Strong Winter Storm Targets Northern Plains and Upper Midwest
One look at Weather Underground's Severe Weather Map shows where the active weather will be happening on Tuesday. While various Winter Weather Advisories will be affect in parts of the West, hardest hit area of the country will be the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest. An intense storm will race out of the Rocky Mountains and through Nebraska before moving into the Dakotas where it will join significantly cold air. This is a common track for Winter storm as they often increase in strength as they move into the Plains of Colorado and New Mexico.
Various Winter advisories and warnings, including Blizzard Warnings, Winter Storm Warnings, and Winter Weather Advisories are posted from eastern Wyoming through Wisconsin and western Michigan in preparation of this storm. The first to get hit will be the western Plains and Rocky Mountains Tuesday morning and afternoon. Upwards of 2 feet of new snow is possible in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado from this initial period of the storm. By late Tuesday and into Wednesday, snow will begin coming down in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Another two feet of snow is possible in the hardest hit areas of Minnesota and North Dakota, but most areas will receive much less than that.
The secondary effect of this storm wil be the strong winds it will produce. Wind gusts greater than 30 mph will whip the newly-fallen snow into a blizzard in some places, greatly lowering visibility and creating hazardous conditions.
This is a bit out of the norm for this Winter. Much of the Winter has been dominate by fairly weak storms will little jet stream support, void of cold Arctic air, and missing any sub-tropical moisture. This storm, at least, will provide a good portion of the country will significant snow.
In my humble and expert opinion, the best way to track this storm is through WunderMap. This tool lets you track the storm using any number of tools including weather stations, radar, and satellite.
Strong Storm Pummels The East
Whenever I want to get a quick snapshot of what is going on in the weather, I take a look at Weather Underground's severe map.
Figure 1. Severe Weather Map.
This map shows you all of the watches and warnings currently issued for the United States. Without going into detail about what watches and warnings actually are, this map basically shows you where the interesting weather is. One look at the map today shows the interesting weather, and the most colorful warnings, in the East. This active weather is due to a strong, but not overly powerful, storm that is currently centered between Michigan and Pennsylvania.
You can see that in the following image, which is a surface map that shows the storm and associated cold front that stretches through the Southeast. That cold front may bring the most dangerous weather associated with the storm in the form of strong thunderstorms and possible tornadoes. Tornado Watches are set up from the Florida panhandle through western Virginia. This means that tornadoes are possible in this area, not that tornadoes are currently on the ground. Tornado Warnings are issued when there is confirmation of a tornado on the ground, or a tornado is imminent.
The blues in the severe map mean Wind Advisories has been posted for that area. The storm that is affecting the East will have the capability of producing wind gusts to 50 mph. Winds this strong could produce damage to trees and houses throughout the day. In fact, many areas of Ohio have already experienced wind gusts over 50 mph, like in Dayton where a 55 mph gust was observed.
And, of course, because it is still a Winter storm, expect a decent shot of snow from this storm. Weather Underground's powder predictor is calling for upwards of 10 inches of snow in Maine and up to 8 inches as far west as southern Michigan. Some of the higher elevations, such as the Adirondacks may receive up to a foot of new snow from this storm.
So, the bottom line is Winter is not over. Often times as we approach Spring, we see these types of storms that are capable of producing not only Winter conditions and heavy snow, but also severe weather such as severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. So, be aware if you are in the East today.
Winter Isn't Done Yet
There has been much written about the "Year Without A Winter", especially in the United States. And, while I am no fan of groundhog forecasting, everybody balked when the groundhog poked his head out of his hole (or was pulled out of a climate-controlled box, whichever you prefer) and pronounced to the World that there was to be six more weeks or Winter. Yet, here we are.
This is a map of the current temperatures in the United States. I grabbed this image at 11:30 a.m. ET when freezing temperatures were noted as far south as northern Florida. Chances are, even when you look at this blog later in the day, you will still see the pretty blue color that marks freezing temperatures spread throughout much of the country. In fact, places like Ocala, FL reported morning temperatures in the upper 20s, which is a record for this date. Normally the minimum temperatures in the area are in the mid-40s. This makes it a very cold morning, but not the coldest morning of the year so far in northern Florida. On January 4, Ocala actually dipped to 21 degrees!
Of course, Florida isn't the only hub of cold weather today. Fargo, ND got down to -2 degrees this morning, the Northeast saw temperatures in the single digits and many places in the area will only rise into the 20s Sunday. This is in stark contrast to earlier this month when places in the Northeast saw temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s!
Now, cold temperatures aren't the only thing of note. Snow and ice have been reported in New Mexico and Texas.
All of this seems to point to a pattern shift in the country. For much of the Winter, snow has been absent and instead replaced by temperatures more befitting of Spring. For weeks, however, the atmospheric models meteorologists use to predict the future have pointed to a slow change in the weather pattern. This change may be what we are experiencing now. Thus, the question I pose is: Has the weather change come too late for many areas to receive extended periods of Winter weather? While people in the East may detest the idea of cold, snowy weather, places in the West depend on it. The Sierra Nevadas of California have been starkly void of the white, fluffy stuff this Winter. This is bad news since much of the state depends on a healthly snowpack not only for drinking water, but also for agricultural irrigation that grows the food that we all eat. So, yes, a potential drought from a dry Winter will not only affect California. It will affect everywhere that receives food grown from California...which is pretty much everywhere. So if you are on the East Coast, it would be smart to do a short rain dance for rain and snow to make a welcomed return to the Golden State.
Of course, the United States isn't the only place being affected by Winter weather.
Europe has been hit extremely hard by Winter's grip recently. Snow drifts several feet high are making travel extremely difficult in the narrow streets of Europe.
Snow was reported in Tunisia this past week...yes, that's in Africa.
Freezing fog can produce beautiful things...
Numerious news agencies are reporting the death toll from the prolonged cold snap has topped 500, with the homeless being the hardest hit. Minimum temperatures in Paris have been in the 10s for 10 out of 12 mornings this month after not being in the teens at all in January.
The forecast may not be very pretty for Europe as the cold snap may hang around for several more days. Unfortunately, the coldest areas will continue to be in the eastern part of the continent which has already been devastatingly cold.
So, what's next?
Updated: 07:53 PM GMT am 12. Februar 2012
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Major Snow Storm Hits Colorado/Plains
In this mild and relatively dry Winter, it is easy to get excited sort of storm resembling a typical Winter storm. Well, people in eastern Colorado through Nebraska and Kansas are experiencing a fresh blanket of snow due to a strong blizzard that moved through the area.
Earlier this week, the Plains had been enjoying a Winter heat wave as Denver rose into the upper 50s and low 60s, Lincoln, NE actually saw a temperature of 70 degrees on Monday, and Omaha, NE rose into the upper 60s. This all when the normal maximum temperatures for this should are in the 30s to mid 40s. So, this current storm might be a shock the system for residents who might have assumed that Winter was over.
Weather Underground's Severe Weather Map shows Blizzard Warnings in effect through Saturday morning for eastern Colorado, while Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Nebraska and western Kansas. The current WunderMap radar shows widespread snow falling from eastern Colorado through Nebraska, while heavy rain is falling to the east through Oklahoma and eastern Kansas.
Weather Underground Webcam out of Commerce City, CO showing a fresh blanket of snow.
Snowfall reports coming out the Denver area:
After the storm leaves, expect temperatures to tumbled back down normal or below normal levels for the next few days. Highs in the 30s are expected next week in Denver and through Nebraska.
Updated: 05:57 PM GMT am 03. Februar 2012
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