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High Plains Drifter

disclaimer:  "The meteorological views/forecast thinking expressed are those solely of the author of this blog
and do not necessarily represent those of official National Weather Service forecast products,
therefore read and enjoy at your own risk and edification!"

January 31, 2011

Central U.S. Winter Storm and Cold Air Outbreak 2011 February 1-2 [4]

Filed under: 2011 Feb 1-2 — Mike U @ 1:49 am

Virtual Winter Storm Chase Target……Columbia, MO. The global spectral model solutions have settled down enough to a point that it’s time to investigate some potential subsynoptic aspects of this storm and try to figure out where the best probability for 20 inches of snow will be.  20+ inches of snow from one synoptic storm in the central United States without any topographic or lake effect influence is rare.  It takes the perfect combination of the golden three:  1) intense, deep tropospheric baroclinicity 2) very abundant Gulf of Mexico moisture, and 3) jet stream winds to manifest this baroclinic instability and moisture into one major-league, robust storm.  See Figure 2 for the latest surface map showing the arctic air to the north and the Gulf of Mexico moisture ready to come back north.  In essence, all great mid latitude cyclones, by nature, need to have all of these properties in order to produce such a large-scale, tremendous output of precipitation as can bee seen in Figure 1.  Anyway, I wish I had the time off work to experience this one, seeing as we’ll miss out here in Dodge City, because there is a very good chance that a few locations will see 20-24″ of snow.  The trick is trying to figure out where exactly that will occur.  Model QPF fields give a nice clue, but QPF fields tend to be quite unstable run-to-run when it comes down to the details of figuring out where will be the greatest probability of the most snowfall.  Cyclogenesis, cyclogenesis, cyclogenesis!  It’s important to determine when the most mature phase of the storm will be (during what time frame is the 500-700mb lows deepening the most?).  Ageostrophic motions in the atmosphere are most pronounced at times of cyclone deepening, when the atmosphere is really out of balance.

The GFS and the Canadian GEM models both suggest the most vigorous development during the day Tuesday with a 700mb low really deepening substantially by 00z Wednesday 2/2.  It will be doing this over central/eastern Missouri.  This is where I believe is the best probability for 20+ inches of snow.  I believe this will extend from roughly Lake of the Ozarks to Columbia, MO to Bloomington, IL.  Columbia is a nice middle ground, and it’s along Interstate 70, so thus the reason for choosing this as my virtual target.  The GFS shows the 700mb Theta-E axis really maturing and bending back to the west into the cold air (Figure 3), with development of the inverted theta-e ridge (commonly known as the “TROWAL” in meteorological circles) by late in the day Tuesday.  There will be 2 to 3+” per hour snowfall rates for a sustained period of time along the nose of the 700mb Theta-E ridge in the cold air.  Upward vertical motion should be through the roof with all the sub-synoptic forcing for ascent and all the available moisture to work with.

Wind is another interesting facet of this system.  Check out the forecast MSLP gradient in the 48-hr Canadian GEM model forecast!! (Figure 4).  If that gradient does actually become realized, then blizzard conditions will exist.  It’s shaping up to be a hell of a storm for eastern Oklahoma, pretty much all of Missouri, and Illinois.

A huge area of the central and eastern U.S. is forecast to receive more than an inch of liquid equivalent precipitation Feb 1-3
Figure 1.

Surface map as of 11pm on 2001 Jan 30
Figure 2.

48hr fcst of GFS valid 00z Feb 2
Figure 3.

48hr fcst of Canadian GEM valid 00z Feb 2
Figure 4.


  1. I always learn so much from your blogs, especially when it comes to the more fine details associated with forecasting. Thank you yet again for a very insightful and fantastic blog.

    Comment by Leah Robertson — January 31, 2011 @ 3:23 am

  2. Would like to see a little more love given to the KC area! :-)

    Comment by Darin Brunin — January 31, 2011 @ 4:23 am

  3. 8-14″ isn’t enough Darin? I’m just sayin’ that won’t see 20. That will be east a bit. Still looks like maybe an inch in Dodge LOL

    Comment by Mike Umscheid — January 31, 2011 @ 10:24 am

  4. Hahaha…well, it’s just a weird feeling being jealous of Missouri for the first time in my life ;-)

    Comment by Darin Brunin — January 31, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  5. I would be! But only a 36-hr limit on that

    Comment by Mike Umscheid — January 31, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

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