Michigan headed into a ring of fire? - WNEM TV 5

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Michigan headed into a ring of fire?

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High Temperatures - Monday, July 18, 2016 High Temperatures - Monday, July 18, 2016

All right, let's get the obvious joke out of the way. No, we won't be going the way of the Johnny Cash song, but much of the country is about to come under the control of a weather pattern known as a ring of fire. In one manner or another, we will feel some of its effect here in the Great Lakes by the end of the week.

Ring of Fire: What does it mean in the context of weather?

So, what exactly constitutes a ring of fire pattern? It starts with a sprawling zone of high pressure that reaches all the way to the upper levels of the atmosphere. As a result, the jet stream, which is the upper-level circulation pattern that steers storm systems around the globe, is forces much farther to the north than normal, forming a 'ridge' of high pressure. The jet stream will tend to wrap around the top and side of this ridge, often locking it in place for some time.

High pressure systems in general, tend to have sinking air near their center, which inhibits the growth of clouds and the development of rain or thunderstorms. While they are a good thing in that they bring fair weather, these systems can be especially troublesome during the summer, since the area under the high's influence can experience extended periods of harsh sunshine, along with extremely hot temperatures and high humidity. The intense, baking heat under a strong summer ridge of high pressure makes up one half of the ring of fire equation.

The other half comes in the form of thunderstorms, which will tend to form more readily around the edges of the ridge. Following along the southern branch of the jet stream, known as the subtropical jet, storm systems can repeatedly affect areas around the edge of the ridge. While it may not form into a complete circle, the general appearance is that of a ring, with increased thunderstorm activity around the edge, and baking heat within.

How will this affect Mid-Michigan?

This ring of fire pattern has already begun to take shape in parts of the central and southern United States, bringing temperatures in the 90s and 100s from Las Vegas to the Gulf Coast. As an upper-level high pressure system begins to strengthen in the coming days, it will expand its influence outward to encompass the majority of the Lower 48.

The developing ridge is expected to push temperatures well into the 100s by the weekend as far north as the Dakotas and possibly into parts of Minnesota and Iowa. By that same token, we are likely to experience both aspects of this pattern to some extent here in Michigan.

The edge of this pattern will set up across the Great Lakes during the second half of the week, giving us an increased chance for thunderstorms here in Michigan Thursday through Saturday. At the same time, the jet stream is likely to inch just far enough north, to temporarily allow some of the hot air to spill into the region. Highs on Friday and Saturday are likely to top the low to mid 90s, but with a humidity boost, there is a chance that the real feel of the air could close in on 100 degrees.

This pattern will tend to toss and turn a bit, shifting around in its seat across the country. As a result, we will likely not see quite as prolonged or intense of a heat wave as other parts of the country. Rather, we will see the heat come in fits and starts at times through the end of July.

Being Prepared for High Heat

We'll get a chance to brace ourselves with a cooler air mass arriving for a short stay on Tuesday, but from there the climb will begin. Take some time now to make sure your air conditioners are in working order, and have some means of staying cool set and ready to go. If you have yard work or other outdoor tasks planned that are a bit more strenuous, consider getting them done earlier in the week to avoid having to do them during the more intense heat. Also, if you have any elderly family members or friends that do not live in an air-conditioned residence, consider having them stay with you through the worst of the heat, or at least be sure to check in on them a bit more frequently.

If you're planning any outdoor recreational activities this weekend, or if you have to work outside, try to limit more strenuous activity to earlier in the morning or later in the evening. Make sure to take frequent breaks in a shaded, cooler area, and stay hydrated with cool water. Avoid sugary drinks and alcohol as they can cause you to dehydrate faster.

We will continue to keep a close eye on the impending heat, so be sure to check back in with us here in the First Warn 5 Weather Center for updates.

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