Joe’s Weather Blog: A little ice will do you (TUE-2/5)

It’s amazing in this day and age that ice still creates such headaches. That’s not a knock on treatments or anything really…it’s just amazing that essentially all it takes is about 5 minutes of light freezing drizzle or light freezing rain and things can get very messy very quickly. That is the concern today and again tomorrow. Temperatures are around 20° and we’re not going to warm up much at all today. Remember my mantra…30° or higher (especially during the day) and the roads can win the battle mostly…in the 20s and the roads need chemical help.

Please be careful because IF the roads, parking lots, sidewalks or any pavement…decks, whatever isn’t treated it may not stand a chance today with just a little freezing mist/drizzle.

  • Forecast:

Today: Winter Weather Advisory in effect for the region. Temperatures mostly in the 20s all day long. Clouds will continue to lower and thicken. There have been a few isolated little patches of freezing drizzle and even a pinch of sleet already. This may increase more as the morning moves along. Make sure you have an ice scraper and good defroster for your car. Whatever we get will be mostly scattered and not widespread…just be careful if you run through anything.

Tonight: Can’t rule out some additional light activity. Temperatures in the mid 20s

Tomorrow: A little more ice is expected. It may be more substantial that the activity today with the same issues although there will be more treatments on the roads by tomorrow I’m guessing. Temperatures should remain 32° or lower…maybe only in the upper 20s.

Thursday: There could be some leftover freezing rain/sleet or even some flakes before daybreak. Cold temperatures with highs near 20° or so. Winds will make it feel much colder! Gusts may be close to 30 MPH or so…not pleasant.

  • Discussion:

It’s National Weather Person’s Day! I had no idea.

So on this infamous day…there are headaches for your local meteorologists. These headaches were expected and their here. Limited right now…but more headaches are coming for a good part of the region.

Let’s start with the 8AM surface map. That’s a bad look for a warm-up of any significance.

Now why?

Last night I got into how the temperatures about 3,600′ away from you right now are above freezing…and not by a little…by a lot…how about close to 50°. Yes a little more than half a mile away from you.

Except it’s warmer vertically….not horizontally away from you.


Come with me UP through the air. Here at the surface we’re around 20-22°…BUT as you go higher up…it’s getting warmer. How do we know that…but looking at the data from the morning balloon launch that was completed, as it is every day…twice a day (6AM-6PM) at the NWS office towards Topeka, KS. The launching of weather balloons happens across the country as well as the world. Here in the US…less than 100 are launched in the US and it’s territories. NOT a lot when you consider the vastness of the country and it’s territories. In a sense we’re lucky because we have launches in Topeka and Springfield, MO. Still a LOT of real estate between those two areas. The map below shows the launch sites.

The balloons which look like these…

Go up to 100,000 feet into the atmosphere above us. They are sent miles away and float with whatever winds are out there and send back a variety of data. These balloons eventually expand and burst as the air pressure decreases…and the instruments float back down on a parachute. It’s brilliant really. Often they’re confused for UFOs and usually the instruments can be recovered, often in a farmers field and are diligently mailed back in to a reconditioning center right here in Kansas City!

As the balloons go upwards the information is plotted on a chart called a skew-t diagram.

This is what the current “sounding” looks like.

Now it can be confusing…but at it’s simpliest…the RED line is the temperature trace and the GREEN line is the dew point trace. Where the 2 lines match that indicates saturation…where the lines spread far apart that indicates dryness as the balloon is going up.

Do you see the angled BLUE lines above…those are the temperature lines. The blue numbers that are angled on the right side are the temperatures of the angled blue line. They’re in °C. O°C = 32°F or the freezing line.

Now I want to show you a doctored portion of what you see above

It’s fascinating when looking at the the details what you can make out…

For example…we can discern from data above that the freezing line is somewhere between 2,200 and 2,600 feet up. The temperature at 2,200 feet above us are 27° while the temperatures at 2,600 feet above us are 41°! 400 feet of difference…the equivalent of a 40 story building and the temperature changes 14°!

When the balloon is 4,300 feet above us…the temperature is up to 50°!

So this is a problem and why what falls isn’t snow…it’s ice! The snow can’t exist when the temperatures are that warm above us…so raindrops form below that level where the air is more saturated but those rain drops are what we refer to as super-cooled. Yes it’s possible that you can still have a liquid despite that colder temperatures.

Anyway…these super-cooled rain drops or drips or mist fall or form in that saturated layer and since it’s below 32° and especially in the 20s…you get the ice situation at hand.

The more you know.

Here is a look at radar…

Here is a look at the current Winter Weather Advisory…

Again what falls will slicken up untreated surfaces! It will be light today…perhaps VERY light…the equivalent of a 3 minute use of a lawn sprinkler light. On a warmer day it might barely dampen the pavement…but it could be enough to mess things up.

Same issue for Wednesday too although that could be somewhat heavier in spots at least.

I still don’t see how we get much above 32° during the day at least. We may get a bit lucky though because IF we can get the temperature 30° or higher…the pavement will respond accordingly during the day at least. Let’s see what Wednesday night brings…that could get dicey again.

There are so many moving pieces to this…timing, amounts, treatments etc and all will lead to widely varied conditions through the region. Keep an eye on your car thermometer for temperatures to get near 32° tomorrow especially. Regardless you will need to scrap the windshields every so often.

Be careful out there!

Our feature photo comes from Austin Hamilton of a BNSF coal train and the snow melting from Stephens state forest in Lucas IA.


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