KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A significant storm is intensifying today across the Plains. We’re on the “warm” side of the storm and that means waves of rain have been the issue for us since late last night. Some areas are approaching 1 inch worth, with more coming this morning.
This system has created severe weather, including tornadoes, in the southern Plains and will be creating blizzard conditions across the northern Plains. We’ve had some rare thunderstorms in December, rumbles, as well with these waves that have moved through.
Normally that would be the full subject of the blog, but I sort of feel like what’s coming for next week (a brutal seven-day stretch of Arctic air that will be covering most of the country) is almost more important to write about today.
I’ve talked about it already for about a week or so, and as I’ve mentioned, the model data will tend to play catch up to the coldest potential of this. But this cold is going to test the power grids around some parts of the country, because as I mentioned, this is going to be nasty. Consider yourself warned weeks ahead of time.
Kansas City Forecast:
Today: Rain continues at times this morning. A cold rain this morning, but some sunshine expected later this afternoon with a brief pop in temperatures into the mid-to-upper 50s. Windy all day with gusts of 30-40 mph possible later this afternoon.
Tonight: Clearing skies and chillier with lows closer to 30 degrees.
Tomorrow: Sun replaced by clouds. Windy and chilly. Highs in the upper 30s.
Thursday: Variable clouds and cold with highs in the 30s. Blustery as well.
More in the intense cold pattern in a few minutes.
Let’s talk about this storm that’s affecting us now. It’s a strong area of surface low pressure that is moving through Nebraska, rather slowly as well. You can see the position of the surface low below. This should auto-update as the day moves along.
The black lines are isobars. The more lines you see bunched near each other, the windier it will be as well. That bullseye in Nebraska represents the surface low pressure area.
Air flows into low pressure and away from higher pressure, so you can see the circulation of the surface air by looking at the wind barbs in brown.
From above, this is what it looks like:
You can see the storm sucking in drier air, represented by the yellows showing up. In time, that drier air will spread towards us this afternoon and we may see rapid clearing before the day is done. So while the morning starts miserable, the end of the day should be brighter.
The actual weather map for all of this looks like this at 6 a.m.:
Notice the colder air in the western Plains. Single digits and teens out there into the northern Rockies. Not unusual cold for December though.
As the dry slot wraps into the storm from the southwest today, we will see the rain shut down later this morning. Here’s radar.
Farther into the northern U.S., blizzard warnings are in effect.
Some areas in the western northern Plains may see close to 1-3 feet of snow from this. Plus add in the winds, and it will be impossible to measure really.
Farther south into the warmer and moist air, severe weather is possible in the deep south, and we’ve seen some tornado damage already this morning in northern Texas.
Again, this system will drag down some of that colder air and that will be the way the rest of the week goes. We step down from the 50s to the upper 30s or so tomorrow. A bit colder into the weekend from there. By mid-December standards, nothing really unusual. As a matter of fact, we may actually moderate nicely on Sunday back into the 40s as we set up for the Arctic plunge coming next week.
How cold will it get in Kansas City next week?
Regarding this likelihood…
As I’ve mentioned before, the models will be playing catch-up to this for the next five days in terms of the extensiveness and the depths of what’s coming. There are some wild cards to this potential:
- Will there be snow cover locally? I have a tough time believing that there will be no snow at all through all of this into Christmas. I’m thinking there will be at least some snow around. That will allow temperatures to be even colder, especially at night.
- How will clouds factor into this? Low clouds seem to always be an issue when forecasting extreme temperatures, mainly at night.
- When I look at the model maps (and granted this is still just a model portrayal of things) and I see a 1067 mb surface high up across the NW Territories, I take note. That is a massive pressure value representing bitterly sinking cold dense air. A 1067 mb high equates to 31.51 inches on your home barometer. That is incredible. Again, it’s in model land and this map is roughly 10 days from now, but that is brutal cold air oozing southwards.
You can see the extensiveness of the cold air mass even if we go up to about 3,000 feet or so. Look how much territory it covers.
You can see just looking at the map above, we have cross polar flow. The air is coming straight from the top of the Earth southwards and it keeps coming through Christmas until it’s essentially all drained out sometime before the New Year.
From a high temperature stand point, this may be one of our coldest Christmas days on record. Perhaps not to the extent of 1983, but in the top 10.
December 1983 is an interesting month to look at. I believe it’s our coldest month on record.
I’m NOT saying this cold air is that cold air, and when I compare the upper-air maps from then to the model forecasts heading into Christmas, there are differences in extremes. And yet there are similarities as well (aloft at least) and it’s concerning to me. For our homeless, non-sheltered population, it may well be life-threatening cold.
I really worry that we’re looking at highs that may struggle to get to 10 degrees, with lows that may well be 5 below zero or colder… perhaps much colder (outlying areas down to roughly minus 15 degrees), depending on snow cover and clouds.
This is speculative admittedly, but I’m trying to get out in front of what I see as potential, so that you’re not surprised when you see forecasts on TV or your apps over the coming 7-13 days getting colder and colder with each update.
Let’s remember that this sort of happened back in February of 2021 here in the Plains. Remember that? The blackouts and everything that happened in Texas that had ripple effects around the middle of the country.
Texas may NOT be as brutally cold this time through, but it’s no secret the power grid there and even to some extent here gets strained a lot easier nowadays. It’s just something to file away for reference.
If you rely/lean more on wood stoves for heating, or propane deliveries, you may want to make sure you have topped-off tanks ahead of this higher confidence bitterly cold arctic outbreak that should arrive next week.
About the snow: There are indications we should get accumulating snows. My White Christmas chances from yesterday started at a high 35%. The average is around 15-20%, and while the model data is waffling on whens and wheres and the GFS deterministic model overnight freaked out with incredible snow totals which I won’t even post, I’d be somewhat surprised if by Christmas Day, we haven’t seen at least 1-3 inches of snow.
With this type of cold air coming, it won’t be melting.
The feature photo comes from Lara Bee. A great example of a halo around the moon caused by ice crystals way up in the atmosphere.