Wild Early Fall Weather

The autumnal equinox was just over a week ago, and already it seems as though winter is knocking at the door in some parts of the country. Meanwhile, other parts of the United States are enduring record-breaking heat. Let’s take a look at some of the recent headline-making weather events around the nation.

Glacier National Park after an early season snowstorm, September 2019. Courtesy NPS.

If you live in the northwest or Montana, you may find yourself sitting under a blanket of new snow this week. A storm system brought widespread accumulating snow to parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming this week. Montana saw the most snowfall, with a whopping three to four feet of snow falling in the northwest part of the state near the Canadian border. Browning, MT received 48 inches of snowfall!!! Over 18 inches of snow fell in northeast Washington, and nearly a foot fell in parts of Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon. Even areas around Lake Tahoe received between 1 and 2 inches of snow. The storm system also brought strong winds. Bird Springs Pass in California, located near Sequoia National Park, reported a wind gust of 71 miles per hour, and Douglas Pass, in western Colorado, reported a wind gust of 81 miles per hour!

24-hour snow accumulation ending the morning of September 29, 2019. Courtesy NOAA/NOHRSC.

As of Wednesday morning, the upper-level disturbance responsible for the snow in the western part of the country was located over Montana and Wyoming and making slow progress eastward. It is forecast to weaken and slowly move north and east during this upcoming week. Thus, while those of us in the Northeast are expecting unsettled weather, we will not see any accumulating snowfall yet!

Jet stream winds on Wednesday, October 2.

Meanwhile, the southeast United States remains firmly anchored under an upper-level ridge, or area of high pressure. The highest high temperatures reported across the United States on Tuesday were in Alabama, where it reached 101 degrees in Andalusia, Montgomery, and Oakmulgee. High temperatures on Tuesday were in the 90s across parts of the southeast U.S., Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and even as far north as Indiana and Ohio. Over this last week, record high temperatures have been set in many cities, including Atlanta, GA, Jacksonville, FL, Macon, GA, Knoxville, TN, Richmond, VA, and Charlotte, NC.

Daily high and low temperatures for October 1. Courtesy NOAA.

The current upper-level pattern of the jet stream, with a trough (low) in the western U.S. and a ridge (high) in the east, is responsible for the extreme weather we have been seeing of late. Generally, when the jet stream dips far south, the weather is colder than normal, and when the jet stream lifts to the north, warmer temperatures prevail. In between the upper-level trough and ridge, there lies a sharp contrast in temperatures, or a front, at the surface. Currently, that boundary is situated across the central Plains and Midwest, and is responsible for bringing unsettled weather and some heavy rainfall to parts of Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and Illinois.

Weather conditions: October 2, 2019. Courtesy NOAA/WPC.

Notice that behind the front, the temperature has fallen over 20 degrees in 24 hours over the Great Lakes and Midwest. Even from my vantage point here in upstate New York, temperatures have warmed over 12 degrees in 24 hours ahead of the front, but in western New York State, the temperatures are rapidly dropping.

24-hour temperature change. Courtesy NOAA/WPC.

How’s this for a sharp temperature contrast? At the time of this writing near noon on Wednesday, it is currently 74 degrees and muggy at the Albany Airport, while just 50 miles to the north in Glens Falls, it is a chilly 59 degrees and raining! Even further north near the Canadian border, it is in the low 50s. As this front gradually shifts south and east during the day, we will be noticing a sharp dropoff in temperatures here in New York’s Capital Region. Highs through the weekend are not expected to exceed 60 degrees, and we may see our first frost of the season over the next few nights.

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