Joe’s Weather World: Another brown Christmas but perhaps something before New Years (THU-12/24)

Weather

It’s Christmas Eve and I was thinking back to 2009 this morning. About this time back then meteorologists from Oklahoma through the Plains and upper Midwest were anticipating an historic snowstorm. It was December of 2009 and snow was already a big issue that month. It was already a decently snowy month…with about 5-6″ before Christmas Eve. It wasn’t overly cold that month…but come Christmas Eve…a game changer blizzard would hit the Plains.

It started as a wintry mix of rain…sleet…then the conversion to snow. It snowed and snowed hard. With the winds cranking away as well during the overnight…8-12″ of snow fell in many areas. That Christmas morning as the snow ended early…skies turned blue…the winds kept going…and it was a winter wonderland out there!

They don’t happen often nowadays but it was a joy to behold. Travel was near impossible on Christmas Day itself because of all the blowing and drifting…but it improved enough during the afternoon to sort of be able to get from point A to B on the major roads at least. The rural roads took longer to navigate.

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Forecast:

Today: Sunny and cold with highs in the mid>upper 20s. Windy with gusts to near 30 MPH

Tonight: Clear and colder with lows 5-10°. Winds will slowly drop off

Christmas: Cold morning then more seasonable in the afternoon. Highs 40-45°

Saturday: Warmer!. Highs in the lower 60s. Clouds will filter out the sunshine.

Sunday: Not too bad really but not as warm with highs near 50°

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Discussion:

Not sure why I’m reminiscing so much about a storm 11 years ago…but it was one of our last really good White Christmas’s around here. To be fair 2013 was a decent one too with 4″ on the ground. Technically to have a White Christmas you need to have at least 1″ of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. It could be what has already fallen or what falls on the day itself.

They’re not exactly common…but they do happen Going back to the 1880s…we’ve had roughly a White Christmas once every 5 years on average. To have 3″ of snow on the ground on Christmas Day…about once every 16 years…and to have 6″ or more on the ground…we’ve had that happen about once every 22 years I think.

Take a look back through the early 80s…here is the snow depth on Christmas morning.

2009 though was something else.

This year though that will not happen. There was a pretty impressive blizzard in the Upper Midwest yesterday…but the snow cover this morning is sparse in the immediate area south of about I-80.

About 26% of the country is covered in snow this morning…about the same as last year on Christmas Eve. It did go up a bit more on Christmas Day though.

The main weather story that will be evolving is the potential winter storm early next week. The timing is Tuesday into Thursday it appears and odds right now are favoring a storm with a variety of different precipitation types including snow to start (and maybe finish)…sleet…perhaps some freezing rain…and potentially a complete changeover to rain for awhile. Timing all that out will be impossible from this far out.

Something though is likely and hopefully in the end we get at least some decent moisture from this.

The system in question is in the far western Aleutian Islands this morning.

Here is another view of it…broader scale. Note the big dip in the flow up at around 18,000 feet or so…that is the system from yesterday.

Now let’s follow that for the next 6 days or so…it will be going through various transitions and reorganizations…so again to be very specific is fools gold right now.

Note that by Monday it’s coming into CA…then it gets into the 4 corners region on Tuesday.

Colder air will be oozing into the area Monday and Tuesday. Then the system out west starts approaching. The trick to the precip changeover prospects is the amount of warmer air aloft that will be drawn northwards as the system comes into the Plains. Data continues to show enough to change whatever snow falls over to a mix then rain for at least some amount of time. Then after things move towards the east and colder air returns through the atmosphere we could see a switch back to something wintry.

Again all vague timing and type issues but confidence is increasing that at least “something” will be happening and odds favor that this will be an impactful event in the Plains.

There has been no change in the last week regarding the drought situation. The new report was literally a carbon copy from last week around MO and KS. Moderate drought conditions are into the Metro…and the moisture from this system will be helpful…whatever form it takes on.

Again though with a system that is still west by some 4,000 miles and will be evolving into a variety of different shapes and forms is not to be pinned down to the hour at this point. We’ll start doing that more heading into the end of the weekend.

What we know (or at least have more confidence in at this point…

  1. An impactful system is increasing likely in KC TUE>THU of next week.
  2. The atmosphere appears to be sufficiently cold enough to allow snow to be the main type of precipitation at the onset of the storm at some point on Tuesday. It may not last too long though as warmer air above us melts the snowflakes
  3. The storm will likely draw warm air farther north and create a variety of precip types in the area including sleet and perhaps plain rain
  4. Moisture amounts may finally exceed 1/2″ for some areas
  5. Model snow maps are not going to be representative of the variety of precip types that are favored. That means they will likely be too high…watch out for clickbait!
  6. Apps will be changing a LOT with every model run…so use them cautiously.
  7. For the area to receive more snow than anything else…there has to be changes in the storms track. Odds on the new data for this happening are lower today
  8. The system could have a rather extensive wrap-around moisture component to it allowing snow flakes into next Thursday.
  9. BEWARE the dreaded DRY SLOT!

So there you go.

I’m going to take a few days off from the blog…I’ll be on the air though Christmas night…and of course I’ll be tracking Santa tonight. The next blog though won’t come till Sunday…there should be some clarity but precip timing even then and the types will not be set in stone.

The feature photo comes from Shrewsbury Scott Pam.

Merry Christmas and thanks for supporting the blog day in and day out!

Joe

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