Comet watch and coats

From the Institute for Climate Education at A-B Tech:  No doubt about it: March is off to a chilly start. Thursday’s sunny skies were almost enough to fool you into thinking that spring had already arrived … until you stepped outside and the brisk breeze and cold air harshly reminded you that it’s still late winter.

If the clouds cooperate, I encourage you to bundle up and take the opportunity to spot the comet PanSTARRS low on the western horizon after sunset for the next week. (Look here for images and information on where to look from the Astronomy Club of Asheville.) I bundled up and headed out on Tuesday night, and while I was unable to catch a glimpse of the comet, I did enjoy the beautiful evening scene below.

If you’ve been thinking that it seems unusually chilly, you’re right. Average temperatures in Asheville so far for the month of March have been cooler than the normals, with every day but three (last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday) running below normal. In fact, most of the average temperatures since mid-February have been below normal.

If you think back to last year, this is significantly different than the weather we experienced during the winter and spring of 2012 when temperatures were running well above normal.  In fact, the high temperature on March 14 one year ago was 77 degrees and temperatures this time last year were consistently 15° warmer than normal.

So, what’s the difference? The large-scale weather pattern in the Northern Hemisphere is much different than it was during late winter last year, and we can look to the polar vortex for an explanation. The polar vortex is a band of winds that blow counterclockwise, circling the Arctic. Last year, that band of winds was very strong and acted as a dam that kept much of the cold air locked up over the polar regions, and out of the lower 48. (Check out the February 16, 2012 Fun Facts for more info.)

This year, especially for the past 30 days, the vortex has been much weaker and cold air has spilled across the U.S./Canadian border regularly as strong storms crossing the plains have pulled that cold air southward.

The good news: Spring is right around the corner with the vernal equinox signaling the start of spring next week at 7:02 a.m. local time on Wednesday, March 20. And while it’s no guarantee that the winter weather is over, it does mean that those beautiful spring flowers are not too far behind.

Event Notice: SkyWarn 2013 is coming on Saturday, April 13!
Do you want to learn more about severe weather? What causes it? How it forms? What you can do to protect yourself, your family, your co-workers? And, how to report it to the National Weather Service.

Join us for a free severe weather workshop on Saturday, April 13, at A-B Tech.  The event is open to anyone who wants to attend, but pre-registration is required. You’ll find more information and super simple registration here. I hope you’ll join us!


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.