SIGNS OF SNOW, TRUE OF FALSE...
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SIGNS OF SNOW AGAIN, HMMM...
Spring can't be too far away when thunderstorms pop up like they did Sunday night. Despite the fact temperatures were only in the 40s north to the low 50s south, instability from a stout low level jet produced strong warm air advection ahead of a warm front and advancing surface low. The elevated storms combined with low freezing levels to produce numerous reports of small hail and some respectable lightning and thunder for early March. While there were some brief downpours in spots, rainfall was generally light and under 1/4 inch as storms were fast movers. The heavier amounts were found north of I-80.
Even further north where temperatures were cold enough, snow was the precipitation of choice in Minnesota and Wisconsin where it has been a banner year for the white gold.
The seasonal snow total at the NWS in Minneapolis has now grown to 89.10 inches! Very impressive. Here's snow amounts spanning the period October 1st-March 6th.
Behind the system, cooler weather is slowly attempting to work its way into the pattern. Overall, nothing dramatic but seasonal temperatures that will require a coat generally in the low 40s north to mid to upper 40s south. There might be a couple brief breaks for sunshine but for the most part clouds will dominate our skies all week long.
TO SNOW OR NOT TO SNOW...
By Thursday morning energy is to set eject out of the mean trough centered over the Pacific Northwest. In doing so it cuts east across Nebraska where it develops a closed circulation that travels towards Iowa. While moisture is not as plentiful as previous systems the past couple of weeks, dynamics and lift appear significant enough to generate a healthy precipitation shield. Confidence is high there is going to be a significant winter storm with heavy snow over some part of the mid to upper Midwest.
However, as is typical the case, differences in phasing, timing, and intensity create lower confidence regarding where the heavy snow band sets-up. At this point guidance indicates the region north of I-80 is most at risk for snow accumulations. Further south rain may be the dominant form of precipitation.
A WORD OF CAUTION...
We've seen numerous events this winter where the depth of cold air is marginal and models start out bullish on snow only to back down as the system deepens, drawing in enough warm air aloft to shift the heavy snow band further north. I am concerned that might end up being the case with this system as well. We are going to need to closely watch the evolution and track of the upper air low as the largest snows will fall north of its track. The EURO has really backed off on precipitation amounts and snow totals. I would not be surprised if this trend wins out in the end. That would also impact temperatures in the south resulting in warmer readings there.
At least for now, the north is still in the game with the ensembles of the GFS and EURO suggesting snow totals that look like this. Already we are seeing a stark contrast between the two models. Keep in mind these are very preliminary estimates based on the latest raw model output. These numbers are going to change and are not official forecasts. What we would like to see is good consistency between solutions and that is clearly not the case. Take a look.
The GFS ensemble mean.
The EURO ensemble mean
The Canadian ensemble mean looks more like the EURO.
The 3k NAM
Total precipitation has the potential to be significant as well with the the Weather Prediction Center indicating these amounts through Friday. However, if the trends of the EURO are correct these will be lighter and further north.
After a short break to start the weekend, another system could bring more snow or a rain snow mix Sunday afternoon. Any accumulations will be heavily dependant on track.
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Meanwhile, temperatures are trending colder as you can see in the 10 day departures for the period. March 11-21st. However, models after going to a very cold look late last week have backed down signficantly on the intensity of the cold. I can live with that.
Once again this is going to be a challenging week of forecasting with my area in the battle ground between rain and snow. With last weeks storm the GFS kicked the tar out of the EURO. If it's right this week, there's some big snows coming by Friday, especially north of I-80. However, I am far from discounting the EURO and I supsect amounts on the GFS are on the high side and possibly a bit too far south. This one is very much up in the air right now. I'm hoping I can be more definitive tomorrow. Roll weather...TS