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Name: Jeanne
Status: educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001


Question:
I am enrolled in "Physics for Teachers" at Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, MO. I have been researching a personal inquiry for this class, with no success. I hope you will be able to provide some information for me, or give me some thoughts on where to direct my search.

My inquiry is this:

We relocated to Missouri in 1984. I experienced my first ice storm ever, that first week-end in March. I have noticed in the subsequent years, that when the wind blows from the east, especially during the winter months, our weather is more severe than usual. It seems those are the times when we receive significant amounts of ice or accumulating snows. Is there a meteorological reason for this phenomena, and does it have a specific name?


Replies:
Most ice storms are associated with fronts revolving with one tail in a low pressure center. It would strike me that an easterly (or maybe even more a northeasterly) wind would indicate that the air would associated with a low moving north of you. I would assume in this scenario that the you would have a wind shift - SE to NE. This represents frontal passage and colder air would move in from the north. If the pressure system were to move south of you, you would have winds from the west or southwest - most likely bringing you Gulf of Mexico air and little chance of ice.

Watch where the lows move and see if this holds true.

Larry Krengel


Jeanne,

What you appear to be describing (east winds) is a situation when a low pressure area is passing directly through or just to the south of where you live. This is very common in the central to southern Midwest during late winter especially, with cold air pushing down out of Canada against moist air pushing up out of the Gulf of Mexico. The overrunning of warm air over the cold air can result in big ice storms or, if the low pressure system and associated cold front are strong enough you can get significant snow. Although I don't know of a specific name for the condition, these storms tend to track up the Ohio River valley after leaving your area, dumping large accumulations of snow throughout southern and central Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio and into western Pennsylvania and lowe New York. I live near Chicago, and in Illinois, these storms are legend for the amounts of snow that they can dump in the central part of the state. In fact, sometimes we meteorologists in Chicago complain that these storms always seem to give the central part of the state more interesting winter weather than we get in the northern parts (I know that saying that sounds a bit deranged, but we like "BIG" weather). I hope that this information helps you.

David Cook,
Meteorologist working at Argonne National Laboratory


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