A potpourri of weather facts, local and global

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The word potpourri has several definitions, including a collection of miscellaneous literary extracts, or a mixture, especially of unrelated objects or subjects.

Given that this week’s local weather looks rather uneventful in Pearl River County, this would be a good time to devote the column to a potpourri of weather factoids.

Last week we explored the folk wisdom of the “cold snap around Easter.” This year we had a “Palm Sunday weekend” cool snap. Lows this past Saturday morning dipped to around 40 degrees in most parts of the county, our coldest temperatures since March 8th. Northern parts of Mississippi even had a light freeze.

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If chilly described Picayune on Saturday morning, I’m not sure what word describes the weather over the weekend at Dome Argus in Antarctica, where the temperature dropped to 100 degrees Fahrenheit below zero! Dome Argus, which is a high elevation ice dome rising to over 13,000 feet above sea level, is arguably one of the most consistently cold places on earth.

But, Antarctica is a big continent. Earlier last week, one of the warmest temperatures ever measured in Antarctica was observed hundreds of miles from Dome Argus when the mercury “soared” to 63 degrees at Esperanza a base near the most equatorward tip of the Antarctic continent.

Boston never sees anything near Antarctic-cold, but for Bostonians and their New England neighbors, this has been their snowiest winter on record with over nine feet of snow! They got more snow just this past weekend.

But, the seasons, they are a-changin. Next week seasonal hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University will issue their outlook for the number and general intensity of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico for the upcoming summer and fall.

One of the many factors those and other organizations issuing seasonal hurricane outlooks will take into account is the fact that, as of early March, the ocean-atmosphere phenomenon known as El Nino finally arrived in the equatorial Pacific after last appearing in 2009-2010. El Nino describes a pattern of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that continues for at least several months. These warmer-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures are associated with different-than-normal wind patterns, which in turn affect weather over many parts of the world, including the United States and the tropical Atlantic.

So far, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is characterizing this El Nino as weak. In fact, in their El Nino Advisory last Monday, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said that there is only a 50-60 percent chance that El Nino conditions will extend through this summer.

For those more interested in this week’s weather than the hurricane season or El Nino, look forward to temperatures near or above normal with highs in the 70s and 80s. Although still five days away, chances look better for a dry rather than wet Easter Sunday. If your Easter weekend plans depend on the weather, be sure to check the updated National Weather Service forecasts as the weekend draws closer by typing in your zip code at www.weather.gov.

 By Skip Rigney