Weather Investigation: Why Is The West Hot And The East Flooding?

Jul 03, 13 Weather Investigation: Why Is The West Hot And The East Flooding?

Today in Weather Investigation we are going to look at the culprits in play that are making the West hot and the East flood.

The map below represents the air pattern at about 500mb (18,000ft above the ground). This is what is happening to our weather over the United States and making such drastic things occur, such as the West on fire and hot and the East cooler and flooding. The blue H represents clockwise flow of the air, while the red L represents counterclockwise flow of the air. So, if we look over the western Atlantic Ocean, we will see a very strong H, or high pressure, on the surface and high height in the upper levels. This system is blocking the air from moving west-east like it wants to. What happens is that all the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico is pushed into the low pressure, which is situated just west of the East Coast. This is forcing all the warm and moist air to rise into the East Coast and create intense flooding. This will continue until that high pressure, or high height center, breaks down enough to allow that low to move. This is why the East is flooding.

Image Credit: Joshua Kelly

Image Credit: Joshua Kelly

Now, on to the West and why it’s burning and hot. Again it has to deal with high pressure center or height in the upper levels. The air is being forced off the Pacific Ocean and northward over southern Canada. This southerly warm air is then entering the West Coast and being pushed up the mountains. This is causing the air to warm rapidly as it rises up the slopes of the mountains, leaving hot air in its place over the region, like the 100-120F temps that have been recorded. These features that we have over the United States have been in place for a while now; that is why every day that passes we keep hearing more and more about it. These two blocking patterns will remain that way for a while, until something stronger comes in and pushes one of the systems away. The best chance for this to occur would be for a low pressure to come in over California, which may happen early next week. This would allow the high pressure to weaken enough to start a cooling process down; or if the high pressure over the western Atlantic moves out, this would take a strong low pressure to do that. However, the only thing that is forming on this side of the US is a possible tropical wave that will push up and just add to the flooding along the East Coast of the US.

Now, on to the climate spin of this. Everyone is going to blame this on climate change, if they haven’t already. Is this possible because of climate change? Well, we will leave that unanswered, because here is something to think about: these types of weather patterns have been and will continue to occur on the Earth. The thing that needs to be noted is that during a warm climate cycle, these types of warm blocking patterns can and will setup stronger, while during a cold climate cycle, these colder patterns will get locked in during the winter months.

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