Mild winter

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I've said in previous posts that we've been having an above-normally warm December thus far, and it's mainly because there is no snow on the ground. When we have snow on the ground, the ground albedo is very high (albedo is the percentage of solar radiation that reflects off the surface), thus there is little melting because the solar radiation that does reach the ground is then reflected by the snow. Because the snow isn't able to melt, the air near the snow stays cold. This creates a temperature inversion, which is when the air temperature is warmer aloft (normally it cools with increasing altitude). Inversions are quite stable and stick around until a relatively large storm system blows through and mixes it up. We get terrible inversions in the winter because we're often dominated by a ridge, or area of relatively high pressure, resulting in few storm systems that "blow out" the inversions. Inversions are associated with really bad air quality because the pollutants aren't able to "mix out" due to the stable layer.

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Anyway. I basically just told you all of that so you know why my outfits aren't that wintery yet! We usually have some snow on the ground to give us an inversion and the cold temperatures associated with it, but we haven't had a big storm yet. I'm perfectly happy wearing some of the fall outfits I hadn't gotten to! I've been obsessed with this outfit since I thought of it a few months ago. Ivory, olive green, and cognac are a winning color combination! :) And I've been wearing this sweater pretty much nonstop the past few weeks.

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Madewell sweater (similar) and boots / J.Crew pants (on sale!) / Banana Republic Factory earrings (last seen here)

Winter or spring?

Who knows! It's warm in the west and really cold in the east and has been for a while, as I touched on in my last post. Meteorological spring started on March 1st, and astronomical spring starts on March 20th, the spring equinox. Most people don't consider it spring until the spring equinox, but being a meteorologist-in-training, I'm a bit more partial to the meteorological "calendar". I feel lucky to live in a place that has all four seasons, though spring and fall tend to be relatively short and fluctuate between mild weather and a dump of many inches of snow. I've been categorizing my outfit posts based on the season, and right now I can't really tell if I should be marking them as winter or spring. I'm going to talk a bit about how the atmosphere looked the past few weeks, so if you're only interested in what I wore, feel free to skip ahead. :) Below is a composite 500-mb geopotential height anomaly map (in meters) over North America from February 18 through March 6, 2014. The 500-mb geopotential height is the height at which the pressure in the atmosphere over a given location is 500 mb. The lower the height of a particular pressure level, the lower the pressure over that location. Anomalies are the departure from the mean, and in this case the climatological mean from 1981-2010 is used. The cooler colors indicate negative anomalies or lower heights, and the warmer colors indicate positive anomalies or higher heights.

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This image highlights the mostly positive height anomalies in the west and negative height anomalies in the east. This is consistent with climatology: ridging (high pressure) in the west and troughing (low pressure) in the east. (We did have some cold fronts move through, though, so this is a general overview.) It's important to note that whatever is happening aloft (above the surface) may not be happening at the surface (i.e. low pressure aloft doesn't necessarily mean low pressure at the surface).

Below is a composite 850-mb temperature anomaly map (in Kelvin) over North America for the same time period. (Kelvin is the absolute temperature scale where 0 K is absolute zero. Add 273.15 to a temperature in degrees Celsius to get temperature in Kelvin. A change of one degree Celsius is the same as a change of one Kelvin.) Where I'm at, the 850 mb temperature is about the surface temperature, but for places at a lower elevation, the 850 mb pressure level is above the surface.

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Look at that! We've had positive temperature anomalies at 850 mb on the west coast over the past few weeks while the poor midwesterners and east coasters have had negative temperature anomalies (except for those of you in the southeast).

Because of the relatively warm temperature we've been having here in the west lately, I've been wearing a lot of spring-y outfits! It's so nice to break out of my winter uniform of sweaters, jeans, and boots.

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This dark floral dress is a favorite of mine, but it's quite short. There's no way I can wear it without tights or leggings under it. I was actually worried all day about the "shorts line" part of the tights showing from under the dress! I've decided it's too short to wear to school, but I'll hang onto it for weekend wear. If I were to wear this outfit again, I'd likely choose different earrings, though I liked the mixed metals aspect of these earrings. The gold in the earrings kind of tie in with the gold buckles on my booties.

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Dress (old): ModCloth | Tights: Hue via Nordstrom Rack | Booties: Wanted via Delia's (exact) | Earrings (old): Forever 21 | Sunglasses: ModCloth

Farewell fall, welcome winter

December 1 is the first day of meteorological winter. According to this post in Tom Niziol's Winter Weather Blog, meteorological winter is defined as "the three coldest months throughout the winter, or December 1st through March 1st". Even though astronomical winter begins on or around December 21, it usually starts feeling like winter at the beginning of December. Also, meteorologists like to compute averages, and it's much easier to compute monthly and seasonal averages when you don't start a new season in the middle of the month! Happy meteorological winter! The end of fall weather here is near. We are getting a winter storm tonight through tomorrow and possibly into Wednesday and beyond. I am slightly terrified to see what I am going to wake up to tomorrow morning, but it's exciting to have some snow on the ground since Christmas is in a little over three weeks! The only crappy part is the fact that our air quality is going to be pretty bad after the storm passes. It's going to be REALLY cold and with the snow on the ground, our air is going to be sludgy and gross.

Below are three screenshots courtesy of the Plymouth State Weather Center. The first one shows the GFS 500-mb height forecast (white contours) valid Tuesday night. Notice the trough sitting over the Intermountain West and the little closed low over Idaho. The second image shows the GFS precipitation probability for tonight, and the third image shows the GFS precipitation probability for tomorrow night. Looks like things are about to get interesting around here!

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Here's to the end of fall and beginning of winter! While it still felt like fall outside, I thought of this outfit and I was SO excited about it! I just got these new booties, and I absolutely adore them. I ended up walking around a lot the day I wore them, but I was pleasantly surprised at my lack of sore feet.

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I love monochrome outfits with pops of color. In this case, I used my scarf as my pop of color. My main outfit wasn't too black, though--my dress has hummingbirds on it! I pretended that they were mockingjays because I saw Catching Fire the night I wore this!

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I learned during this photoshoot to keep the sun completely behind me or else there will be strange shadow effects. Ah, well! You live, you learn.

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Look at the studs on the back of my booties! I love how they add a little bit of edge without being over the top. I wish I could wear them, but with the imminent snow, it's probably best to wait until the sidewalks are clear.

Dress: ASOS | Tights: Hue via Nordstrom Rack | Booties: Wanted via Delia's | Coat: H&M | Scarf: gift c/o the boyfriend (his Etsy shop) | Earrings (old): Forever 21 (I think) | Unisexy Sunglasses: ModCloth