A Fascinating Look At The Atmosphere

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Not a lot more to add to the blog I created this AM…our storm is looking pretty nice on the satellite images this afternoon.


The surface low is still to the west of here. Warm south winds and thin spots int eh clouds may allow highs this afternoon to surge to near 60° before the colder air arrives. We probably won’t drop below freezing till the wee hours of tomorrow AM. We should get some rain developing this evening on the back side of the storm and odds are most if not all the precip will be winding down by the time the atmosphere gets cold enough to support snow, which will be near or just after midnight. Areas towards the IA border may see a conversion to snow however before it winds down with a chance that NC MO may see some minor accumulations. This storm is a powerhouse as witnessed by the high winds through the drought stricken areas of W TX. Winds there gusting to near 60 MPH and that has kicked up the dust in a big way. Take a look at this satellite animation.


You can see the dust vividly in the plains of W TX. Visibilities are down to 1/4 to 1/2 mile in blowing dust.

Now let’s get back to the morning blog!

I know, you look outside this AM and all you see are clouds, mist and some fog. No big deal right? WRONG! It’s been fascinating to me and us weather geeks to watch what has happened over the past 6-12 hours or so. First, something as simple as tracking the temperatures and the effect it had on our roadways.

At midnight last night we were around 26°, however since then temperatures, thanks to strong south winds, have been warming up. At 8AM this morning we had warmed up almost 15°! Pretty cool. Here is a tracker for the temperatures over the past 24 hours or so courtesy of IPS MeteoStar

Not only has the temperature warmed but the dewpoints have risen dramatically as well. This has done a couple of things. Late last night as the moisture was on the increase, the combination of the warmer, moist air and the cold roads created condensation. Since the roads though were below freezing, that created in some areas, especially on the MO side, some black ice. I was hammering away on this possibility yesterday on FB/Twitter and the newscasts to be aware for some slick areas developing and sure enough some did. There has also been some freezing mist in areas up north and east of the metro. This has lead to a handful of accidents and in the case for awhile on US50, a road closure as well due to the black ice.

That’s here at the surface. I want to show you though what the atmosphere looks like as you go up in altitude. To do that you need to look at the sounding from Topeka. Each day some 100+ soundings (balloons) are released @ 6AM/PM (0Z/12Z in the weather world) and the balloons reach heights of over 100K feet before exploding and allowing the weather instruments to fall back to earth with the aid of a parachute where they are reconditioned and sent back up, if they’re found that is. On the way up into the upper atmosphere, the instruments measure temperature/dewpoints/wind/pressure and that information is sent back to the receiving station in Topeka. All that information then is fed to the NWS where it’s processed and then inserted into the big computer models that we rely on so much.

So let’s look at the report from Topeka this AM…click on that image to make it larger!

What’s fascinating, and this happens often, although not to this extreme on a daily basis, is looking at the RED line. Notice how it really branches out to the right (the 2nd circle from the bottom). That is a trace of the temperatures as the balloon went higher in the sky. Notice the temperatures actually went up to almost 56°F @ 4225′ (AGL) before starting to drop again. So essentially if you went up to 4200 feet it would be well into the 50s, while here on the ground we’re still near 40° or so.

Also notice that the 1st circled area at the bottom, where the temperature (RED) and dewpoint line (GREEN) are virtually together. That means that the 2 match each other and that the atmosphere is saturated. So if you notice, the two are virtually together up to about 888 or so mbs. that’s about 2500 feet up. that means that this saturated air goes up to about 2500 feet above ground level (AGL). Then look what happens immediately above that. Notice how the RED/GREEN lines spread apart fast. That means the air is really dry above this saturated layer. It’s not only dry but very warm as well.

So what does this saturated layer look like from space…take a look

Give the daylight a bit of time this AM and what you notice is a large area of low clouds that go from the eastern plains all the way down towards the Gulf Of Mexico. Pretty cool! It should be noted that with the moisture so “shallow”, only a few thousand feet thick, that’s one of the reasons that despite a strong wave moving into the Plains today, that we’re going to have a tough time getting much significant precip around these parts. Also should the strong winds aloft, well over 50 MPH a few thousand feet AGL, help to mix down some of that drier air, and poke holes in the clouds, our highs today could surge well into the 50s!

I’ll blog more about what’s going to happen with our weather for the next several days early this afternoon, but I wanted to share this with you to start your Sunday AM, since I thought it was so cool to see illustrated.


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