Close call: Major storm tracks south of metro; Eyeing possible Post-Christmas “Gulf Storm?”

Light snow & flurries today with accumulations favoring the I-90 corridor

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Major Winter Storm heading for Iowa & Wisconsin Thursday – will clip SE Minnesota

6″ to 12″+ in heavy snow band

Near blizzard conditions with wind gusts to 50mph Thursday in Wisconsin

Twin Cities on the edge of snow with this week’s system

“Gulf Storm” next week? Longer range forecast hints at potential for more big snows in Upper Midwest by around December 26th-27th

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Upper Midwest Storm Parade: 4 storms in 4 weeks?

We’re settling into what appears to be a more active winter storms pattern for the Upper Midwest this month. First the snowy wallop on December 8-9th. Then our rare December rain event last weekend. Now a major snowmaker this week for Iowa & Wisconsin. Next, a potentially major “Gulf Storm” winding up and shooting north from the Gulf of Mexcio the day after Christmas?

Big picture please?

After months of drought and a rain & snow free landscape, this pattern change is great news for the Upper Midwest. Yes, it would have been nice if it came as beneficial soaking rains a month ago, but we’ll have to take it at this point.

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Next system: Major Winter Storm for Des Moines, La Crosse, Madison & Tomah

The next weather system is winding up and heading for the Upper Midwest with heavy snow by Thursday. This one should get your attention if you’re planning travel Thursday south along I-35 or I-94.

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Models agree on a potent and rapidly deepening surface low will track from Oklahoma to near Chicago by Thursday. This system has all the earmarks of a big snowmaker.

The track favors laying out a band of heavy snow of 6″ to 12″+ from Omaha to Des Moines, La Crosse, Tomah, Madison & Green Bay.

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Image: NAM snowfall via wxcaster.com

Chicago’s northern suburbs may start as rain…then change to a few inches of wet snow as the system races by Thursday.

Winds behind the system will gust to 30 to 40+ mph, and I could see near blizzard conditions in much of Wisconsin Thursday & Thursday night.

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If you are planning travel south or east toward Omaha, Kansas City, La Crosse, Madison or Chicago or Green Bay Thursday will bring a near impassible road conditions.

INCLUDING THE CITIES OF…DECORAH…WAUKON…CHARLES CITY…

NEW HAMPTON…OELWEIN…BLACK RIVER FALLS…LA CROSSE…SPARTA…

TOMAH…MAUSTON…VIROQUA…PRAIRIE DU CHIEN…RICHLAND CENTER…

PLATTEVILLE

900 AM CST TUE DEC 18 2012

…WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING

THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON…

* PLAN ON HEAVY SNOW WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH THURSDAY.

* A TOTAL OF 6 TO 12 INCHES OF SNOW IS EXPECTED.

* SUSTAINED WINDS OF 20 TO 30 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 40 MPH WILL

ACCOMPANY THE HEAVY SNOWFALL AND COULD CAUSE NEAR BLIZZARD

CONDITIONS.

* THIS STORM WILL LIKELY HAVE A HIGH IMPACT ON TRAVEL. THOSE

TRAVELING OR COMMUTING COULD FACE DANGEROUS DRIVING CONDITIONS.

Roads should gradually improve during the day Friday. Wednesday & Saturday will be the better travel days.

Looking Ahead: Potential Post-Christmas “Gulf Storm” on the way?

Those new sleds under the tree may get a work out after Christmas.

This is a long way out, and mostly good for speculation at this point.

But the overnight European and GFS runs now favor a possible “Gulf Storm” scenario next Wednesday & Thursday December 26th & 27th for the Upper Midwest.

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Image: Norwegian Met Institute

The models suggest a developing low pressure system dropping down over the Gulf of Mexico near Houston, Texas Christmas Day. The system then shoots almost straight north to just west of Milwaukee by the 26th.

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Image: NOAA GFS Model

If that track pans out, it could throw a wide blanket fo heavy snow into the Upper Midwest including eastern Minnesota and the metro.

Gulf Storms are among the wettest and heaviest snow in Minnesota during winter. These big systems suck up and draw in copious amounts of warm moisture laden air from the Gulf, and wring it out over Minnesota as heavy wet snow. The Halloween-Mega Storm was essentially a “Gulf Storm.”

Snow: liquid ratios with Gulf Storms can be on the order of 8:1 or even 7:1. If we get a Gulf Storm next week, it will likely lock in heavy wet snow pack for the bulk of winter….unless we can manage a prolonged, sustained warm up.

Stay tuned!

PH

  • Chris

    We are planning on Driving to upstate NY, and we are leaving middle of the afternoon (around 3 or 4) tommorrow from Cook, MN. Is there anywhere on the web that will take our driving plan and put weather to it at major cities or do I have to look up each city on NOAA. Thanks to you for the heads up on the storm too, we are leaving 1 day early to try to beat it.

  • Scott S

    Any chance the snow maker for Wednesday night/Thursday could shift a little more north and bring more accumulating snow to the Twin Cities? Typically with storms like this, meteorologist will say things like “this storm could move north/south…” but I haven’t heard anyone say anything like that. Everyone seems confident that this storm will track just south of the metro. Why the confidence this time around?

  • Tim o’Bedlam

    Paul, I wish you wouldn’t forecast weather more than a week out. It so rarely pans out – I can’t count the number of times you’ve looked at a possibility of a big storm or cold snap or something 8-10 days away, only to have it fade away to naught as the event date approaches. I know forecasting 3-5 days out is much more reliable than it used to be, say, thirty years ago, but it seems to me that specific forecasting beyond a week out isn’t any more reliable than casting runes or reading tea-leaves.

  • Melissa

    I LOVE that you include extended forecast model discussion. It enriches our understanding of the weather models and is something fantastically interesting to watch. If you want to watch something reliable and unchanging, please go watch paint dry. If you want to learn and explore and discuss possibilities, weather is for you. I believe many people would agree, when it comes to such a busy travel time as Christmas, any kind of forewarning is appreciated. If nothing materializes, so what! Keep up the fantastic blogging.

  • Melvin

    Paul, I’d like to thank you for your mid/long-term forecasting because you always present the tools you use to make the forecasts and the associated confidence. I Especially liked the post last weekend where you discussed what parts of the storm were certain and what was unsure. Keep it up! I am new to Minnesota so I like hearing about what is normal/abnormal and what tools you have at your disposal. I always feel more informed after reading your blog.

    I have frequently used modeling in non-meteorological contexts so I appreciate your explanations and the challenges of working with models!

  • Paul Huttner

    Hey All:

    Great comments & discussion.

    I think there is some “value” in discussing longer range systems if they look significant.

    1) It gives you an early head’s up that a storm is possible, but not certain.

    2) It gives you other days where travel appears to be a much better option.

    3) It’s a red flag to keep your antenna up and follow forecasts as they may evolve.

    4) It gives insight into the highly interesting and complex world of numerical weather prediction. (NWP) That’s part of my job at MPR…to explain how the science works, and what the limits are.

    As savvy weather consumers I know you all get that models are imperfect and lose resolution as time goes by. But they do often identify temperature trends and larger “high amplitude” storms 7-10 days out.

    Our 12″ storm in the metro December 8-9th is a good example. We were able to highlight the possibility of that storm a full 7 days in advance. We also picked up on last weekend’s rain event several days out, but still conveyed the uncertain temperature profile. The forecast for rain worked perfectly Saturday…and the 1.3” of slush on my west metro driveway was in the forecast range…even if lesser amounts fell in the central metro core. Some models did pretty well with that one too days in advance.

    I do my best to use words like “possible” and “potential” to convey the inherent uncertainty in forecast when necessary. I think it’s important to be honest about that, even if others in the market may throw around snowfall totals and forecasts days or weeks out that are worded with a “certainty” that goes beyond the limits of the science we practice. That approach has a negative effect on the credibility of all meteorologists.

    I wish this week’s system would swing north and dump heavy snow in the metro….most models agree that isn’t likely. The GFS has shifted the snow shield slightly north today and is painting some snow into the metro Wednesday night & Thursday…stay tuned.

    Safe holiday travels everyone!

    PH