Winter on steroids: blizzard warnings and polar vortex, part two?

Winter is halfway over according to the calendar, but just kicking into high gear on the weather maps. In fact those weather maps look downright brutal at times the next 10 days in the Upper Midwest.

Here’s a rundown on several weather systems that will require our attention in the next two weeks.

PM snow shot today

First up is another micro-clipper sweeping across Minnesota today. A narrow north-south oriented snow band sweeps across the state today. The snow flies in western Minnesota and the Red River Valley this morning and midday. Snow spreads east this afternoon, arrives in Duluth and the  Twin Cities after 2 p.m. and lasts until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. this evening.

It won’t be heavy, but a quick inch in the metro during rush hour will produce another challenging evening rush.

Weatherspark

Up north, the snow will be a little heavier. Two inches to 4 inches may fall in the Northland through tonight.

Duluth National Weather Service

Today’s snow is just the appetizer for a full blown blizzard that kicks in Thursday.

Image: Twin Cities NWS

Blizzard warnings hoisted Thursday

Blizzard warnings are flying for the Red River Valley and much of southwestern Minnesota for Thursday.

Red River Valley NWS

438 AM CST WED JAN 15 2014

…BLIZZARD WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM CST THURSDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN GRAND FORKS HAS ISSUED A BLIZZARD WARNING…

* TIMING…BLIZZARD CONDITIONS TO START JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT IN THE NORTHERN RED RIVER VALLEY AND PERSIST THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

* WINDS/VISIBILITY…NORTH WINDS WILL INCREASE TO 40 TO 50 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 65 MPH POSSIBLE TONIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY. VISIBILITIES WILL BE ZERO AT TIMES.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…NEW SNOWFALL OF AROUND AN INCH.

* OTHER IMPACTS…POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WINDS MAY CAUSE LOCALIZED POWER OUTAGES THURSDAY. THIS WILL BE A LIFE THREATENING BLIZZARD…TRAVEL ON THURSDAY WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE AT TIMES. MAKE PLANS TO POSTPONE OR DELAY ANY TRAVEL ON THURSDAY.

No getting around it, this one looks nasty folks. Winds gusts to 68 mph have already been clocked today at Great Slave Lake way up in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

That intense arctic front and pressure gradient plunges south Thursday over fresh powdery snow cover. It’s what we used to call a full blown “ground blizzard“– winds of 50 to 60 mph picking up snow on the ground and getting it airborne.

NOAA, via weatherbug.com

Some of the snow in these intense blizzards can reach hundreds of feet into the air. Thursday snow from the Red River Valley may actually be lifted and “advected” (transported horizontally) and deposited more than a hundred miles away in the Minnesota River Valley!

Here’s the strong language from the Twin Cities National Weather Service forecast discussion.

IN FACT WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED TO SEE A 60MPH WIND GUST WITH THIS SYSTEM. THE LONG DURATION OF THESE WINDS WILL ALSO CONTRIBUTE TO BLIZZARD CONDITIONS…AND IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE I SNOW GETS ADVECTED FROM THE RED RIVER VALLEY DOWN TO THE MINNESOTA RIVER VALLEY.

Visibility will drop to near zero in the Red River Valley and much of southwest Minnesota Thursday. Even in the far west Twin Cities suburbs, this one will create difficult travel Thursday. That’s why the NWS has placed a blizzard watch unusually close to the western metro suburbs.

Twin Cities NWS

Wind gusts over 40 mph will be common, and gusts of 50 mph to 65 mph may actually occur in the Red River Valley Thursday.

NOAA

Temp roller coaster continues

Get used to riding the temperature roller coaster the next week in Minnesota. Today’s snow is what we call ‘warm advection snow’ in the weather biz. A warm front will actually cause rising temps tonight, and we may reach 30 degrees in the metro by around midnight into early Thursday before the next arctic front slams south.

Here are the ups and downs over the next week from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model.

Weatherspark

Polar vortex, part two?

The latest model runs continue to favor a return of the polar vortex by the weekend of Jan. 25 and 26. It’s still too early to be credibly certain about the magnitude of the next cold wave, but the latest indications are this one could be every bit as cold, or colder, than what we saw last week.

NOAA

Here’s a look at some staggering numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model for the period of Jan. 26 to Jan. 29.

GFS model via IPS Meteostar

Again, I’m not convinced just yet we’ll get to -28 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, but the model consistency is building for another significant — and potentially historic — arctic superfront.

Stay tuned.

  • Luke

    The more I read your forecasts the more I’m convinced you guys don’t know anything more than a day or two out. What happened to the “looks like the worst cold is over for the winter” stuff you were slinging last week? What’s changed so much in a week that makes your previous prediction appear to be totally wrong?

    • JQP

      pretty much the way I feel about Wall Street with the consideration that weather is NOT influenced by opinion and well … wall street, london, hong kong, and global traders generally are like gossipy, emotionally imbalanced , fearful, text-aholic teenagers. they’ll sell the farm as easily as plant the crops.

  • JQP

    can you show what the “prediction” data was showing 2 weeks before the last polar vortex ? maybe a side by side
    Also …
    what is the 3-6 month impact on the polar weather if this much of the stored cold-air mass is shunted south …. will that result in a warmer polar summer ( maybe earlier arrival of heavy melting) ???
    I know there are some who are hoping to sea the northwest passage actually open up.

  • Real Met

    Throwing the word “historic” in a two week forecast is just plain unprofessional. A true meteorologist would know better.