Sunday, December 30, 2012

12/30 - 8pm - Anyone Up for a Third Round of Wintry Weather?

With two winter weather events within a week's time in the books for Kentuckiana, it's apparently time for a third! Unfortunately the timing for this one is pretty bad. Just as folks are going home from New Year's parties in the early hours of Tuesday morning we could have snow, sleet, or even freezing rain falling in the region. The good news here is that regardless of what falls from the sky, there won't be much of it. Precipitation amounts will remain light since heavy rain and storms in the South will be stealing our moisture here up north in Kentucky and Indiana during the time of the event. As far as timing goes, a few snow showers will move through tomorrow afternoon as this system begins to move toward us. Going into the evening is when things get tricky.

As a weak area of low pressure continues to approach we'll see some warming aloft out ahead of it. This warming has the potential to turn our falling snow into sleet or even freezing rain. The GFS is leading the charge at the moment on the potential for freezing rain in Louisville as it has a layer above freezing from 4,000 to 7,000 feet at 4am on Tuesday morning that would support freezing rain. The NAM model keeps us all snow with the entire atmosphere being below freezing. Given that the models have overestimated temperatures aloft with the past two snowstorms we've seen lately, I'm inclined to think that Louisville will stay mostly or all snow. Another thing to focus on will be surface temperatures. Should they be just below freezing this snow, sleet, or freezing rain will stick to the roads and make for tricky travel on late Monday night. If they're just above freezing then only expect to see accumulation on the grass and elevated surfaces. We do have a bit of snowcover in Louisville now, so that might lean us more in the direction of below freezing instead of above for this event overnight Monday into Tuesday. We're going to be awfully close to freezing for much of the night regardless. Areas north of the city will likely stay all snow and below freezing while those areas to the south will see a wintry mix and temperatures just above freezing until the early morning hours. National Weather Service offices across the Plains have issued Winter Weather Advisories due to this system, in purple on the image to the left, but uncertainty about precipitation type and amounts in the Ohio Valley has NWS Louisville waiting for more agreement before they issue any advisories.

Like I said before, accumulations are going to be light for this event. The NAM (right) has up to an inch of snow in many areas and the GFS model has been a little more optimistic at times today with 1-3" across the area. Like the last two snow events, I'm thinking that the amount of precipitation being put out on the models will adjust upward a bit as we get closer to time (tonight and tomorrow morning). Given the trends I'm seeing right now I think we'll see 1-2" of snow in portions of Louisville and points northward with up to an inch of snow and mixed precipitation to the south. Once again... grumble grumble grumble... Louisville is right on the line between feast and famine with the snow. Southern Indiana has been the big winner with snow over the past week while folks south of the Ohio River are raising their hands in favor of more. That is, if you're a snow lover of course. So, we'll be looking to see over the next few hours how the models handle the amount of precipitation forecast, and temperatures both aloft and at the surface. Shifts in these could mean some significant changes to the forecast for many areas!

Friday, December 28, 2012

12/28 - 1:30am EST - Kentuckiana Winter Storm Number 2

Wednesday's winter storm didn't give much snow to folks in the Louisville area and instead confined heavy snow to areas of Southern Indiana. While differences in the models did exist over whether Louisville would get any accumulating snow or not, the overall situation was handled pretty well from a forecast standpoint. The highest snow report in NWS Louisville's coverage area was 7.2 inches in Washington County, IN while Louisville received a trace to a half inch.

The next storm on the heels of the last one is less than 24 hours away as a system arrives from the southwest and stays to our southeast as it moves through the region. This will start as some rain for the Louisville area but as colder air filters in we'll switch over to snow during the later evening hours. This exact time for switchover depends on how warm we get during the day tomorrow (lower 40's versus upper 30's makes a difference!) and how fast the cold air comes in. The 0z NAM that came in earlier tonight has about 3" for the city and after comparing this with other models I'm thinking this may be a number we'll see most commonly reported by Saturday morning in Louisville. Higher totals will be possible just a bit further north from Louisville.

But even as I say this there's a small fly in the ointment. The 3z RPM model is in and it has the possibility of 4-6" of snow just due east of the city and a few very small totals like this scattered throughout areas near the Ohio River. This suggests that totals closer to 4" might be more widespread than previously thought. You can click the RPM output on the left for a larger view. We've seen the trend of increasing snow totals today on the models and this run of the RPM just continues this. We'll need to watch for this trend tomorrow morning to see if other models catch on. Right now this isn't really a factor in my forecast since it's just one model. Below is my snow forecast map for the region. Realize that, like the last storm, a small shift in track or more/less cold air will change things for some folks drastically.

Also worth noting is that the Hyrdrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) has us in a Slight Risk of a 4" snowfall (think of this like the Slight, Moderate, and High severe weather risks) while areas closer to Cincinnati are in a Moderate Risk. Expect to see Winter Weather Advisories being issued tomorrow for portions of Kentuckiana. There may also be a few Winter Storm Watches issued as well depending on if forecast amounts of 4" or more look to be more widespread. You can keep up with the latest on this storm tomorrow by following me on Twitter and Facebook. Good luck, snow lovers!

Friday, December 21, 2012

12/21 - 2pm - I'm Dreaming of a White (Day After) Christmas

How about that snow last night around Kentuckiana? Most places saw a dusting but areas in Southern Indiana near Orange County picked up about 3 inches since a snow band set up there for a few hours during the overnight. Here at my house in Southeast Louisville we picked up a dusting of snow that blew around a bit in the wind. Temperatures today aren't going to make it out of the mid 30's in Louisville today thanks to the cold air behind the front that passed through yesterday. Seems appropriate given that it's the first day of winter!

Temperatures will moderate for the weekend with southerly flow returning but an area of low pressure moving through will bring rain and even warmer temperatures for Christmas Eve. Booooo! Luckily Christmas Day isn't looking like a washout with just a few clouds and highs in the lower 40's. That's a different story further South in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia where rain will be setting up.

Now... onto the fun part. Over the past couple of days the forecast models have been jumping onto the idea of an area of low pressure moving from the Gulf states to the western side of the Appalachian Mountains the day after Christmas. This is concerning because this track favors a snow event for Kentuckiana and even some of West Tennessee. You need to be on the north and west side of these low pressure systems if you want to see some snow since that's where the cold air is confined to. The past few systems we've been on the south and east sides of the lows moving though so that has meant thunderstorms and warm weather lately.

The latest 3 runs of the GFS for this particular post-Christmas storm have been fairly consistent with the low track, which is good! The problem has been that there's been trouble determining how much cold air there will be to work with and how strong/large the low moving through will be. These issues have affected how much snow the Louisville area gets. The graphic on the left is a comparison of the last 3 runs of the GFS for December 26th. For entertainment purposes only, the 0z run had just shy of 8" of snow for Louisville, the 6z had about 3", and the 12z had around 2.5". It is still way, way too far out for specific totals and to worry about the cold air issues yet since things will change likely on the models between now and then. I will say though that the 6 and 12z runs seemed to have difficulty keeping the low as a single, compact system once it matured and instead wanted to go with an elongated large low that tries to interact with another low that develops east of the Appalachians. I've seen this kind of thing happen on the GFS earlier this year with the Nor'easters that we had. Eventually, based on what happened with these Nor'easters, these elongated lows should give way to more concentrated, compact lows on the GFS as we get closer to the actual event. This should help to clear up some of the murkiness with the cold air issues too.

The Euro has been fairly consistent with the track of the low as the GFS has been, but has also experienced a few issues of its own like the GFS. Yesterday's 12z run of the Euro had a blockbuster snow event in the Louisville area while the 0z last night backed off on that prospect thanks to, you guessed it, a more elongated low and trouble with cold air. I can't post the precipitation output from the Euro model since it's behind a paywall and copyrighted, but I can at least show you what the 0z run did with the low after it moved through. Lots and lots of cold air will be behind this system if you couldn't tell by the deep blues and purples on the map!

UPDATE 2:20pm - Today's 12z Euro model run is in and it has a blockbuster storm track for snow for us here in Kentuckiana and West Tennessee. That is quite a strong low in East Tennessee on the left-hand map compared to previous runs. Sheesh.

The CMC and the JMA, which are the Canadian and Japanese models, aren't worth showing here right now. The CMC has the storm running off the east coast and the JMA has a nice low track for some snow in Louisville. It's worth noting that this system might disappear all together on the models or make a radical change. It's still too far out for much certainty.

Also, West Tennessee may see snow from this storm should it take the track that we're seeing. It wouldn't be much snow but certainly more than an inch or so isn't out of the realm of possibility, especially in Northwest Tennessee. Once we get closer to time this will become a bit more clear.

The NAO, which is the North Atlantic Oscillation, frankly isn't agreeing that there will be support for this storm. A negative NAO means blocking near Greenland allows for cold air to flow into the Eastern US and stay locked in place. The current forecast is for a positive NAO during this time, but it has been flipping between negative and positive over the past couple of days. This storm doesn't have to have a negative NAO to happen, but it would help to have it for cold air support and for a storm track that rolls up to the northeast. This will, like the aforementioned models, sort itself out over the next few days.


Finally, NWS Louisville has been on board with this storm since yesterday. They're being cautious like they should be but mentioning at length the potential for this at 5 days out is something that they don't do very often. Here's their latest statement:

A much more significant weather system will arrive on the 26th. Both the 00z GFS/ECM and ensembles track a strong low pressure system just to the west of the Appalachian spine which may set us up for our first significant snow. If the low pressure system takes its current forecast track, precipitation would enter the area Wed morning with the bulk of precip occurring Wed during the day and then exiting late Wed night or Thurs morning.

Although there is still much uncertainty in the track of this weather system 6 days out, the possibility is there for significant snow based on the low track and anticipated thermal profiles. BUFKIT GFS showed 8 inches at SDF with a little more than 0.5 inch of qpf. The soundings denote a classic heavy snow sounding with subzero and deep isothermal layer super saturated. The synoptic features of interest are a 110 kt jet max entering a the base of a deepening trough.

For now will have 60% pops on the 26th with rain in the morning and then snow in the afternoon and Wed night. Bing Crosby`s I`m dreaming of a White Christmas may happen, just 24 hours later.

Stay tuned for upcoming forecast updates as this weather system may put a kink in holiday travel plans.


This will be a fun system to watch over the weekend. Hopefully there's some snow in our future!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12/11 - 10:30pm - Be Careful When Wishing for Snow... You Might Get it!

With all the warmth much of the eastern portion of the nation has been experiencing lately some folks are beginning to get antsy over whether we'll be able to fall into a more winter-like pattern in time for the holidays. The cold front that rolled through earlier this week has helped to assuage some of those fears as it brought much cooler temperatures and even some light snow/sleet to parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

So... What's next? First up is a system that will move through the region this weekend as a warm one. A low will travel from the Plains to Lake Michigan and keep the eastern half of the nation warm as it spreads rain from the Great Lakes to the South. This makes sense because the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) will be going neutral during this time, which generally means that cold air won't be able to spill down into the Eastern US from Canada. The Arctic Oscillation will be negative to support cold air coming out of the north, but that doesn't matter too much for us when the NAO isn't negative as well.

The system behind this weekend's is the one that is drawing some concern. A low will be moving across the South during the day on Tuesday and potentially spread some snow to areas that are north of it. At this point anywhere from West Tennessee to the Louisville area is in a potential corridor for snow. This all depends on the exact track of the low and how much cold air it will be able to bring down from the north. This scenario is supported by the NAO and AO both going negative during this time. The GFS model takes the storm along the southern border of Tennessee right to the Carolinas. The ECMWF (European) model starts out with the low a little further south along the Mississippi River but has it exit off the coast in about the same location as the GFS. The low would then become a storm that would ride up to the Northeast just off the coast. With the previous system pulling up toward the Chicago area, this low will likely stay suppressed to the south. So... the broad, general nature of this low's track isn't in too much question. My preliminary (read: subject to change!) thinking is that this will be a rain to light snow situation for portions of Tennessee and Kentucky since cold air would plunge in as the system is exiting to the east. Accumulations would be very light to none.

But here's an issue. The snow cover over the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest has expanded tremendously over the past week as a storm pummeled those areas with quite a bit of snow. We're now at 31.4% snow cover over the United States. Air moving from the north over that snow won't warm as quickly as it would over bare land and the computer models generally have a difficult time resolving that. With this snow cover, the air in place over us and the air coming down from the north may be a little cooler than the computer models think it will be at the moment. That could mean more snow from this system. We're still a week away from this event so while details are sketchy, it's now obvious that this is a system to watch. This likely won't be the only storm we'll have to contend with between now and the new year since a pattern is setting up that will allow cold air to sit close by to the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys while lows track through and just to the south of the region. There's hope for a white Christmas in the region but it will depend on whether we can get enough cold air and a storm to move through just before the 25th. It'll be fun to watch!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

12/2 - 4:15pm - A Needed Shot of Rain on the Way

A few brief showers scraped across northern portions of West Tennessee this morning as expected. The disturbance causing those morning showers has left behind some cloud cover across the region with peeks of sun here and there. More of the incredibly warm weather that we've seen for the past few days arrives tomorrow just in time for the Jackson Christmas Parade at 6:45pm. 75 still looks like a good bet for a high temperature during the afternoon as we start the workweek on Monday.

Much of the area is experiencing moderate drought conditions right now. Even though the growing season is pretty much over it is still important for rainfall to keep up so that we don't have an already-in-place drought come spring. The good news here is that we have a chance for a good soaking rain on Tuesday with over a half inch possible in most places. The front causing this rain will leave behind only slightly cooler temperatures in the 60's, which is still warmer than average for this time of year. The next round of rain on Friday and Saturday is the one to watch as it could bring much, much cooler weather to the area next weekend behind it.

Check out the video below from yesterday night's newscast on WBBJ for your full forecast!