Saturday, February 27, 2016

Update - February 27, 2016

In the last post I did on the 16th (read it here) I discussed the record warmth that was expected across the plains.  WOW!  The warmest "official" observations I saw were in the low 90s!  This equals the warmest (hottest) temperatures for February across Kansas!  At Dodge City the high of 88 was 45 degrees above normal!  There was a stretch of five days the mercury failed to fall below 32 degrees.

In the previous post I conveyed my low confidence in the weather pattern and what was expected during the following several weeks.  The confidence is still somewhat shaken.

If you go back in previous posts dating back into the late summer period, I pointed out the wild cards in the weather pattern.  Remember, a lot of "experts" were touting that the Godzilla of all El Nino's was going to bring catastrophic weather to the U.S., particularly California.  I pointed out that the relatively warm waters (compared to normal) across the north Pacific and off the southwest U.S. coast could have a big impact on the weather pattern.  That has certainly been the case, and continues to influence the weather pattern.  The Pacific Northwest and western Canada has been pounded this winter by rain and snow.  Southern California?  Precipitation has been significantly below normal.  Across the plains, we were fortunate during the fall and early winter to have a beneficial pattern (from a combination of influences) to bring precipitation.  But, since late December, the pattern that benefited the Plains has shifted into the eastern U.S. and not only moved moisture east, it has prevented the Arctic air from making deep intrusions.

I've been pointing out for some time that the pattern should become more active (and colder) from late February into the middle of March (a repeat if you will from earlier in the winter).  This simply is NOT happening, yet!  Why not?  Well, I'm going to continue to blame it on the relatively warm waters (compared to normal) just off the southwest U.S. coast.   Look at the temperature anomaly map...

The waters have cooled but I think the combination of the warmer than average water from western Mexico and into the Gulf of Alaska has played and continues to play a part.

Here is the latest satellite image....

During a typical El Nino event the jet stream should be slamming into the southwest U.S. instead of continually sending systems into western Canada and the northwest states.  Not this year!

There was a minor system depicted by the x over Oregon this morning (shown on the satellite image). As this moves into the plains it will bring a few showers to the northern plains this weekend and wind to the central and southern plains.  It and a second weak system should be enough to dislodge cold air out of Canada and this will head south by the first of the week.  At one point it appeared that another upper level system would be strong enough to bring a fair amount of precipitation to a large part of central U.S. and even heavy snow to parts of Kansas and Nebraska (centered on March 1).  But, at this point the amplification of the system will be too far east to bring much to at least the high plains. Here is the outlook from the Weather Prediction Branch...

During the next two to three weeks, the weather does fit the original fall pattern when there should be cold air available along with deepening upper level systems.  Some of the longer range computer models have been suggesting that the jet stream across the Pacific will be shifting south and the blocking should be weakening some.  This would allow increasing opportunities for wet weather systems across the high plains along with cooler temperatures.  My confidence unfortunately remains rather low.  I do (with a higher amount of confidence) feel that for the month of March, in general, that precipitation will be at least average, if not above for much of the area.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Update - 02/16/16 - Record warmth?

In past posts (since the fall) I've harped and complained and stressed that this "Super El Nino" was NOT going to behave like an El Nino!  "Experts", non-weather people, and the media could only tell everyone that this was going to be the Godzilla of all El Ninos and that the there was going to be so much devastation this winter.  Go back and read my posts, I pointed out two wild card possibilities that would thwart California from receiving drought ending rains.  Even today, look at the satellite image!

 The jet stream is ONCE AGAIN slamming the Pacific Northwest and southwest Canada!  What about southern California?  Missed again!

In the post I did on the 11th (and a couple before that), I discussed several possibilities of a storm around the 16th, give or take a couple of days.  That storm?  The two red X's on the satellite image are what could have been the storm. Both are fairly strong, but gave absolutely nothing to the high plains.  I consider this a busted and terrible outlook on my part.  There are several reasons why these two systems did not produce for the plains and the biggest reasons might be the phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the angular momentum across the Pacific temporarily shifting the upper level ridge too far east.  On the satellite image, the ridge is denoted by the big blue dotted line.  The phase of the NAO follows:

So this now has crushed my confidence in the outlook for the last days of February and first week or two of March.  Originally I was expecting an active period developing.  But now, I'm not so sure.  I've got to take a little time and reanalyze the pattern.

In the mean time, the huge upper level ridge and westerly momentum will result in near or record warmth across the plains (and adjacent eastern plains).   There is a strong possibility that many locations will NOT fall below freezing at night for 5 to 7 days (at least) and day time readings are expected to climb well above climatological normal temperatures.  At Dodge City, a stretch of 7 days of above 32 during February has happened only three times in recorded observations.  The last time was in 1981.

For crop guys and gals....will this be enough to break the wheat out of dormancy?  This type of warmth for mid-February is pretty unusual. 

More typical winter conditions will return and March could end up a little on the cool side compared to climatology.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

This pattern is NOT El Nino like! Update 02/11/16

If you would go back and read blog posts from late summer on, I stressed many times that trying to predict long term weather (months in advance) based solely on the existence of an "El Nino", usually fails.  I  pointed out early on that a wild card this year would be the warm waters across the north Pacific.  The pattern this winter across North America has for the most part been anything but an typical El Nino pattern.  Just recently, the northeast 1/4 of the country has been very cold.  Yesterday, Thursday February 11, saw an extreme gradient of temperature.  While it was in the mid to upper 70s across southwest Kansas (there were low 80s mixed in), the temperature across Iowa and northeast Missouri was only in the teens.  That is quite a contrast!


The media (and even proclaimed weather experts) have said the recent warmth is tied to "El Nino".  Ha!  Based on these expert forecasts, El Nino was supposed to bring cooler than normal weather from California across the southern states (including southern Kansas).  Isn't that a bit contradictory? The recent warmth and the cold across the northeast can be traced back to the warmth across the north Pacific (the wild card).  Looking at the Thursday morning satellite image, I've circled in some crazy upper level wind flow.

Taking a composite of upper level winds during El Nino events, this jet stream configuration should not exist.  Really since December, the atmosphere has gone through several adjustments and can be tied to several events (I won't go into detail here).

I still think the pattern will settle back into what was occurring during the fall and early winter.  But when?  The jet stream configuration across the central and western Pacific is showing some characteristics of energy redistribution.  Although computer model forecasts are showing a lot, I'm still seeing a change to unsettled weather the last 7 to 10 days of this month and into March.  The February 16th (give or take a couple of days) outlook I've talked about in the past two posts, is still not showing up.  So confidence has waned on that system.  I take another look this weekend.

BTW, one of the long range computer  forecast models did have a pretty wet solution for later this month.  NOTE:  DO NOT TAKE THIS FOLLOWING IMAGE LITERALLY!


If we really are going to go into an unsettled pattern as stated above, then the type of output in the image should become a bit more frequent.  Not surprisingly, the same model showed very little precipitation in it's run just six hours later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Is winter over? Update 02/09/16

First off, I need to jump on a soapbox.  Did you hear about the "Anthem of the Seas" cruise ship that got caught up in the big storm off the southeast U.S. coast?  Google it if you haven't heard.  The ship and passengers were needlessly battered and tossed around.  News reports say that this storm that the ship sailed into was not expected to be that strong.  &^#^%@!  This storm was well forecast and the National Weather Service and private weather companies did an outstanding job forecasting the intensity and was well advertised.  The Royal Caribbean Cruise company should be held accountable.  I'm so sick and tired of good forecasts getting tossed into the "it happened without warning" or "we weren't expecting it" that headlines often are plastered all over the place.  Rarely does a weather agency (government or private sector) get credited with live saving accurate forecasts and warnings.  Right or wrong, the weatherman frequently gets slammed.  Jumping off the box...

In the previous post I did on the 3rd (read it here) I discussed the pattern transition into a cold one for at least the eastern part of the country and as far west as far northeast Kansas.  So far there has been several surges of Arctic air, but it was no where as cold as I had anticipated.  It is really confusing for me as the pattern was and still is conducive for really cold air into the midwest (not the high plains), which is currently bottled up in Canada.  Here is the map of temperatures as of this Tuesday morning...

Yes, it got cold but the really cold air is still up north. Looking at the current Arctic Oscillation index chart...


...with the index significantly in the negative category, this usually translates into Arctic air dislodging and spreading well south into the states.  The pattern remains favorable so I still think some of this cold air will move into at least the Midwest and east.  For the plains, there may be a very brief surge around Saturday but it will be short lived.

Also in the previous post, I mentioned the potential for significant weather around the 16th give or take a couple of days.  Except for a few exceptions, computer forecast models do NOT have any hint of a storm.  There were a few model iterations that had a significant storm centered on Kansas. 

So, is there any chance?

Looking at the Tuesday morning satellite image....

The upper wind flow is complicated once again across the Pacific.  This could be the result of the on-going warm event (El Nino) and the residual warm waters across the north Pacific (discussed in previous posts).  There were several storms (fast moving denoted by the X's and a larger slower one denoted by the L).  The item of interest for me is the west to east jet stream (green arrow from the left center to the bright white northeast of Hawaii).  This represents an anomalously strong extension of the East Asian jet stream.  This is providing a lot of energy for one of these weather systems to intensify. 

At this point, my confidence in one of these systems intensifying as they move into the central part of the country is small.  But, the situation needs to be monitored.  The most likely time for significant development across the plains is still around the 16th-18th time frame.  I also think there might be a minor system around Valentines day but impacts should be rather small.  I'll try and update on Thursday.

Oh the headline?  Is winter over?  According to a lot of "experts", yes.  But, anyone that has lived in the plains long enough knows that winter type conditions usually lingers well into March and sometimes April.  This year we could be heading towards a pretty active March and with any cold air around, that would probably be manifested as a good ol' fashioned blizzard.  Oh joy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Update - 02/3/16

The major snowstorm and blizzard that struck parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska is long gone and is now just a weak system in southeast Canada.  It brought a lot of of misery to parts of the plains.  Here is a map of the snowfall:


In the post I did on the 1st, I had briefly mentioned that  there was some hint of a small system towards the end of this week.  Looking at the Wednesday afternoon satellite image...


There was a fairly strong upper level system approaching the Pacific Northwest coast.  This system will drop southeast towards the central plains late Thursday and Friday.  However, it will also be undergoing a weakening trend and once it gets to the central plains it will encounter dry boundary layer air.  Yet, there should still be precipitation, albeit very light and scattered in nature.

There was a second system on the satellite image (X2) located south of the Aleutian Islands.  It too will approach the central plains, about Sunday.  But just like it's predecessor, it will be weakening and encountering more dry air.  It may bring a bit of cloud cover and maybe a small bit of insignificant precipitation.

The pattern then transitions into a cold one, at least for the eastern part of the country. A large shot of Arctic air will invade the midwest and east by Tuesday of next week.  It will be struggle for the cold air to get too far west, but sometimes shallow Arctic air can overcome a lot of obstacles and make it deep into the Plains.  But, far eastern Kansas should feel the impacts, at least for a couple of days.  I would not be surprised to see 10 to 15 below zero minimum temperatures for areas like St. Joe Missouri.

By  late next week  (11th - 13th),  the pattern should be setting up to allow additional opportunities for significant weather across the plains.  I would guess sometime around the 16th, give or take a couple of days, would be the time for an impacting storm.  I'll be watching the pattern and update on that later next week.  The last 7 to 10 days of February should be unsettled.  Looking even further, the second week of March could potentially be wet and cold, i.e., not a good time for calving.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Update - February 1, 2016

In the blog I did on the 28th (read it here), I discussed the potential storm for early this week.  In fact, I had discussed the possibility for several weeks.  In the blog I said I would not be surprised at any track the storm would take because, as of last week, the storm wasn't even a storm yet.  Many posts had already been made by many individuals showing a lot of computer guidance of specific numbers (as far as snowfall).  This storm is going to end up farther north than the had been posted.

The storm is indeed a storm now, and the eventual track looks fairly certain at this time.  It is strong enough that not only will there be a major blizzard (centered on Nebraska), there will also be showers and even lightning and thunder in the "warm" sector!  As of Monday afternoon, it appears that the surface part of the storm will track from near Elkhart to near Kansas City starting tonight and continuing tomorrow (Tuesday).  The heaviest snow will fall north of the track putting areas like Goodland, Lincoln and near Omaha in the heavier snowfall with the maximum in central Nebraska to northwest Iowa.  Here is a map of potential snowfall (NOTE: not everyone in the shaded areas will get that much...but it is a potential):


In the "warm" sector along and south of the track, there will be showers and even thunderstorms.  Rainfall will generally be a quarter of an inch or less at most locations.  However, there will be a few spots that get an inch of rain, especially across eastern Kansas.

Looking at the afternoon satellite image, you can see where the upper part of the storm was located (near the Four Corners)...


One reason I had been expecting this storm was the cycling nature of the weather pattern and noticing where the forcing for these weather systems were located.  But, the big unknown (and with any storm) is just where they will track one the storm gets into the plains.  This time the track is too far north to bring snow to the panhandles and much of Kansas and Missouri.  One reason the track is farther north can be tied to the North Atlantic Oscillation (can cause a blocking of the jet stream).
Compare the phase and strength for this current event and to the phase and strength from the earlier December (around the 12th) storm...


Beyond this current storm, the computer models had not  been picking up on any other systems for the rest of this week and into the weekend.  However, based on the jet stream configuration, I had been expecting at least a small system capable enough to bring a bit of moisture.  Now, computer forecast models do show at least something towards the end of the week.  I will look deeper into this possibility and post by mid-week.

As usual with any current storm, stay apprised of the event by checking frequently with the National Weather