If you’ve been following the forecast for the next few days you’ve probably heard/seen the mention of freezing rain. Of all the weather elements we get in the Northeast freezing rain is the most dangerous!
Freezing rain is unfrozen liquid water falling from the sky which freezes on contact. It turns roads into skating rinks and weighs down tree limbs and powerlines… often until they snap.
In case you’ve ever wondered here’s how it happens! To help you visualize it I’m going to use a little screengrab from a program called BUFKIT. BUFKIT is the Swiss Army Knife of weather! It’s a versatile tool which I use every day. It will be a lot easier to follow if you click on the screengrab to make it larger.
A few things about the BUFKIT screen.
- The horizontal or ‘x’ axis shows the time and date. Like writing in Hebrew you read this right-to-left!.
- The vertical or ‘y’ axis shows height. Going up from the bottom each line represents another thousand feet above the ground. This chart runs to about 12,000 feet.
- The curved contour lines are isotherms or lines of equal temperature. They are contoured and labeled in degrees Celsius
- One part of that contour has been filled with a hotter color. That’s because it’s warmer. In fact in this case the shaded area has temperatures above freezing with colder temps above and below it!
Here’s what’s expected to happen for parts of the next two days.
Snow will fall from the clouds, but on its way down it will pass through warmer air and melt becoming rain. That rain will continue to fall until it hits colder air. Tuesday afternoon and evening that cold air layer is only around 1,500 feet deep. That won’t provide enough time for the water to refreeze.
If the pocket of cold air was thicker we might see sleet. Most likely we’ll see the water stay liquid and only freeze when it gets to ground level and hits something!
There’s a lot not to look forward to over the next few days. Stay safe.