After a week of spring-like weather across much of the country, winter has returned with a vengeance, plunging southward along the east slope of the Rockies and across the Great Plains. The leading edge of this Arctic front passed through Columbia late last evening, producing two inches of snow and dropping our temperature by 30 degrees F overnight. This morning, with residual flurries and a gusty northwest wind, it is 17 degrees in central Missouri.
To our northeast, low pressure is strengthening over the Great Lakes and is forecast to bring the first major snowstorm of the season to that region before heading toward New England. In concert, polar air will invade the northern U.S., temporarily erasing any memories of a mild winter season.
Once again, this storm front has dropped from Canada into the Heartland, bypassing areas west of the Continental Divide and providing no relief from the western snow drought. In fact, another atmospheric ridge will develop behind this winter storm, ushering warm, dry air across the Intermountain West and High Plains. Hopefully, the stagnant jet stream pattern will soon shift, directing Pacific moisture toward the Sierra Nevada, Wasatch Front and western slope of the Rockies. If not, the mild, dry winter across the West will come with a very steep price.