In like a Lamb?

Ah, the Great Plains, home of the clash of the air masses. Where 100 degree F temperature swings in a 24 hour period are unusual but not unheard of. Where nothing protects Texas from Canadian arctic air save for a three-strand fence in Colorado, and two of the strands are broken.

OldNFO was grumping earlier this week about New Mexico sending their top soil over to his place, and would they please take it back. I’ve felt his pain a few times already this year, except it was from New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Gotta love wind shifts.

The darker yellow is the cold-air funnel. I live near the I in Plains.
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The Rocky Mountains channel cold air down their eastern face, letting it slide down to the south. However, we also get low pressure systems from due west, and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico that is pulled north and west. When the cold air from Canada meets that warm moist or warm dry air, we get Weather of Unusual Interest.

This year, what’s happened is low pressure systems from the Baja and southern California douse CA and AZ with moisture, snow on New Mexico, and then swing north into Kansas before continuing east. We are on the dry side of the storm, so we get howling wind and nothing else. Depending on how dry the air is and how strong the wind is, we may get brassy skies, low visibility, and dust. It’s not fun, but we have not had the ferocious “Black Rollers,” the light-eating dust storms they see on the South Plains or that used to be more common through the 1960s. 2011 was the last time we had red skies and low to zero visibility with static that took out the power for about 5 hours.

Because it has been dry, we get impressive temperature swings between air masses. On Wednesday Feb. 27 we had freezing fog, hoar-frost, and a high of 32 at midnight. The afternoon high was 31 in town. Tuesday we topped out at 74F. March 1 is supposed to be 71, then 28 on Sunday with a low of 8 F. And dry. Then back into the 60s by the middle of the week.

“Just pick one!” is a common plaint among High Plains residents this time of year. Either be cold or warm. People blame head-colds, the ‘flu, bronchitis, and pretty much everything but lumbago and smallpox on the rapid temperature changes. The wind howls out of the southwest, then flips and howls out of the north. Fire departments dread this time of year, because a wet fall and a dry winter mean a very busy fire season.

So it appears that March 2019 will come in like a lamb with a lion in hot pursuit. By tradition, that means the end of March will be stormy. March is indeed the beginning of our official severe storm season, but blizzards are also possible through early May. Yes, Texas can get lots of snow in late April and early May. We blame Canada. They’re a big country. They can take it. 😉


11 thoughts on “In like a Lamb?

  1. Is Dallas part of the cold air funnel? My map reading is poor. Interesting article.

    • You’re just east, although this year, some of the major cold outbreaks have skirted east of me and really gotten Oklahoma City and more towards the Metroplex.

  2. We’ve (SW Missouri) had several episodes of ice (enough to close the schools) and not even enough snow to hide the grass all winter. So now that people are starting to think about planting the first vegetables (spinach and lettuce at least) in their gardens, the weather beans are predicting 4″ – 6″ of snow by the week-end

  3. There may be folks talking about how plausible this duel dynamo solar sounds after the intensity of cold this year.

  4. “If you don’t like the weather now, wait a bit and it’ll change”. 😀

  5. My first duty assignment was Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City, on the eastern edge of that dark yellow swath, and straight north of Dallas. I always loved walking out into a dust storm that included a rain storm on above it, which would dot my light blue AF shirt with orange spots of mud. 😦 And then the hail would dot the cars (and airplanes) with dents. Spring would have 80 degree mornings and 35 degree mid-days. Or vice versa.

    One February I was destined for Saudi Arabia. The day before I flew out of Tinker a snow storm dropped 9 inches on the OKC area. The only snow removal equipment in town was on the base, for the runways. I lived a mile off base and counted 27 cars in the ditch between the gate and my apartment. I was happy to depart for warmer climes the next morning…except we had a thankfully short layover in Goose Bay, Canada. BRRR.

  6. Hey, we’d blame smallpox and lumbago on the weather if we could. Says the person whose sinuses are having, ah, distinct opinions about the bipolar nature of North Texas “almost-maybe-wait nevermind – spring – no, SUMMER – nope, winter again…”

  7. A few weeks ago we were seeing days like that – or worse – here in Cincinnati. Just remember: This too shall pass.

    • Oh, it will. I just wish we’d get some rain – non-freezing-flavored – or a nice wet snow before the trees leaf out.

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