That “Chance” of Snow is the Midwest’s Snowmageddon

Snow Totals Map for Southeast Minnesota and Western Wisconsin - courtesy of NWS Minneapolis/St. Paul

Well, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here.

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities.

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN.

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern…and the anomalous nature of this amplified pattern is going to remain in place for the foreseeable future. That means more fun to come.

So what do I think is to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to look a lot like last winter. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if it will pack much punch. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

CPC Graphic Showing Ensemble Forecast of Arctic Blocking

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the end of the weekend or early next week. This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC and possibly into New England. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now and keeps everything offshore (not uncommon for this model to miss a feature like this though). I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow/winter weather event in the Mid Atlantic and possibly the Northeast next weekend or early Christmas week.

The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. It still could track out to sea…it still could track inland…it may be the model misleading us. But it’s evident that the weather pattern is much more intriguing than it has been. We’ll watch this week and see!

Couple things to round this out…

First, if you missed it at all, here’s the incredible video of the Metrodome’s roof collapse in Minneapolis:

Lastly, if you like Google Earth, and if you like hurricanes, here’s a cool post with links to great visualizations of the hurricanes from this past season.

Well, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101212/ap_on_re_us/us_winter_storm_midwest;_ylt=AiVEC47U_j2JGmW7yTsO2MKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNuNGpramwyBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMjEyL3VzX3dpbnRlcl9zdG9ybV9taWR3ZXN0BGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDbWlubm1ldHJvZG9t

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/archive/2010/12/storm_update_snowfall_rates_no.shtml

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=60336&source=0

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern.

What’s to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to be pushed further south. The classic, “it’s too cold to snow” pattern for much of the north. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if there will be any real wintry precipitation anywhere with it. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the middle of week two (Christmas week). This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now. I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow event in the Mid Atlantic next week sometime. The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. We’ll seeWell, after all the talk about the chance of snow for this weekend in the interior Northeast, it turned out to be mostly just model error…but kudos to the European model which did a fairly decent job in calling that this would mainly be a Lakes/Midwest beast. Something is just inherently wrong with the GFS that it can’t handle certain things well…especially interesting considering the ensemble track was south and east even of the model. Let’s discuss what’s up.

First the blizzard. Just massive. Most of you know about the Metrodome roof collapsing under the snow (not unprecedented, but they aren’t going to have that place ready for a game tomorrow). More details on the storm’s impact in Minnesota here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101212/ap_on_re_us/us_winter_storm_midwest;_ylt=AiVEC47U_j2JGmW7yTsO2MKs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNuNGpramwyBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMjEyL3VzX3dpbnRlcl9zdG9ybV9taWR3ZXN0BGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRwdANob21lX2Nva2UEc2VjA3luX3RvcF9zdG9yeQRzbGsDbWlubm1ldHJvZG9t

Storm total at MSP is 17.1″, making it the fifth largest storm on record for the Twin Cities. http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/archive/2010/12/storm_update_snowfall_rates_no.shtml

Storm totals were as high as 23″ in Polk County, WI, 21.5″ in New Market and Shakopee, MN, 21″ at Oakdale, MN, and 20″ at Red Wing and Maplewood, MN. http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=60336&source=0

Blizzard Warnings remain in effect today from eastern Iowa to the NW suburbs of Chicago and Milwaukee and N Michigan. Winter Storm Warnings are posted for Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, parts of Ohio, and the Appalachians from PA to Tennessee. And Winter Weather Advisories are posted all the way into far N Alabama and Georgia! On top of that, freeze and wind chill warnings/advisories are posted for the Deep South all the way into southern Florida, where nighttime lows early this week are going to rival what we saw back in January. Another round of lake effect snow is going to hammer Central and Western New York again this week (though to me the trajectory looks a little more northerly than what occurred last week, which would mean less snow for places like Syracuse). But we’ll see.

Overall, winter is in force in the Eastern US. At the same time, we’re going to break record highs today across SoCal, with widespread mid 80s expected. Amplification…what goes up must come down…strong, deep trough in the East = strong ridge in the West usually. And we are in an extremely amplified pattern.

What’s to come?

We have a couple systems to watch. With extreme blocking in place, the storm track is going to be pushed further south. The classic, “it’s too cold to snow” pattern for much of the north. One weak wave looks to pass through the southern US Wednesday night-Thursday night. It’s a flat wave though, so I question if other than some nuisance freezing rain or sleet if there will be any real wintry precipitation anywhere with it. It will serve though to reinforce the cold over the East for next weekend.

A more important storm is evident on the European model for the middle of week two (Christmas week). This shows a more amplified storm, which if taken literally, shows a substantial snow chance from the Carolinas to DC. The GFS isn’t showing much other than a cold pattern right now. I am getting somewhat on board for at least the threat of a snow event in the Mid Atlantic next week sometime. The pattern is active later this week with a 140+ kt jet stream pointed right into California. This isn’t too unlike what we saw a lot of last winter in the active El Nino pattern. Whether this is too far north or not, I guess we’ll see, but with a load of blocking in Arctic/Greenland and a load of moisture/energy slamming into the West Coast…that to me suggests someone in the East is in for it at some point. We’ll see

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Wrapping Up the Midwest Bomb

What a storm it was for sure. It looks like the lowest pressure was around 28.20″, or 954.96mb, recorded at Orr and Bigfork, MN. This blows away the previous mainland US record set in Cleveland, OH in 1978 of 28.28″ or about 958 mb. In terms of the damage, yesterday alone had 287 wind reports and 24 tornado reports. The previous day had about 150 wind reports (a lot though from another system in the Carolinas) and one tornado report. So, all in all, it looks like we probably ended up with close to 400 wind reports and 25 tornadoes from this storm in the Midwest, which is remarkable. Lots of links on this one:

SPC Mesoanalysis for 10/26/10 at 5 PM Central Time, near the peak of the storm.

A full recap on the pressure record is here.

A few tornadoes were confirmed in Ohio.

About eight tornadoes were confirmed in Central Indiana.

A couple of stronger tornadoes were confirmed around Chicago. Some good imagery and information here.

Here’s some video from WSBT in Indiana of a tornado destroying a pole barn.

The highest confirmed wind gust I can find is about 77 mph in Greenfield, IN. In addition to all the wind and storminess, there’s also the snow aspect of this storm! As with most fall storms, this one dragged down some cold air, enough to change any liquid to snow in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Thus far, Harvey, ND is the champ with 8″ of snow. Duluth, MN isn’t far behind though with 7.4″. Blizzard, High Wind, and Winter Storm Warnings continue today for much of the Upper Midwest.

The strong winds also helped to change the lake level of Lake Michigan, with westerly and northwesterly winds shifting water from the Illinois/Wisconsin side to the Michigan side. This is actually not terribly uncommon, but still pretty cool. I recall several instances of this happening on Lake Erie when I worked in Upstate NY.

More info on the storm in Minnesota here.

And some really cool loops and imagery on the pressure falls from the NWS in LaCrosse, WI here.

But is it really the record?

As is always the case with almost any record, there will be claims, disputes, etc. that, “Well, it’s not REALLY the record.” And of course, this time around, we have that as well. Folks in the Northwest are amused by the shock and hype of this storm in the Midwest…because storms such as this routinely impact them every winter. They’ve got a good point, as some of the pressures measured in past winter storms there (specifically one in 1995 measured at 958 mb, not even near the center of the storm) have indeed been routinely close to some of the “record” readings.

A slightly sarcastic tone in this entry from Dr. Cliff Mass, who publishes a great Northwest weather blog.

A great, great history of wind storms in the Northwest is here.

That all being said however, the truth is that in terms of actual measurements on land in the lower 48, away from the East coast, this storm is currently king.  But I’m sure one day, with better monitoring now in place in the Northwest, we’ll shatter this record as well.

But let’s not forget, this storm actually started in the Northwest too!

Midwest Monster

250 mb Wind Anomalies in Recent Strong La Nina Autumns

It’s not uncommon during La Nina autumns to see massive storms spin up in the Midwest, Lakes, and Plains, thanks in part to a raging strong jet stream coming out of the Pacific Ocean. If you click the map to the left, you can see a composite of the anomaly of 250 mb wind speeds (basically how much stronger or weaker than normal the jet stream winds are) in some recent stronger La Nina autumns, similar to this one. So it’s pretty obvious that this is somewhat normal. What isn’t normal is how much of a beast this storm is.

Yesterday we talked about this storm “bombing” out, which it appears to have done by definition (at least a 24 mb drop in 24 hours). It is now to the point where both state records for lowest barometric pressure have been set in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The previous record in Minnesota was set during a similar fall storm in November of 1998. According to the National Weather Service in Duluth, Aitkin, MN dropped to a barometric pressure of 962.3 mb or 28.42″Hg. The previous state record was 962.6 mb at Albert Lea, MN during that November 10, 1998 storm. In Wisconsin, Superior hit 28.38″Hg or 961.06mb. The previous record there was 963.43 mb in Green Bay in April of 1982.

As of this writing, both Orr and Bigfork, Minnesota are sitting at 28.24″Hg or 956.32mb. If this is verified (and it will likely go even lower in some other parts of Northeast Minnesota), this would break the all-time United States low pressure record for a non-tropical cyclone. The old record of 28.28″Hg was set in Cleveland, OH during the Blizzard of 1978 (and naturally, the Wikipedia article is already up to date with this information!).

Edit to add: 28.22″ as of 3:30 Central time, or 955.6 mb…both at Orr and Bigfork.

National Radar Composite from Late Tuesday, image from NCAR.

So this is truly an historic storm…and one that is not just setting records, it’s causing mayhem! Blizzard Warnings for the Dakotas, literally dozens of tornado warnings in the Midwest and Southeast, numerous tornado watches (5 currently from Mississippi to Southwest NY), widespread wind damage, and quite a change in the weather overall. We had a somewhat rare “High Risk” for severe weather issued this morning by the Storm Prediction Center. So far, there have only been 11 reports of tornadoes, however there have been over 150 reports of strong winds or wind damage thus far, and that number is only going to continue going up.

I’ll try and recap some of the damage reports and more tomorrow.

Hitting the Links

Paul Douglas blogs about the storm in Minnesota for the StarTribune.

The CIMMS Satellite Blog, as always, does a bang up job (and will likely add more in the coming days) with some imagery from this storm.

Sadly (from a weather junky’s standpoint), the Weather Channel appears to be headed down the road of the rest of cable TV…just when it seemed they were getting back on track. Unfortunately, this is what drives ratings, so they will continue to follow the blueprint until it fails.