Joe’s Weather Blog: Ice box to shorts weather (FRI-2/19)


Good Friday to you. It’s been a long stretch of weather around these parts. Bitterly cold temperatures, long lasting and grinding cold days and nights, snow but no big snows…just lots of snow opportunities lately and about 10 other things with the weather.

Things are going to be transitioning back to more typical late February weather days. That means some days are going to be pretty darn good, and others less good. We’re going to see a realignment of the jet stream over the coming days, allowing the colder arctic air to retreat back into Canada and northwards. So that means we’ll see a nice warmup, so much so that 60s are possible on Tuesday. Nice switcheroo!

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Today: Mostly sunny and chilly with highs finally around 32. We’ve been below 32° since 5:25 p.m. on Feb. 5. We may end that streak today, or if not certainly tomorrow I think.

Tonight: The only issue is if we get some clouds to form thanks to the melting snow. Temperatures won’t be as cold though a we’ve seen. Lows near 20°.

Saturday: Variable clouds and sunshine. Highs well into the 30s.

Sunday: There might be a shot of a wintry mix during the morning. The only thing to watch is if the roads remain cold enough in spots, especially where there is still snow on the ground, to create a few slick spots. Highs in the mid 30s. Breezy as well.



So this has been quite the run of weather over the past two weeks. Snow, mostly light totals for the Metro, and bitterly cold days. Over the last 15 days or so, these are the anomalies and you can just see the colder air pouring out of Canada…

and into the Plains and deep south…

and in reality the colors don’t change enough to reflect just how below average we’ve been as well as many others.

This might be a bit more helpful:

So yeah, brutal cold and snowy at times, but yet still no big snowstorms in the Metro at least.

We’ve had a remarkable 15 days with at least 1/10″ of snow and 11 days with a trace. So since Nov. 1, we’ve had 26 “events” and yet only around 12″ of snow total. Each event has averaged 1/2″ or so of snow. Interesting really.

Actually, when you look back on it…not that unusual to have all the 1/10″+ snow events. From the first of October through yesterday, here is where we stand:

It exactly matches last year and is less than 2019!

Remember it was tough for us to get snow here in November/December/January before this whole thing started.

The 11 trace events though seem like a lot, but I haven’t dug too far into that aspect of things.

Data by the way is for KCI.

From a snow standpoint, the “winners” (or perhaps losers depending on their perspective) obviously is the southern Plains. Interesting to note that there hasn’t been much snow in central and western Kansas with all of this and the Dakotas too have been short changed quite a bit.

This is important for what’s coming over the next five days, because while we’ll moderate over the weekend (still be below average though for highs at least), we’ll lurch into much warmer weather next week for several days. Monday and Tuesday especially look warmest. We’ll start trailing off on Wednesday. Nothing extreme though.

So with the lack of snowcover out there in the central part of Kansas and the reduction of snows locally, a downslope wind event will take us right back up and fast. It’s a replay of the warmer day regimes of December and January when temperatures would soar and if we can get the right combination of sunshine and wind (and now with increasing daylight helping the cause) temperatures could pop well into the 60s! It happened before all this craziness and my thought is that Tuesday has the potential of being in the mid-60s!

We deserve it!

Before we get there though, let’s watch this Sunday morning. There might be a light wintry mix slide through the area. Sometimes after all this cold weather the pavement has a tendency, especially in shaded areas, to retain its coldness. There could be some slick areas developing in the morning should we get some light precipitation. There might be a mix of sleet/snow and then some light freezing drizzle or something before things wind down in the afternoon.

Worth paying attention too.

Finally a look at some perspective in terms of just out outstanding this cold was in weather record data.

🧵 Starting a thread with records, stats, and other superlatives from the mid-February winter weather blitz. This may not be everything — there’s too much going on! — but these are the things that I’ve noticed. 🥶❄️⛄️

Today, Feb. 16, marked the largest fraction of the Lower 48 states covered by snow in at least 18 years.

On Valentine’s Day, we had the largest area of the CONUS covered by issued* Winter Storm Warnings in at least 16 years.

* Counts area of WSW after they were issued even if some had not technically gone into effect yet.

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13, Seattle (Sea-Tac) and Portland, Ore. (PDX) had their largest two-day snowfall in about five decades.

11.1” at Sea-Tac, most since 1972
9.4” at PDX, most since 1968

Also further inland…
9.9” at Boise, most since 1996

On Valentine’s Day, Central Texas had some record snow. Abilene (14.8”) had their largest storm on record, and San Angelo (10.1”) had their largest calendar-day snowfall.

Austin, Texas had its largest two-day snowfall (6.4”) in over 70 years (since 1949) on Feb. 14-15, and south-central and southeast Texas cities (including Austin and Houston, among others) have generally seen their coldest readings since 1989.

This event marked the first time @NWSHouston issued a Wind Chill Warning. Looks like Houston Hobby had the lowest (1°F) wind chill on an hourly observation since 1990 per IEM METAR archives.

Tyler, Texas set an all-time record low of minus 6 on Tuesday morning (Feb. 16), with a 138-year period of record dating back to 1883.

Longview, Texas also set an all-time record low of minus 5 on the same date, with a slightly shorter period of record back to 1902.

Oklahoma City (minus 14) and Dallas (minus 2 at DFW) both had their second-coldest temperatures on record, both behind records set during one of the benchmark Arctic outbreaks of Feb. 12 1899.

Just a quick metric for the magnitude of air mass contrast in the eastern half of the country — 12Z temperature difference between MSP and MFL — was the fourth highest since 1973.

Hastings, Neb. tied an all-time record low with minus 30 Tuesday, Feb. 16. Period of record dates back to 1907.

Spearfish, S.D. near the Black Hills set an all-time record low of minus 33 on Valentine’s Day. Significant period of record that dates back 128 years (1893).

Back on Feb. 10-11, it looks like @NWSMemphis issued the first Ice Storm Warnings for parts of Mississippi and the city of Memphis since 2013. Both areas received at least 0.25” ice accumulation.

San Antonio appears to have hit its second longest duration below freezing (four days, five hours) in the observation record after only a late January event in 1951. Also the latest 60-plus hour streak. IEM graph wasn’t complete yet for 2021 so I added notes to indicate that.

Oklahoma City has easily set its longest stretch of below 20°F temperatures, and still counting! Closing in on a full week at this point. This is the METAR record plotted, but it’s longer than anything in the daily records back to 1890 as well.

Wichita, Kan. has also seen its longest duration below 20°F in the modern records — over 10 days now! Still counting, but February 1899 had a stretch of at least 11 days so this may not be an all-time record there.

Chicago is currently in the midst of its longest stretch with at least 10 inches of snow on the ground since 2001. Will reach 18 days today. Fifth-longest streak on record so far.

This ranking shows coldest days within some of the more notable CONUS cold snaps, and therefore doesn’t account for longevity, etc… but…

In terms of the peak intensity of the cold snap, three cases really stand out: February 1899, December 1983, December 1989. Current cold snap a cut behind.

Remarkable week for snow in Little Rock, Ark. — first time with two 6-plus inch snowfalls in the same winter and they happened within a few days!

Still snowing heavily at Little Rock, so still climbing up the snow depth and seasonal snowfall leaderboards.

Some of the more significant ice impacts in the past week of wintry weather occurred in Oregon. Multiple reports of at least an inch of ice accumulation from Greater Portland into the Central Willamette Valley.

This is true! — first ever Ice Storm Warning issued by NWS Wakefield was for the Feb. 13-14 event last weekend. Of course there have been Winter Storm Warnings that included freezing rain as a hazard.

Salt Lake City with 11.7” of snow today, setting a February calendar day record and good for the seventh-snowiest day on record overall (data back to 1884). Hat tip to @zthaynac on the find!

Extreme localized snowfall near Thompson and Manistique in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back in the Arctic air mass.

46.5” of snowfall in less than 36 hours on Feb. 12-13! Due to a single band lake-effect event off Lake Michigan. Hat tip to @LoganGilesWx for noticing.

The extreme snowfall in Upper Michigan may need to be further examined as the state record for 24-hour snow is 32”.

The report was broken down to include an estimated 34” on Saturday, Feb. 13. Not sure how precise that was, and needs further examination.

One of the things that really continues to stand out about this cold snap is the duration of the cold in the Central and Southern Plains. Add Kansas City to the list with their longest stretch below 15°F.

Another report that may need to be examined for a possible Michigan state record for 24-hour snowfall. Existing record is 32 inches.

Any potential record has to be evaluated by a State Climate Extremes Committee, which would make the determination.

Little Rock has tied their all-time record for snow depth at 15 inches this morning. Yesterday’s 11.8” of snowfall was also their second-snowiest day on record, just shy of the 12” record from 1875.

Longest duration below freezing in the history of the Oklahoma Mesonet, which dates back to 1994. And still counting!

There may have been longer durations below freezing in the past at other stations in Oklahoma, but still impressive!

Not a long period of record here, but a cool data viz using the RTMA temperature analysis — where has it been colder in February 2021 than at any point since 2015?

Clearly the biggest cold snap in the central and southern Plains in awhile.

International Falls earning the nickname “Nation’s Icebox”. Essentially in a statistical tie (just barely in second place) for longest stretch of subzero temps since 1948.

Also tied for second-longest streak of daily lows below minus 20°F (12 days). Hat tip to @tcrawf_nh for noticing.

Update to a tweet from earlier in the thread: It appears this cold snap saw the first Wind Chill Warnings ever issued by the @NWS offices in Lake Charles, Houston, Fort Worth, San Angelo, San Antonio, and El Paso.

A huge number of daily cold temperature records have been set with this cold snap, particularly cold maximums. NCEI page usually lags a day or two, so we will see where we end up!

At the peak of the event, about a quarter to a third of all available U.S. observing locations in the NCEI database set a cold temperature record each day from Feb. 14-16. Pretty remarkable!

Nice data viz here showing how the record peak snow coverage in the CONUS of 73% compares to past peaks. What really stands out is the contrast to some meager winter snowfall in the past few years.

Another day, another snowfall record in Texas. Del Rio crushes their all-time daily snowfall record with 11.2”. Records back to 1915.

Del Rio has not had an inch of snow in a single day since 1993.

Another way to put the Del Rio, Texas snowfall record in context:

They had more snow today (11.2”) than the combined total over the past 30 years (2.2”). Incredible!

When you compare the intensity of the cold snaps using lowest overall temperature, February 1899 still easily has the 👑 in the CONUS.

Most of the northern half of the Plains and the Upper Mississippi Valley spent at least four days worth of time below 0°F in the past week!

Up by International Falls, it was basically the entire week. Once again, the longevity of the cold stands out with this event.

That’s it for today and I think for the weekend. Enjoy the warmup. Time to take a weather break for me after the shows tonight to decompress and recharge the battery! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

Our feature photo comes from Jennifer Greenwalt. Pretty shot of snow!

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