Weather 101: Why do storms move from west to east?

Digital Desk

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Top Stories for February 20, 2020

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This segment of weather 101 focuses on storm motion and why we generally see storms move from west to east.

The easiest answer is the jet stream. In the United States, the wind above our head tends to move in a direction from west to east. These act to steer our storms and move them across the country.

As areas of low pressure form, they interact with the jet stream which ultimately pushes them on through. This is very apparent on the GFS-modeled winds.

You will also notice that the wind moves from east to west closer to the equator. These are established wind patterns that we can see pretty clearly when there aren’t any large disturbances rolling through.

There is also somewhat of a north or south component to the wind over the US. This usually signifies a bit of an active pattern, which explains why we can expect rain chances in the future.

The overall US set up shows a low pressure system in southern California on Monday. Notice the progression of this system on Tuesday. The jet stream, as depicted by the arrows, is pushing the storm from the west to the east.

This is similar to the high pressure system settled over the east coast. As the pattern progresses, the jet stream pushes that feature from the west to the east.

Every now and then, we can get storms here to move in from the east, but it takes a big perturbation in the jet stream to do so. In general, you can expect storms to move from west to east.

Stay tuned for another segment of weather 101 in two weeks!

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