Eastern Wake: Opinion

March 21, 2014

Column: Weather is on everyone’s minds these days

Winter seems loathe to give up its grip on the region. After-school events were cancelled Monday because of the threat of inclement weather. Why can we spring into Spring?

Regular readers of this space know by now that I love a good winter storm as much as the next person.

A lot has been made recently, though, about the ups and downs of this year’s winter weather.

I’ve heard the cold-again/warm-again/snowing-again weather called weird, wacky, frustrating, even schizophrenic.

Indeed, we’ve had more snow events this winter than in recent years. With the passing of each one, most of us sort of thought that was the last blast of winter weather we’d have to deal with. But no. Along came another and then another.

But what would you say if I told you what we’re experiencing this year isn’t all that far from normal?

Well, that’s exactly the case, apparently. My co-worker, Niki Morock, writes the Clear Weather blog for The News & Observer. You can find it at newsobserver.com/clearweather.

She tells me the 30-year average for snow in this part of the country is about six inches per year – only a little less than we’ve seen around here. And in some places, maybe almost exactly what we’ve seen hit the ground this summer.

Morock and I figure part of the reason that this winter season has gotten so much attention is because it’s fresh in our memory. The most recent winter weather came Monday when a little bit of ice covered enough roadways, tree limbs and power lines to warrant school closings and cause a few wrecks.

“We’ve had a few mild winters in a row,” Morock said. Most people tend to remember the really bad weather anyway. The remember when the hurricane came through or when we had the bad tornadoes. They remember the time we had a 20-inch snowfall, but they seem so distant.”

I’ll give her that. Hurricane Fran is still a vivid memory for most everyone who lived in eastern North Carolina in 1996. We remember the snowstorm that dumped 20 inches around the turn of the century. But can you recall how much snowfall we got last year? Yeah, me neither.

Still, like a good school superintendent, Morock points out that, taking a longer view, this isn’t all that odd a year. In fact it’s about average. I guess that mean in just a few months, we’ll be sweating like a groom at the altar and wondering when in the world will it ever cool down.

Personally, I won’t worry to much about it. I know September will follow August and October will follow September. It’ll all happen in time. And besides there are other, more baffling weather questions to consider.

Like “What’s with the wind? Where does it come from?” We know rain comes from clouds that essentially get so heavy with water that they have to jettison off some of the excess. But, there is no giant fan in the sky. Wind doesn’t just jump out of the ground and rise into the sky.

Morock tells me wind is generated by pressure. When air under high pressure collides with air under low pressure, the air seeks a balance and it moves from one circumstance to the other, like the air in a balloon when you put a small hole in the balloon. That moving air, of course, is wind. OK.

I get that now, after 47 years of wondering where the heck it comes from.

But what about wind at the beach. There is always a breeze at the beach. Apparently, there is a phenomenon called sea breeze and land breeze. Air over land is warmer, it rises and moves over water where it cools and falls back toward the water.

When it does, it pushes the air over the water out of the way, creating a sea breeze. All that magic is done without any fans.

So you worry about how long this year’s freaky winter will last. I’ll take the winter weather for what it is – just your normal Tar Heel winter – and continue to ponder some of the more challenging questions on the weather horizon.

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