Winter Update: The Aftermath of Titan Coast to Coast

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Precipitation forecast for Mar.4-11. Courtesy of NOAA.

Precipitation forecast for March 4th through the 11th. Courtesy of NOAA.

It isn’t often that a winter storm affects residents coast to coast. Titan washed ashore in California with torrential rains, cruised into the desert on flooding downpours, dumped a couple of feet of snow in the mountains — and then it really got going.

A band of freezing rain brought down power lines from Texas to Virginia; snow piled up through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

And thunderstorms spawned a suspected tornado in Louisiana and a confirmed one in Arizona.

Titan Drenches California and the Desert

Titan pummeled parts of southern California with more rain in two days than the region had received in the previous entire year, bringing drought relief (not nearly enough), but also mudslides on hills denuded by last summer’s fires.

Titan caused mudslides in California.

Titan caused mudslides in California. Image courtesy of NOAA

Then it was on to the desert, where Las Vegas got its first rainfall in nearly three months. Phoenix recorded 0.99 inches of rain, exactly the normal for an entire March, and a small tornado hit the suburb of Mesa.

Titan Leaves a Trail of Freezing Rain, Sleet, and Snow

The setup for foul weather we have observed for most of this winter was perfectly in place for Titan: the polar vortex drove cold air into the center and northeast of the country, while warm and humid air moved north from the Gulf of Mexico. This was a combustible combination and Titan lit the fuse.

The bands of heavy snow and freezing rain, with sleet in between, affected areas where residents are more than sick of winter. From Texas and Kansas to Maryland and Virginia, cars slid and people shoveled.

Rapid Warmup in the Aftermath of Titan

At this time of year, with the sun climbing higher each day, temperatures can bounce back quickly after storms. But just as in the case of drought-breaking rain, it can be a matter of too much of a good thing. Rapid warmup means rapid snowmelt, and some places that received significant snow could face flooding of small streams.

Meteorological Spring is Here. Does the Polar Vortex Know?

The atmosphere is in a state of turmoil. Computer models differ widely on what happens next. March, normally a transition month between the lion of winter and the lamb of spring, could go either way.

Two computer models diverge in this forecast for Mar. 7-11. Maps courtesy of NOAA.

Two computer models diverge in this jet stream forecast for Mar. 7-11. Maps courtesy of NOAA.

The omega block that covered the eastern Pacific for much of the winter has broken down. With the persistent sea water temperature anomaly southwest of Alaska, the block could return.

However, the water in the lower Pacific latitudes is at or below normal, and the low-latitude branch of the jet stream that carried Titan is still present. The polar vortex also shows resistance to normal seasonal weakening. Almost any pattern could emerge.

With the polar vortex hanging on and the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean vast sources of moisture, another unpleasant meeting of conflicting air masses is fairly likely.

Some forecasts indicate a coastal storm from the Carolinas northward on Friday and a Gulf of Mexico storm next Monday. One of them could be Ulysses.

Pacific storms will still reach the west coast, but make landfall farther north than Titan did. Heavy rain will fall in Washington and Oregon, but none in southern California.

Looking Ahead to Mid-March

Many long-range forecasts show the Pacific ridge moving to the intermountain region and the trough taking up residence on the Atlantic coast. If that is the case — and it is typical of early spring — warm Pacific air could reach the plains and midwest, while the northeast receives the brunt of the cold, and storms are steered out to sea.

Party Time Weather

Every year Mardi Gras revelers ask: Will it rain on our parades? This year, unfortunately, the answer is yes. Titan didn’t push the moisture far enough away and precipitation will cover the New Orleans area for at least today, March 4th. Temperatures will be in the unseasonably cold 40s.

Europe Gets a Break

While the forecast for the U.S. remains unsettled and uncertain, a major change in the jet stream over the Atlantic should bring unseasonably warm weather to England by week’s end. Cheerio, old chaps; you deserve it after a winter almost as nasty as the one in the former colonies.

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