Area endures unusually warm, dry conditions

By Kay Johnson

  With record high temperatures and zero precipitation, the month of March yielded unfriendly conditions for area producers. It may be a trend that continues, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service office out of Glasgow, as moving storm systems have continued to result in little to no moisture for the area. 

  The last time zero precipitation was reported in March for the Terry area was 1978. 
Normal precipitation for March is .44 of an inch.
In comparison last year’s moisture-rich March began with 8 inches of snow covering and included .66 of an inch of precipitation and 2.8 of an inch of snowfall.
This year’s abnormally dry March has included record high temperatures as well. Terry’s average March temperature this year was 45 degrees. The previous record warmest March was in 1999 with a monthly average temperature of 39.6 degrees. Normally March sees average temps at 33.2 degrees.
March 2012 had seven record high temperatures broken and two days that tied for record highs in Terry. 
The normal high temperature for the month starts with 40 degrees and gradually warms each day, ending with a normal high temp of 52 degree by the conclusion of the month. 
This year Terry experienced 12 days above 70 degrees with March 24 being the warmest, reporting a balmy 79 degrees.
Overall the winter season, from December 2011 to February 2012 has been much warmer than the previous winter, with the average temp resting at 25.9 degrees, whereas last winter experienced an average 13.2 degrees. Overall the normal three-month winter average is 19.2 degrees.
So why such a drastic difference between 2011’s moisture-rich winter and this year’s abnormally dry one. According to Tanja Fransen, warning coordination meteorologist with the Glasgow weather service, it has to do with the polar storm fronts.
The past two winters, La Nina has been in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean.  This winter another oscillation in the atmosphere, called the Arctic Oscillation (AO), presented itself.  Last winter, it was in a negative phase, meaning there was high pressure at the north pole, and this pushed a lot of colder air south, allowing lots of moisture to move into the high plains.  
This fall and winter, it transitioned into a positive phase, meaning there was low pressure at the north pole keeping the jet stream and the cold and moisture it brings to our north and east. 

Published March 4, 2012

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