IN LIKE A LION: Potential for severe storms Wednesday


We all know the saying about March - "In like a lion, out like a lamb." This year, specifically, the first day of March may actually be noisy.

We're keeping an eye on the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms Wednesday afternoon and evening. At this point exact impacts are still TBD. The storm system hasn't even formed yet, so there's a lot that we'll learn between now and Tuesday.

Here's what we know right now, though.

A storm system is going to form east of the Rockies, as many weather systems do in the US. As warm air and moisture gets drawn in, the system is likely to get stronger while it tracks east across the central US. Just how strong does it get? That's what we hope to find out between Monday and Tuesday.

However, there is one ingredient that may play into how strong it does get - temperature.

Oftentimes, large temperature contrasts on either side of a cold front can actually strengthen a system. That's why it's important to watch what we call the 'temperature gradient' (temperature difference across a given space).

Forecast models show a pretty large temperature gradient, which is what makes us think initially that the cold front will strengthen a bit before moving through our area.

A line of thunderstorms may then form along that front and move east into the area Wednesday afternoon. Exact times are hard to pinpoint, because (again) the system has yet to form. We'll start honing in on that kind of information Monday and Tuesday too.

We at least know that there's potential. We've got a system and an associated cold front. That provides us with energy needed to lift the air and get some clouds/precipitation going.

- In our severe thunderstorm checklist, we need instability. This is the cold air on top of warm air necessary for thunderstorm growth. We'll have that.

- Next, we need wind shear. This is the wind change with altitude that allows storms to strengthen. We'll have that.

- Lastly, there needs to be some sort of rotation for tornadoes to happen. That's questionable at this point.

While we know that we have some of these ingredients, we aren't exactly sure on just how much of each ingredient we have.

Bottom Line: Be weather aware between now and Wednesday. Fortunately, we can give you a heads up to any potential that exists. In the coming days, we hope to learn just how strong this system may wind up being. Keep checking back with us for updates on air, online and on our mobile apps.

Latest forecast here.