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Earth Sense: Cold spring here has been worse elsewhere
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Spring season had a benign start in North Georgia with just a cold snap. Other parts of the world weren’t as lucky.

Great Plains states received copious amounts of snow when a winter storm dumped as much as 7 inches of snow in Colorado, spreading to Wyoming, Kansas and Nebraska. Similar conditions persisted in western Europe, where frozen precipitation covered much of Great Britain, France and Germany.

On the second day of spring, U.K. chief meteorologist Leon Brown announced the “coldest March weekend in 50 years” (uk.weather.com). More snow followed as the high pressure cell which had produced the frigid conditions shifted east. Its clockwise airflow shoveled moisture from the Atlantic Ocean into Britain, producing unusual conditions for residents used to lots of rain, but not the 12 inches of snow that were received in Wales.

In central Germany, cities like Frankfurt, Heidelberg and Mannheim had to make big efforts to keep traffic flowing as temperatures remained near freezing and snow covered the roadways. Videos about the “Schneechaos” appeared on Youtube, illustrating the chaotic conditions that result when Europe’s fastest highway system gets hazardous. Most German drivers slow down appropriately, but the absence of speed limits on sections outside the cities still seduces many to drive faster than the snow cover allows, which produced spectacular crashes again this month.

For the U.S. South, a winter storm usually triggers alerts about possible severe weather because the southern end of such storms tends to sweep warm, humid air from the Gulf into the region. Severe thunderstorms visited the Georgia coast last week, and floodings were reported in Mississippi.

North Georgia again showed what a sheltered place this is in regards to weather. We’re at a good distance from the Atlantic as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Dangerous storms developing in the Oklahoma-Mississippi region tend to lose much of their power before they arrive here. Large winter storms that have recently paralyzed sections of the Midwest and New England tend to be too far north to upset things in northern Georgia.

However, when two winter storms push cold fronts to Hall County in rapid succession, we can get springtime snow. On March 24, 1983, this brought 8 inches. But so far it appears that the tumultuous spring 2013 weather that’s happening in other parts of the northern hemisphere is not producing extremes in the greater Gainesville area.

Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.

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