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Make no mistake about it, this has been a miserable week of weather in my region, dominated at times by heavy rain, chilly temperatures, powerful winds, and even snow. Winner, winner, chicken thanks!

One of the more intriguing aspects of the recent storm is a somewhat rare event regarding snow in my local area surrounding Dubuque. As you can see on the relief map below, Dubuque is situated in a deep valley carved out by the Mississippi River. The elevation downtown near the river is as low as 564 feet. About 8 miles west near Sundown ski resort, it increases to 1,184 feet, a difference of 620 feet. A similar thing happens between downtown and the Dubuque airport.

Unless there is some sort of temperature inversion, temperatures grow colder as one goes higher in the atmosphere, in Tuesday's case a degree or two colder in the higher terrain. At my house which overlooks the river, rain changed to snow here around noon Tuesday and I had snow for about 30 consecutive hours. However, it melted about as fast as it fell, with temperatures near 33 to 34 degrees. I never had more than an inch of snow on the ground. That is why I was somewhat surprised to see that places within 8–9 miles of me had 6–7 inches. The Dubuque Airport put down 6.5 inches, and a little town east of there on a ridge (King, Iowa) had 6.8. See the NWS reports below.

Like snow on mountain peaks, this was an elevation driven event. It was just cold enough at the higher topography surrounding Dubuque to turn some of the heavier precipitation to snow, where it rapidly piled up. From my window Thursday morning looking W/NW, I took this photograph of a high spot west of Asbury, near Sundown Resort. There's no snow on the ground at my house or in the city of Dubuque, but you can see a nice coating at elevations of roughly a 1,000 feet or more a few miles to the west.

Here again are some elevation plots and the snow that was reported around them. I'm really glad this is a rare occurrence, as forecasting snow is hard enough without trying to figure out the added element of topography. It is a pretty cool thing to see though.




This week's storm, a real wind machine, is in the process of inching east and weakening. With my area still in close proximity to the storm Thursday, clouds and wind (even a few rain and snow showers) were spinning southward in the strong cyclonic circulation.

The clouds had a major impact on temperatures, holding them in the upper 30s to mid 40s. Readings at 3:00pm ranged from 39 in Dubuque to nearly 60 in far SW Iowa.

An expanded view shows even warmer air further west, but it will be a multi-day task to get those 60s in here, but they are coming Monday and Tuesday, some as early as Sunday in the south.

While our weather is cool Friday and Saturday, at least we'll see some sunshine and it will be dry. Highs should generally be in the range of 50–55 degrees. Improvement, but still below normal.


Sunday, another robust storm rolls into the Plains. It will draw a surge of warm air that kicks off warm air advection and the forcing necessary for showers and perhaps a few thunderstorms. Models are not quite as wet as yesterday, but 1/4 to 1/2 inch amounts are still on the board. The arc of rain pushes out of the SW in the morning, meaning a much warmer day there, with at least low 60s. The NE will battle clouds and probably some showers that last into Sunday night. Highs Sunday may be hard-pressed to get much above 50-55 in the NE half.

For the most part, Monday through Wednesday looks mainly dry with temperatures more seasonal, around 60-64. The EURO ensemble meteogram in the Quad Cities shows highs that look like this the next 15 days. While this is nothing special, it is a warmer look than was shown yesterday. A positive trend that we hope to see continue.

In all honesty, slow but sure improvement is expected to start the weekend. After the past few days, I would say we've earned it. Roll weather...TS


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