Thursday, January 25, 2018

More of the same - Updated Jan 25, 2018

The pattern that has existed since this fall has been very unfavorable for the high plains.  The sensible weather that has resulted, if it continues, would be very detrimental to the agriculture community.  But will there be more of the same?  For now...yes.

Going back to my posts during the fall, I was expecting fewer than normal weather systems that could bring beneficial moisture.  There have been a few systems, but unfortunately most have not been too functional for most of the high plains.  The small storm on the11th of January brought some moisture to some areas and then the past storm this past weekend (21-22) benefited at least northwest Kansas and Nebraska.  There will still be more opportunities the remainder of the winter but those opportunities will be few and far between.  If those systems are also "dysfunctional", I'm afraid we're going to start dealing with dust storms later into spring (let alone the wildfire threats).

There is a glimmer of hope though....more on that later in this write-up.

This afternoon there was a small system moving through west Texas.  Although it was not bringing "much" in the way of moisture, it was producing lightning.  This is actually a bad thing since there is fuel (grass) to burn in that area with what would be considered "dry thunderstorms".  But it's also a good sign as this system is change in the pattern that will return in mid-March (and hopefully more functional).  On satellite you this system across west Texas is indicated by the red X.

Elsewhere on this map, the jetstream pattern is not too indicative of winter, for now.  There is a strong possibility that the cold that occurred the last 10 days of December and the cold that occurred a week ago, will return once again.  The first shot may be as early as the 1st with periodic shots of bitter cold well into February.  Overall, February may end up below normal for temperatures.   With each shot of cold there should be at least a few opportunities for moisture!

Looking at the latest US Drought monitor, the drought is expanding and has become extreme across parts of the southern high plains. 

Again, there will at least be a few opportunities for decent storms going through the remainder of the winter.  BUT there is also a chance that with each opportunity the storms will behave much like they have since the fall and that is be dysfunctional and not too wet for the high plains.  The outlook based on persistence (from the Climate Prediction Center)

Again, there will be at least a few systems.  We have to hope and pray that they actually produce.

During the past 110 days there has only been 0.10" of moisture observed at the airport in Dodge City. Believe it or not it's not the driest 110 day stretch!  In  1880 there was a 110 day stretch ending April 27 that only 0.04" fell.  Following it was a very wet May, July and August.   In 1956 there was only 0.10" that fell in a 110 day stretch ending January 20.  Unfortunately, 1956 was also the driest year on record at Dodge City.  In 1876 only 0.10" fell in the 110 day period ending February 28.  That May was wet, but the summer was below normal. 

Now to the glimmer of hope.  Unfortunately it is a small glimmer.  Have you noticed how many fronts have moved through?  That is directly tied to the pattern.  As we get closer to the growing season, the availability of gulf moisture will increase.  It might end up that east of the 100th meridian benefits and still remains dismal west of that line.  But there will always be a chance that things could form farther west. So, I'm not writing off the growing season just yet.  Let's see how things shake out going into early Spring.  I'm betting on a blizzard in March but probably also severe thunderstorms.  It might be a wild month.  In April, the pattern that has brought the well below normal temperatures this winter will likely return.  Thus, I wouldn't be surprised to see a late freeze.  

I'll try and update later next week.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Update Jan 2, 2018

It's hard to believe it's already 2018 - but also hard to believe how terrible this weather pattern is!

There has been virtually no change in the pattern.  Earlier in the fall it appeared that the developing flow would allow for periods of brutal cold for the winter.  The first shot I thought might occur was expected during the first half of December.  There were fronts, but the associated cold was just not making much progress south,  primarily because of a lack of snowcover across Canada and the northern plains.  It was only a matter of time.  Finally the Arctic air was dislodged and came crashing through much of the eastern 2/3 of the country and with at least some snow up north.  If there would have been snowcover across the high plains, low temperatures would have been 20-25 below zero.  As it was, lows were still 5 to 10 below zero! Temperatures below zero with bare ground are somewhat rare!

Since early October the flow aloft has been predominately northwest to southeast.  Good for bringing cold fronts, but little moisture (for the high plains).  However, early on there was a brief period of a week or two where the jet stream dug into the western U.S., which can lead to plains storms.  But those went too far north when they ejected into the central part of the U.S. and came out too fast (other complications too) that prevented organized precipitation.  Areas around I-70 in Kansas benefited in early October but the remainder of the area got essentially skunked.  

The fact of this brief period of the jetstream digging into the western U.S. gives me hope of at least a couple chances for significant precipitation events later this winter.  I mentioned this several times in previous blogs I posted back in October/November.  But, even if this digging occurs, that does not guarantee a precipitation event unfolding where it is desperately needed.  We can only hope and pray.

Looking at this mornings satellite image, there is something showing up that has not been prevalent yet this fall/winter...

Look at that system southwest of California!  That is a good sign for them!  The flow associated with that storm is coming from the very deep tropics!  Usually a system coming through California will benefit the plains, eventually.  BUT, at this point it looks like this storm will move north or northeast and NOT east into the southwest U.S.!   Eventually though the remnants will move across the central U.S. but will most likely be dysfunctional as it drops southeast out of the northwest U.S..  The result for the high plains will be only a little bit of precipitation (if any) towards the end of the weekend or early next week.  But also more cold air behind it.  There are indications of another system near California next week but I have ZERO confidence if it will move east or similar to the current California system.  Therefore, I'm not expecting much of any precipitation through mid-January. 

How dry is it?  Well since October 7, at the Dodge City airport only 0.01" has fallen.  Some areas around the high plains south of I-70 there has been a little more (not much more) and some locations there has been just a trace.  Looking at records since late 1874, this is the driest stretch for the same period at the Dodge City airport.  It was very similar in 1955-56.  Do you know what happened in 1956?  Driest year on record.  But there was also 20 inches of snow in Dodge City that January through April.

From the Weather Prediction Center - here is their outlook through early November 9th.

So, to summarize.  There is not much hope for much precipitation through mid-January (although there is a glimmer).  Expect another shot or two of cold (not as cold as the current air) but then maybe a decent warming trend by mid month.  I'm still expecting several decent chances for significant precipitation going into early spring (but will it be enough?).  I would not be surprised to end up with near normal snowfall by the end of April.  Am I expecting  repeat of 1956 or 2011?  No, but it's something that needs monitoring.  More on that later.