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Weatherwatch: September/October 2012

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Saint Louis: Continental Meteorological Intersection

With a skyline adorned with its iconic arch, Saint Louis claims the historic title of “Gateway to the West,” a reference to its historic importance in America's westward expansion. From a meteorological perspective, however, this city represents not so much a passageway, but an intersection. Saint Louis lies deep in the interior of the North American continent, near the geographic center of the conterminous United States, far from any large body of water. Geographers and atmospheric scientists describe the meteorological effect of such a location as “continentality”; that is, with no thermal moderating effect of large masses of water, temperatures often swing widely throughout any given day—and throughout the year, allowing for distinct seasons. But while isolated from oceans and large lakes, Saint Louis is not outside of the grasp of two important factors, which, while originating from far distances, dramatically affect its climate and weather: cold Canadian arctic air in the winter, and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico during the spring and summer months.

ED DARACK is an independent writer and photographer. Visit his website at www.darack.com.

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