Posted on Sun, Oct. 20, 2002

What if weather reports came from political writers?

During election season, many Washington correspondents can't resist editorializing. Though schooled to give readers only unadorned news, they can't repress the impulse to whip out helpful, additional phrases that push the reader toward the "correct" conclusion.

Instead of saying, "Candidate A spoke to the carpenter's union on wage hikes Saturday," the reporter writes, "In an effort to boost lagging support, Candidate A spoke to the carpenter's union . . ."

If Washington reporters were the ones dispensing weather information, the result would probably read like this:

In a bid to become a contender in the upper air charts, a ridge has steamed into the Pacific Northwest and is poised to push into the Great Lakes region by Monday.

The ridge's move could signal bad news for some West Coast elements. Much to the dismay of trough supporters, the high pressure over the Northwest has lifted fog from coastal areas. Low-pressure activists had counted on poor visibility to boost their chances in November.

Meanwhile, the ridge deflected criticism for its former association with a dry, arctic air mass and is now courting public support for its eastward move by seeking to attract a corridor of warm, moist air from the Gulf - but has seen little success.

The ridge's move has also set off partisan bickering between an emerging upper-level depression over the Rockies and the jet stream. The upper-level low maintains that the ridge failed to make the case for its new position. Nevertheless, the jet stream has stood by the high-pressure area throughout its embattled campaign over the Pacific and now defends the latest move.

"The ridge has every right to take up a position over the Pacific Northwest," said the jet stream, citing previous incursions by low-pressure areas in that very location.

"Yes, there might be rain over the Rockies because of it, but don't expect the apocalyptic tropical storm that upper-level trough supporters keep bellowing about! More troughs than ridges are responsible for precip over the Rockies."

But the upper-level low rebutted that claim, adding, "It's pure hypocrisy for the ridge to move into the Pacific Northwest when for weeks it has decried the dip in pressure there. The ridge will be directly responsible for escalating levels of precipitation over the Rockies. It should be willing to take full responsibility."

The trough insisted that while some may blame low-pressure sources for the precipitation, a thorough reading of upper-air charts would severely challenge that view.

The ridge declined to comment on charges of improperly handling the Coriolus Force and instead accused the low-pressure system of obstructionist tactics.

"The trough has for weeks prevented warm air flow from reaching the upper plains - sending isobar values plunging - and is prepared to continue stalling until we cave into its plan to send rain over half the country - and that we will not do."

The trough balked at the characterization of its precipitation as "rain" and called the high-pressure area's use of the term "despicable."

While trough supporters scramble to deflect mounting criticism, the latest TWC/ABC/Gallup isentropic forecast data show that the low may be in trouble.

Moisture remains trapped beneath an inversion, worsening conditions in the East, and while the Great Lakes region pins the blame on the ridge, the mid-Atlantic states have called for an immediate investigation of the low-pressure system.

Even more trouble looms for the trough because of a tropical air mass due to push up into the Plains states on Tuesday. The warm, moist air mass is expected to throw its support to the upper-level high and block movement of the trough through the questionable use of a stationary front.

Whatever the outcome in the next couple of weeks, the situation will undoubtedly heat up until November.

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at