The Rain That’s Saving the West Is Drowning the South
The Lower Mississippi River watershed is awash with rainwater. Houses flooded, roads washed away, and peoples’ lives in soggy ruin. The only logical thing to do is blame California.
Seriously. Sort of. The weather system that parked near the Lower Mississippi watershed arrived after a California drive-by. But the Golden State’s massive massifs squeezed most of the moisture out of the system. It would have been fine if it hadn’t straddled Mexico for an extended bout and replenished its moisture from the humid waters on either side of the isthmian nation.
Perhaps the real culprit is the jet stream. Besides hastening your flight to Morocco, this massive, serpentine wind system is responsible for moving weather systems across the lower half of the North American continent. Systems left behind by the jet stream can camp out. “The storm, which we also call Doug, moved southeast after coming ashore in California, then moved into northern, old Mexico and became separated from the jet stream,” says C.S. Ross, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport, Louisiana. Doug? Doug!?
With no upper atmospheric wind to push it along, Doug hung around northern Mexico soaking up moisture from the El Niño-warmed Pacific to the west, while simultaneously sucking down Caribbean humidity via an atmospheric river. That moisture drifted into the ArkLaTex region, spawning thunderstorms from March 9 through 11.
In the same series of days California’s previous storm system was drenching Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and east Texas, the Golden State was getting another round of El Niño wetness. But don’t count on this round making its way south. The jet stream has righted its course, thanks to a high pressure system settling in over California. “It’s pushing cooler from British Columbia through the central US, progressing rapidly to the eastern states,” says Ross. And if my understanding of meteorology is correct, that Canadian air should bring an unseasonable wave of politeness from Boston to DC.