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Beyond The Forecast: Warmer days on the way as “meteorological” spring begins

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Happy Monday! It’s the start of a new week, a new month and a new season! Well, at least if you’re a meteorologist or you subscribe to seasons based on the weather.

“Meteorological” spring is a season of changes in our corner of the Commonwealth. By the time this three month period (March, April and May) is over, our average high temperature in Roanoke will have jumped 26 degrees! We’ll also gain about three hours and nine minutes of daylight.

You’re probably thinking, “Justin, those are just the climatological averages. I want to know what I can expect this year!”

Fair enough. Long-range forecasting is a difficult task, but we can get a signal of whether we’re likely to be above or below-average for temperatures and precipitation.

The following outlooks come from the Climate Prediction Center. They’re forecasting above-average temperatures during “meteorological” spring for vast swaths of the country, including our area.

Some warmer air would definitely be a nice change of pace after our chilly February!

The odds of above or below-average precipitation are less clear for our area. CPC has us in the “equal chances” category for precipitation over the next three months.

In case you’re wondering, snow isn’t out of the question during the new season. In fact, 13 percent of Roanoke’s historical snowfall has come during March and April. Obviously, if the temperature outlook comes to pass, that would make snow less likely for us.

Before I wrap up the content of this newsletter, I want to address the differences between the meteorological definition of spring and the traditional definition.

Traditional, or “astronomical,” spring is defined by the tilt of the Earth and how the sun’s rays hit the planet. We get close to equal day and night on the spring equinox, which falls on March 20 this year.

Meteorologists define the seasons based on temperatures at each time of year. As June, July and August are the hottest months of the year, it makes sense that we would call that summer, right? Well, if you go by the traditional seasons, summer doesn’t begin until late June. The same explanation holds for the other seasons, including spring.

Switching gears to your forecast, the old saying that “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb” will be at least half-true this year as we’re starting the new month with a strong cold front. Details on today’s rain, wind and falling temperatures can be found in our daily forecast article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Southside, the Highlands or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather and science content on WSLS.com. Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

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-- Justin McKee


About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.