here in WAFB land. Some of the computer guidance over the past couple of days was mixed in terms of how the much rain we would get from that system, but we're seeing better agreement now: Sunday will be a rainy day, with a few thunderstorms possible. 

The first rains on Sunday likely arrive well before sunrise, but the main action will be during the middle and latter part of the day. The good news is that there is still no concern for severe weather, even with the current thunderstorm potential in the day’s forecast.

In addition, rain totals still shouldn't be a real problem. Standing water in the usual places? Sure, but rain projections trending on the order of 0.2" to 0.5" with some higher localized totals possible. That's not enough to be a real problem for anyone.

The weather "dries" for Monday but it gets even cooler: expect highs in the low 50°s for Monday and Tuesday for the Red Stick. And, what’s more, the dry spell is short-lived with rain returning to our forecast during the latter half of Tuesday and extending through Wednesday, possibly even into early Thursday. These mid-week rains are likely to be a bit more productive in terms of rain totals. It's too early for high confidence, but we're thinking widespread rains of up to one-inch or more for the mid-week event, resulting in regional totals on the order of 1" to 2" for the full 7-day period. 

That's on the “wet side” of things for February but nor really problematic -- 7-day rain accumulations during early February typically run about 1.0" to 1.5", on average.

So, stay warm! Enjoy the cool Saturday. Stay inside for Sunday: dodge the rain and catch the Super Bowl -- the nation's unofficial football holiday! And keep the jackets and rain gear ready for next week.

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