Monday, October 8, 2012

Out come the winter clothes

Sweaters, sweatshirts and other cold-weather clothing that has been stored away since last winter is making a reappearance Monday across the Charlotte region.

Blame it on a cold air wedge -- that weather situation in which cool, damp air is carried into the Piedmont off the Atlantic Ocean and wedged against the mountains. Clouds form, and temperatures go nowhere.  In fact, in most cold air wedges, the temperature is 15 to 25 degrees below the seasonal average.

That's the case Monday in the region.

The temperature fell from 60 degrees at 1 p.m. Sunday, gradually sliding through the upper, middle and then lower 50s.  It's been hovering between 50 and 51 degrees for most of the day and probably will go no higher.

Actually, we're on track for our coldest day since early March. The high temperature so far Monday at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is 54 degrees, recorded around 3 a.m. That would be our chilliest high temperature reading since March 4 and 5, when the high was 53 degrees.

By my count, this is the third cold air wedge in our region in the past two weeks, and I've written before that they are bad, bad news in the winter.  Most of our ice storms and sleet events happen during wedge situations.

The National Weather Service had been predicting widespread showers this afternoon, but that is looking unlikely, with most of the rain staying west and northwest of the region, falling across eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. The mountains are most likely to see rain Monday, although a few showers could spread into the Charlotte region.

The same thick clouds that prevent temperatures from climbing also stop much of a thermometer drop at night. In a normal situation with highs in the low 50s, we could expect low to mid 30s at night -- and our first frost or freeze of the season. But since this is an "artificial" chilly day -- kept cool by clouds, rather than an actual mass of very cold air -- our overnight lows will only drop into the low to mid 40s.

And if the clouds hang around all night, we might not drop much lower than 50 degrees.

Cold air wedges are difficult to break down, and they usually last longer than computer models predict. So look for more clouds Tuesday morning, before the wedge finally dissipates in the afternoon, some sunshine returns, and highs climb into the lower 60s.

Things should return to normal Wednesday, with highs back in the middle 70s.


Anonymous said...

I'm enjoying the weather today, in my short sleeves and no jacket. I've snickered at a few people who are acting like it's 20 degrees out. After a summer with 6 100-degree days and about 200 90-degree days, it's going to take a lot less than 50 degrees for me to feel cold.

I'm no fan of ice storms, but I hope the frequency of these wedges means we're going to get a couple of good snows this winter.

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