Sunday Story: A Challenging Plateau

Using only the best of my advanced meteorological knowledge, I can assure you that the radar image below means we will have showers today. That degree is really paying off, right? (HA). Keep the rain gear handy today and don’t even think about putting it up anytime soon!


We are still on track for some very heavy rainfall Tuesday and Wednesday. If you live in a flood prone area please make preparations for flooding conditions. As much as 3-6 inches of rain could fall could fall this week across the plateau, with locally higher amounts possible. Clean out the ditches, the drains, and the culverts.

The good news is that we might actually see the sun a time or two tomorrow. Fingers crossed! Heaven knows there’s not much of a chance for it to come out for days and days after that.

And now for your Sunday story!

We all know it’s true; the plateau is a challenging place to forecast the weather for. Occasionally, someone will ask me why that is. I wrote about that for the papers this past week. I hope you enjoy it!

A Challenging Plateau

It’s no secret that the Cumberland Plateau is a very challenging place to forecast the weather for! The reasons for this are many, but geography takes most of the blame.

The plateau is in a unique position to be close enough to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico to be influenced by both, though we are certainly more heavily influenced by the Gulf. One thing is for sure, there’s always plenty of moisture nearby!

The plateau is located in a region of the country that is known for being an airmass battle zone. Warm, moist air flows north from the Gulf of Mexico, while cold, dry air flows south from Canada. Oftentimes, they meet right on top of our area.

This is the reason there is an area designated as Dixie Alley in the Southeast, an area with a higher incidence of tornadoes. The Cumberland Plateau is on the northeastern edge of Dixie Alley.

Then, there’s the very complicated terrain of the plateau, with elevations that range locally from 1,500-2,500 feet. The terrain alone would make forecasting difficult, with numerous micro-climates found across the terrain. The weather can change dramatically from one community to another!

Winter weather forecasting is the most challenging of forecasts for this area, in my opinion. Tennessee often finds itself on the line between rain and snow. Forecasters must determine if enough warm air from the Gulf will keep the precipitation liquid, or if enough cold air from Canada will keep it snow. Then, forecasters have to figure out how the terrain of the plateau will factor in. It’s a challenge!

Even with today’s sophisticated, high tech weather forecasting tools, the plateau can still give even the most veteran of forecasters a run for their money!


2 thoughts on “Sunday Story: A Challenging Plateau

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