DEEP IN THE DEPTHS OF WINTER, AND GOING DEEPER...
The calendar can be deceiving but it never lies. If you don't like winter the only thing good about January 27th is that the coldest month of the year is almost behind us. Wednesday was certainly a morning to get behind us with sub-zero lows covering my entire area. Below are the observations reported at 6:30am. Mason City was one of the colder spots at 22 below. Waterloo and Dubuque both reached minus 18.
With this latest round of teeth chattering cold, the average temperatures for January are running well below normal all across the central Midwest. A few spots in NE Iowa are nearly 8 degrees below normal per day. What a huge reversal from December's temperatures.
As proof of how cold the month has been I present the daily temperatures for Cedar Rapids. 12 of the months 26 days have seen sub-zero lows. 6 of those lows were 10 below or colder. Through the 26th, the average temperature in CR is running 6.7 degrees below normal for January. Not the month you want to accomplish that feat!
Besides being cold, all of my area has experienced above normal January snowfall. That's not the case though to our west and east where amounts are a bit below normal in western Iowa and the SE half of Illinois.
Good old January, the month that keeps in giving.
ON CRUISE CONTROL THROUGH MONDAY...
Overall the forecast is pretty straight forward into Monday. Thursday sees a seasonal warm-up that gets cut short by another cold front passing quickly during the day. There may be a few stray flurries but the bigger issue will be wind and frosty temperatures Thursday night. Lows will reach 5 below north to 5 above south. However, wind chills will be worse in the 15 below to 5 below category from NW to SE. Despite sunny skies, Friday's high will remain in the single digits to low teens, warmest where there's no snow cover.
After a cold quiet weekend with highs in the low to mid 20s central and north to the low 30s south, temperatures begin to moderate Monday and Tuesday in advance of a developing trough over the western U.S. Readings both days have a good chance of reaching the low to mid 40s in the south. However, where snow cover remains extensive near and north of I-80, 30s will be the price to pay.
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TROUBLE BREWING AHEAD...
While Monday will be a dry day, precipitation becomes a factor Tuesday as a series of impulses eject NE out of the western trough and deep SW flow aloft. I can tell you right now this is going to be a tough forecast as both phasing and precipitation type will be difficult issues for models to resolve. The jet structure tells the story next Wednesday with an eastern ridge and western trough. That sets up a very tight baroclinic boundary SW to NE across the Midwest. Essentially, that's where warm and cold air clash and storms thrive.
Wednesday the GFS is showing highs 10 below in Minnesota with low 70s in Arkansas. That's certainly the recipe for trouble if indeed the thermal parameters are achieved.
With the alignment of the jet so sharply NW to SE, the boundary is not likely to move much for at least 48 hours so wherever it gets established precipitation could fall for an extended period of time. As you can see below, the SW trajectory of the jet is likely to open up a channel of moisture that surges north from the Gulf of Mexico. That would result in significant precipitation potential wherever the baroclinic ribbon is located.
So what we know is that the groundwork is set for a wet and potentially snowy period in the cold sector. On the SE fringe of the snow, a freezing rain/sleet threat exists, with rain and thunderstorms to the east of that. So far models have kept the system only partially phased and this is where things get tricky. If this were to go full tilt with all the energy bundled, this has the potential to be a significant winter storm for some part of the Midwest. If the energy remains split and the system ends up more progressive, the deep moisture is relegated for a short stay and this becomes more of a nuisance than anything else.
At this distance, models really struggle with the integration of energy, latent heat, and moisture between the polar and sub-tropical jets. That's why I don't want to jump on this yet. However, the players are on the field and if they decide they want to play, it's game on for somebody!
As it stands now, a few rain or snow showers are initially expected as a front passes Tuesday. It stalls in central Illinois Tuesday night. By then my area is back in the cold air and as energy ripples along the boundary over-running snow is shown developing on the GFS and EURO late Tuesday night and continues Wednesday (light to moderate). Wednesday night and Thursday enough phasing takes place to develop a low pressure wave that tracks northeast through the Ohio Valley. That would have the potential to develop a heavier band of snow to its northwest and that could impact some or all of my area.
Again this is all predicated on the system coming together as indicated and that is far from a sure thing. Whatever the outcome, you now know what I'm facing.
The options are out there for those of you who care. In terms of total precipitation this is what the EURO and GFS currently show Tuesday through next Thursday.
I will end on a bang with this. It's the projected 500mb flow on the GFS February 10th. That folks is something we adamantly hope does not materialize. That configuration would deliver a vicious shot of cold air that's far worse than anything we've seen so far this winter.
These are the temperature anomalies depicted February 11th. Notice on the legend the pink is where the scale stops with temperatures 33 below normal. Totally maxed out over a huge area.
Closer inspection below shows readings surrounding the Quad Cities and the rest of my area 39 to 42 degrees below normal. Add a nice breeze to that and you might as well be at the North Pole. I seriously hope the GFS has a change of heart in coming days. Stay tuned.
Well, there's lots of weather on the table but much of it right now is somewhat speculative. I'll be glued to the models the next few days to see how this all shakes out. Meantime, today will be far more tolerable in terms of temperatures so enjoy that little nugget of good news. Until next time, roll weather...TS
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