HEAVY SNOW CLOSING IN...
A MAJOR WINTER STORM IS RAMPING UP FOR TONIGHT AND TUESDAY. TRAVEL IS LIKELY TO BECOME VERY DIFFICULT DUE TO HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS BEGINNING MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY. MORE BELOW.
REMEMBER HOW NICE DECEMBER WAS?
Before we get to the snowstorm and what promises to be a very active winter week, this is the 6-10 day temperature outlook from the Climate Prediction Center. Back in late December, I was promising dramatic changes, and they are coming like gangbusters. Look at these temperature departures January 13-17th. It's been at least 6 weeks since we've seen below normal readings. There they are!
They come after the 2nd warmest December on record in Cedar Rapids and Burlington. The 4th warmest in Dubuque and the Quad Cities. This is going to be a hard pill to swallow with Arctic are arriving towards the end of the week. I think this is what payback feels like.
THE MAJOR SNOWSTORM
To add injury to insult, a major winter storm is getting ready to pounce on the region later tonight and Tuesday with heavy snow. The fresh snow cover will only make the bitter cold (when it comes) even colder, providing a blanket of ice for the Arctic air to ride in on. As for the storm, the NWS has issued winter storm warnings for the vast majority of my area. They go into effect Monday evening and will last into early Wednesday.
When it comes to snow, there are some tried and true parameters you want in place. That includes the track of the 850mb low, the 500mb circulation if there is one (the energy), the dendritic zone for optimal snowflake size, and proximity to the 850 freezing line. It must be zero or colder, with -3 to -5 favored for the heaviest snow. In this case, all the ingredients are healthy which puts the region in a good position to lay down a significant snow. I really like the strength and location of the 850 low passing close to Peoria. NW of that is where the game is won for snow!
Here's a surface depiction of what the storm looks like Tuesday morning at 5:00AM with the surface low near St. Louis on its way to southern Lake Michigan.
A strong pressure gradient is developing that will generate strong N/NE winds Tuesday and Tuesday night. Some gusts may reach 35-40, which will produce blowing and drifting snow as temperatures grow colder and snow ratios increase later Tuesday.
POTENTIAL SNOW TOTALS BY WAY OF MODELS
Officially, the NWS snowfall forecast indicates amounts like this. Totals have been lowered some in the SE, a trend I indicated was likely for the past 48 hours.
That brings us to the latest snowfall projections from model runs late Sunday night. Technically, these are not forecasts, just raw model output that is used to prepare and make forecasts. I have noticed a small NW trend in the track of the storm, along with an uptick in amounts west of the Mississippi. That likely means somewhat lower amounts in my far SE counties. Especially SE of a line from Keokuk to Princeton and on to Chicago. Otherwise, much of the area appears to have a good chance of seeing 7-11 inch accumulations. There may also be banding, where narrow swaths of snow could produce totals up to 12-13 inches in some localized areas, mainly NW of the Quad Cities. Here's those model snowfall forecasts.
The SREF Short term model ensembles
The 3k NAM
The 12k NAM
The National Blend Models (NBM)
Once this storm departs, a dump of colder air arrives along with a minor upper air disturbance that might bring a period of light snow Wednesday night. The GFS shows it more than the EURO. Either way, a dusting to an inch of powder would be all, especially across the north.
Friday, the potential is there for a powerful winter storm with snow, wind, and plenty of cold air. The GFS spins up a bomb with a central pressure of 963mb (28.40 inches)! Its track into Indiana puts my area on the western edge of the snow shield. If this comes together anywhere close to the intensity shown, this could very well be a high-end winter storm. As it is, some wind driven snow still impacts my area, especially east of the Mississippi. A small jog west and things turn very interesting. There's no reason to get into it any more other than to say, the set-up needs to be watched closely over the next 24–48 hours. That is a mean looking storm, but much can change in terms of impacts with alterations in the track east or west. Stand by.
By next Monday, the GFS shows 7 day snow totals that look like this around the country. That's a massive increase in square miles covered.
With Arctic air pouring over the top, bitterly cold conditions are looking more and more likely. Some temperatures in SW Missouri and SE Kansas are shown 46-50 degrees below normal January 16th!
Wind chills to 30 below are also indicated.
Without a doubt, the hammer is coming down. Dig out those long johns and parkas! Roll weather...TS
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