WSAW - Blogs - Jeremy Tabin

Wrapping Up September & Sub-Tropical Storms?

As the month of September comes to an end, it was not only another dry month across the Wisconsin River Valley, but also a warmer than average one. That may not sound too out of the ordinary, but a check of the weather records across the region shows that this is only the 2nd month this year that was warmer than average. Except for April in Wisconsin Rapids, January was the only other month where we had temperatures higher than what is considered average. I have alluded to a variety of different reasons for why this has been the case this year, including our snowfall which was close to if not in the top 10 in most spots, and the fact that the snow stuck around on the ground longer than has been the case over the past few years. That translated to a slower transition to the warm season, which seemed to push back the arrival of not only severe weather, but also temperatures climbing close to 90 degrees. You can also point to the jet stream, which helps guide storm systems across the country and since we never really had a strong ridge set up over the western Great Lakes during much of the summer, we stayed cooler. On the flip side, we were doing pretty good in the rain bucket through much of the year, but we have now strung together two very dry months and the deficit now is close to 6" below in Wausau for the year, and about 4.5" in Rhinelander. Oddly enough the last few days of September have seen a shift to cooler conditions.

Meantime, here is another weather term that you don't hear about too often...a sub-tropical storm. At first glance, it sounds like it should be a tropical storm, since it forms over the open waters of the Atlantic and is a broad area of low pressure with maximum winds of 39-73 mph. However according to the definition on the National Hurricane Center's website, it is a storm system that has both tropical and extratropical characteristics. To me it sounds more like the type of lows that we see trek across the continental U.S. and the nor'easters which roll up along the east coast during the late fall and winter months. What is most interesting is these sub-tropical storms get a name (i.e. Sub-Tropical Storm Laura) just like it's warm-cored relatives. Over the past few years there have been a few of these storms that have developed, some became tropical storms or hurricanes, while the rest morphed to run of the mill low pressure centers over time. Personally, I think these sub-tropical storms should be termed as just strong areas of low pressure and not get a name from the National Hurricane Center. If it's not tropical...it's not worthy of a name off of that list. To some extent, you could say that they are padding the numbers of storms that develop in a year by including these sub-tropical systems. Interestingly enough prior to 2002, sub-tropical lows didn't get a name.

For more on this topic, check out this link from the Dept of Meteorology at Penn State University.

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