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The tail end of a surge of warm air will be accompanied by showers, thunderstorms and the potential for severe weather in the Southern states for multiple days during the first full week of February.
Severe weather can occur during February, especially over the southern third of the nation. In the case of next week, the weather pattern will behave more like April, rather than February.
AccuWeather meteorologists say it is too early to fully gauge the magnitude of thunderstorms spanning Tuesday, Feb. 4, to Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, but it's worth noting that similar setups in the past have ignited severe weather outbreaks that have spawned tornadoes.
One notorious severe weather outbreak occurred amid a similar weather pattern, when a storm tracked from the Deep South to the Mississippi Valley, dragging warmth along with it. The deadly outburst of thunderstorms and tornadoes has become known as the Super Tuesday Outbreak of 2008 -- and it produced 87 tornadoes and became the second deadliest eruption of severe weather in history during the month of February as it killed 57 people and injured hundreds of others.
On that day when millions of Americans were heading to the polls for primary elections across many states, temperatures surged into the 60s as far north as the Ohio Valley, the 70s over the Tennessee Valley and the 80s closer to the Gulf coast. Similar April-like temperatures are forecast for next week.
"While we are not suggesting that the situation will be similar to the Super Tuesday Outbreak of 2008, this is a heads up or early alert on thunderstorms that could ramp up enough to threaten lives and property over a broad area across the Interstate 10, 20 and 40 corridors in the South," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
This image depicts the preliminary storm reports received for severe weather from Feb. 5, 2008, by the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.
During the middle days of next week, the thunderstorm risk will shift from west to east.
"In the setup for next week, thunderstorms can erupt, along with areas of drenching rain as one or more storm systems are likely to travel from Texas to the Northeast states," Anderson said.
"Temperatures are forecast to climb into the 60s and 70s F over much of the South with a few 80-degree readings possible ahead of the storms for a time next week," he added. Accompanying the warmth will be moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as well as strong winds aloft associated with an approaching southward dip in the jet stream.
Exactly how much sunshine occurs ahead of a push of colder air may determine how strong the thunderstorms can become. Sunshine would help heat the lower atmosphere and could give thunderstorms extra vigor. On the other hand, extensive cloud cover and areas of rain would tend to limit the severity of the thunderstorms.
How much wind shear, or the turning of winds at different layers in the atmosphere, will exist could determine whether tornadoes develop. Should winds be aligned near the surface and aloft, then strong, straight-line wind gusts can occur. Should the winds start off from a southerly direction near the surface and back to the southwest or west aloft, then rotating thunderstorms can occur with a greater risk of tornadoes being spawned.
Aside from the potential for damaging wind gusts and tornadoes, severe thunderstorms often produce flash flooding, hail and frequent lightning strikes.
AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates.
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