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John Wheeler: The weather in winter is sometimes much warmer a few hundred feet up

Temperature inversions, when a layer of warm air aloft covers cooler air below, are much more common during winter.

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FARGO — The layer of air comprising the lower few hundred feet above the ground is known meteorologically as the "boundary layer." It is this lower layer of the atmosphere that is most affected by the interaction between sunshine and the Earth's surface. In winter, when the ground is covered in snow, a great deal of the sunlight is reflected back into space, allowing the boundary layer to get and stay cool. Temperature inversions, when a layer of warm air aloft covers cooler air below, are much more common during winter.

During an inversion, the warmer air above can have completely different characteristics than the air at the ground, including different wind speed and direction. In some cases, a persistent fog can form under the inversion and last for days, while just a few hundred feet up, the weather is sunny and much warmer than at the ground.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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