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Well, here it is Wednesday, January 8th and I have not shoveled one scoop of snow. When's the last time I did that? Mmmmm, last year comes to mind.Yup, I checked the records and it wasn't until January 12th of 2019 that I got the back breaker out and pushed about 4" off the driveway.

Interestingly enough December 2018 was exceptionally mild with little snow, much like this year. In fact, the average temperature last December was 6 degrees above normal, we all thought that was great until this year when we came in 7 degrees above the average.

Going back a little further, November of last year was 6.2 below normal and this year it ended up 5.5 below average. So after a cold November we went to a mild December and that's the trend we're experiencing to this very day. Some very interesting correlations showing up. Could it be that last winter is an analog for where this one is headed? If so there is trouble ahead...Read on.

As I've pointed out, last winter was more than friendly until that first storm came calling in on January 12th. That was followed by 18 winter storms, more than 50 inches of snow, and an all-time record low of 30 below before spring finally came to call. If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm going somewhere with these comparisons and it might not make you happy if winter is not your thing.

What could get the ball rolling again is the potential for a snow this weekend, January 11th. That's only 1 day removed from when I did my first shoveling last year. That my friends could be the straw that breaks the camel's back regarding the return of winter. Why do I say that? Look at what the GFS is showing for snow the next 16 days.

The EURO EPS has this for the next 15 days. The 2 models are unusually close.

By January 23, the GFS has the 500mb flow pouring in from the Arctic.

These are the temperature departures January 23rd. 30 below normal at the coldest time of the year is never good. Let's hope that doesn't happen

Then there are the wind chills. Don't you miss these!

No two winters are alike and I'm not saying this one's on same track as last year. But you have to admit, this is all very weird. For this to even have a chance of happening a couple things need to occur. First and foremost the MJO needs to get out of the known mild phases of 4,5, and 6. They look like this.

As you can see by following the dotted green lines we'll be out of the warm phases by the 20th. That should really open the door to what I call "real" January cold.

Additionally, the EPO which has been predominately positive since December appears ready to go negative (a cold phase this time of year).

The AO is hinting at neutral or negative along with the NAO. Those are also key teleconnections that foretell a colder pattern. Not nearly as important though as the negative EPO in my opinion.

The AO


There have been a couple other times in the past 4 or 5 weeks when I saw some similar trends but they never panned out. That is why I am cautious about getting too hyped about what I'm seeing. What's ironic is that last year at this very time, I was cautioning about what was to come and many of you remember and comment about that in commentary.

Even though I had the right idea, I had no idea just how intense the next 6 weeks would be (I would have been channeling God to have seen that). So, the point I'm making is that while I think we'll get into some real winter here in the next few weeks, I can't, and (I'm not) saying it will be anything like last year, but man the similarity in the alignment of the stars is really something. Who really knows but this is certainly food for thought.

Now lets get to that snow system. The big issue with it is going to be how much phasing takes place between the northern and southern branches of the jet. Recent trends are for more, especially on the EURO. Right now the southeast 2/3rds to 1/2 half of my area (especially SE of a line from Cedar Rapids to Dubuque) appear most prone to some decent accumulations. However, there is currently a big range in model solutions and this is still what I would consider a low confidence forecast. Since the data will be much better sampled tomorrow we should have a better handle on track and intensity...meaning things could shift east or west. For that reason, I will just say for now there is a good chance that some part of the central Midwest will reach warning criteria snows of 6 or more inches. The question is exactly where?

For now here are the latest model snowfall forecasts that I have as of Tuesday night.



The 12k NAM

The Canadian GEM

Quite a range to say the least. More to come in future posts! Roll weather...TS

A FEW SPOTS STILL AVAILABLE FOR WEATHER SCHOOL... is offering a very special and unique opportunity to learn first-hand the ins and outs of weather forecasting with one of the best meteorologists in the Midwest along with his team of expert meteorologists.

That’s right… You want to forecast right along with Terry Swails, well now you can. He’s teaching weather with TSwails newest program called WEATHER SCHOOL. The opening bell rings this January and you can be a member of the very first graduating class. The one-day forecasting seminar for weather enthusiasts will be held at his home in January. It’s not your typical run-of-the-mill school. There will be no tests, but Terry, Rebecca, and Nick will cram your head with so much knowledge, it’ll be spinning like a tornado before the day is over.

You want to know the essential online sites to use for models, radar, and the basic weather tools? DONE! You want to understand the structure of models and the role they play? DONE! You want to be able to construct forecasts from the ground up? DONE!

WEATHER SCHOOL will be presented in a seminar-type format where you'll have the ability to ask questions and dig deep. You’ll get the scoop on data acquisition, model analysis, severe weather, and actual forecasting from the big dog himself, T. Swails. With 43 years of experience and an uncanny ability to break the science down, you’ll open the door to forecasting like never before.

Along with the head master T. Swails himself, meteorologists Rebecca Kopelman and Nick Stewart of KGAN TV will be there to lend their knowledge and experience to the discussion. It will be fun, informative, and factual! This is the day for you to see, feel, and experience what it’s like to be in the hot seat of a meteorologist.

The seminar will be held January 25th and will last from noon until 5:00pm. We have limited seating and the cost is $99 dollars per person. A catered lunch will be provided. Again..not a lot of seats so reservations with a pre-payment are required. Sorry, no refunds. If there’s enough interest, a second session will be added in early February. To register or get additional information send an email to

GIVE THE GIFT OF WEATHER. This might be the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person this Christmas. Along with a WEATHER SCHOOL admittance voucher, TSwails will send a special holiday greeting to your weather enthusiast if you give the gift of weather with the TSwails touch!



Purpose: To help weather enthusiasts understand the basics of forecasting and apply the knowledge and techniques learned to construct personal forecasts.


The essential on-line sites for models, observations, satellite and radar images, and general weather data.

Session 2: ANALYSIS:

Determining your objective goals. Short term, intermediate, or long-term. Understanding the process of analysis and its relationship to forecasting.

Model options and choices. What to use and when!

The GFS, EURO, NAM 3k, NAM 12K, Canadian, HRRR, MJO, ensembles, teleconnections, etc.

Locating, learning, and knowing what’s essential to make a reliable forecast.

The art and science of model interpretation: Using and understanding model output. Its called guidance for a reason!

Learn how to analyze key parameters such as:

Surface and upper air data

Vorticity and energy

Precipitation output

Wind and pressure


A simulation of the basic process using model output.

BREAK: A 25-30 minute recess to enjoy a catered lunch…


Thunderstorms, tornadoes, derechoes, and squall lines.

Soundings. What are they and why should I care?

Instability (CAPE) vs (CIN) Critical interaction involving moisture, heating, and forcing.

Uncovering the ingredients of a severe weather set-up.

TVS signatures. What to look for on radar.

Role of SPC vs NWS, and your local TV station regarding the warning process.

Simulated model driven forecast of a severe weather event/tornado outbreak


The key ingredients required for significant winter storm:

How to forecast the rain snow line.

How to forecast snow totals from QPF

Determining totals from snow ratios.

What to look for at the surface and at upper levels (500 and 850mb)

Model bias and determining the storm track

Simulated model driven forecast of a significant Midwest winter storm


An open period for attendees to ask questions regarding relevant topics or issues discussed during the day.


Some final words of inspiration from the events headliners

Once again, to reserve a spot or ask questions send an email to See you when the bell rings! Roll weather...T. Swails

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