Joe’s Weather Blog: Can it snow by the end of the year? (FRI-12/17)

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. –Well, chillier weather will be moving in for the weekend. Highs may only be in the mid-30s tomorrow and with wind, it will feel colder, sort of like what December is supposed to feel like. That’s something that we haven’t had much of this month.

Something else that we haven’t had any of: snow. Now typically, the first inch of snow doesn’t accumulate until Dec. 15… so here it is, Dec. 17, and still nothing. This in and of itself isn’t too unusual for Kansas City, but the prospects of accumulating snow don’t look too good for a while… and that is something I wanted to write about today.

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Forecast:

Today: Cloudy and chilly. Breezy as well into the late afternoon. Highs in the mid-40s but it will feel chillier with the breeze going.

Tonight: Cloudy skies and seasonably cold with lows in the mid-20s.

Tomorrow: More sunshine in the afternoon, but a gray start with highs in the 30s. Enough wind to catch your attention as well.

Sunday: Mostly sunny and cool with highs in the lower 40s.

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Discussion:

So let’s start with where we’ve been. The month is now more than halfway done and we are running 11.3 degrees above average for December. This will trend downwards for the rest of the month as cooler weather is expected compared to the first half of the month. This is the third-warmest start to December in Kansas City weather history. And if the month ended yesterday (remembering just how cold last February was), December would be the total opposite from a number standpoint.

Record highs have been all over the place, especially in the middle of the country, but also back east as well. Take a look at the rankings for warmth. The numbers indicate just how warm the ranking is. So for example the number 5 means it’s the fifth warmest.

Here is a bit more of a colorful map, and all the colors are warm.

There are a few areas right along the west coast and in the northern reaches of Montana and Maine that are colder than average, but yeah… it’s been warm.

Note the color changes on the legend

A closeup of the Plains and upper Midwest…wow!

So much warmth.

I mentioned that we’ll come down off those lofty levels for the rest of the month, but there still are no great signs of a prolonged shot of colder air for the rest of the year. There are things to watch though.

Here is the 8-14 day forecast:

Doesn’t bode well for anything extreme on the cold side locally into the end of the year

Now there may well be some colder individual days in the next couple of weeks (for example Saturday), but the overall trend isn’t that cold. Take a look at the average temperatures relative to normal heading through Christmas week:

Heck the overnight GFS has this look for Christmas:

These are temperatures compared to average…wowza!

Now I’m not hook, line, and sinker thinking the above map is correct. There should be some sort of storm moving through around that time which, if faster, would drop those anomalies quite a bit. Still though… it’s not cold.

That is the rub though for snow lovers. Now there have been times where we get snow even in warm patterns. This season thus far hasn’t even really given us any chances. Hence, you get something like this for accumulated snows through early this morning for the fall/winter:

We’re not alone: look at Chicago; Toledo, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Des Moines, Iowa… basically all the areas south of Interstate 80. Once again, the Dakotas are snow starved as well. This impacts cold fronts that come down from Canada because that chilly air modifies as it comes southwards, one reason why even after cold fronts come through locally, the air isn’t overly cold.

So what does the data say for snow lovers through the end of the year (or close to it)? Nothing too great. The GFS is trying to throw a Hail Mary of sorts before the end of the year:

That skiff of snow comes on the 28th.

The EURO model has snow too by the end of the year. This would come on the 30th:

That’s something, but certainly not a lot. There is only about 40% of the members of the ensembles that actually give us accumulating snow here, ranging from a few tenths to a few inches. Take a look.

The GFS members are a bit beefier, but still nothing too overwhelming:

So yeah, it can snow by the end of the year, but I won’t be terribly shocked if it didn’t, or if it did, that we’re still struggling to get more than one inch. Obviously, this can change and there are some reasons in the data to see that potential, but the pattern isn’t overly wet to begin with, and a lack of moisture in the atmosphere overall through the Plains isn’t helpful since the waves that could bring wintery weather are coming from the northwest to the southeast (overall). We need to see better interaction with waves coming up from the southwest and tapping into moisture from the Gulf region.

The overall theme is that snow is still going to be a struggle to accumulate for awhile.

Then there is the matter of getting it cold enough, which has been and will be a struggle too. There is this though (and granted it’s 10 days away), but it’s been a persistent feature of the last few weeks to some degree:

Look at SW and W Canada

That is cold air… that is VERY cold air and where will it go? That is an important factor to the end of the month. Does it come bodily southwards towards the Plains? Or does it sort of peter out as it comes southwards because the flow aloft isn’t that greatest for this to come south towards the area. The GFS for what it’s worth does indeed whimper it out to some degree, and because of some downslope warming, really chews on the extreme cold look from above heading towards the end of the year.

I’m not convinced though that the wimping out part is right. It may well be because that’s what we’ve done now for weeks/months. I’m just not 100% convinced. The reason I’m not is because there are quite a few parameters (or as we refer to them as “teleconnections”) that suggest we should get cold! There are things happening concerning the arctic oscillation, the North American oscillation, and other parameters that all point to a colder pattern. Yet here we are… just waiting.

Not that that many people are complaining about the lack of cold. But if part of your business or livelihood relies on snow removal, not the greatest news. Also as I’ve mentioned before several times: No December snow is a bad omen for the rest of the winter regarding bigger snows.

That’s it for today. The feature photo comes from Sheila Jackson.

Joe

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