The Ottumwa Courier

March 7, 2014

Sustained warmup finally in forecast

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — It looks like southeast Iowa is going to have a long-overdue warmup, and this time it should be sustained for more than a couple days.

Forecasters say Sunday and Monday should both be well above normal. Highs Sunday will be around 52. Monday will be even warmer, nearing 60 degrees. While temperatures will fall back for the rest of next week, temperatures should remain at or above normal for this time of year.

This winter has been unusually cold, with 30 days dipping below zero since Dec. 1 and a slew of new daily record lows set. Only seven days out of the past month have been at or above normal.

Why that happened and why we’re finally seeing a warmup now are valid questions. Kurt Kotenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a large high-pressure system set up near Alaska and just stayed put.

“Basically, this whole winter there has been high pressure over Alaska,” he said.

Kotenberg compared the high pressure to a boulder in a river. It will eventually move, but it’s going to take a while to do so. And since high pressure moves air clockwise, it sent wave after wave of reinforcing cold air into the country.

Now, with the changing seasons and strengthening sunlight, that arctic boulder is being worn away.

The sustained warmth does raise concerns about flooding from jams as ice on rivers and streams starts to break up. This winter’s cold produced plenty of ice, and a rapid thaw could cause problems.

“That’s something we’ll be watching very, very carefully,” Kotenberg said.

Friday wraps up the national Severe Weather Week. Iowa has its week, which includes a statewide tornado drill, March 24-28. Kotenberg said this is the time of year when clashes between winter cold and spring warm fronts start becoming more common, so there is some effort to turn attention toward severe weather preparedness.

But there aren’t any severe storms in the forecast now. The best advice from forecasters for the next several days is simple. Enjoy the warmup.