November forecaster of the Month

We are a couple of days from the end of the month, but with a handful of forecasts coming up, and a looming threat of severe weather coming tomorrow, I thought we might as well grab some time now to reward the top forecaster from the past month. The top spot this month belonged to the fine folks at the National Weather Service, who took the prize, thanks to good old fashioned consistency.

OutletForecast Wins (year)
National Weather Service7.66
The Weather Channel7.33

Midweek storm looming for the country

After a relatively docile November, the end of the month is going to provide quite a bit of climactic intrigue. Low pressure is already spiraling through the Rust Belt on it’s way to New England. It will make for a wet trek home from Thanksgiving for a lot of people, and even includes some rumbles of thunder in western Pennsylvania, and will likely bring snow to interior New England this evening.

This storm is a hassle, definitely, but a real show is massing in the northern Plains. The next trough is going to dip to the south and give rise to a strong area of low pressure developing in the middle of the country. Things will really come together on Tuesday evening, seemingly from nothing.

The center of low pressure will slide north of the Canadian Border on Tuesday, with a slow moving cold front extending from southern Minnesota to the Denver area, with snow showers expected along the boundary on Tuesday. As the feature shifts into Manitoba, things will really take off. Moisture will start flowing northward as the low taps into the Gulf, while an undercutting area of low pressure emerges in the mid Mississippi Valley. This will lead to some higher output snow bands on the northeastern stretch of the low. Some spots from southeastern Minnesota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan will see 6+ inches of accumulation.

Also, with the atmospheric machinations and additional moisture, there is a looming threat for severe weather in the Lower Mississippi Valley. The undercutting low will produce a cold front of it’s own, and this will be the focal point for severe weather. Strong straight line winds are going to be a wide ranging problem, but the twisting and turning of flow in the region will also induce an seasonably high tornado threat.

The highest threat will be around sunset, just before and after, stretching from the Bootheel of Missouri to about Natchez, Mississippi. I would expect some supercellular storms in eastern Arkansas and northeast Louisiana, putting places like Monroe, Louisiana at risk for tornadoes. Things will aggregate into a line, bringing a more widespread straightline wind threat to western Tennessee and Mississippi, though embedded tornadoes are still going to be possible through the evening. The severe threat won’t last into the night, but rain and storms will be an issue in Alabama, Georgia and most of the eastern Seaboard on Wednesday.

The target area for severe weather is pictured below by the SPC.

It’s definitely going to be a nasty day for a lot of people on Tuesday, whether it be the snow in the north, the severe weather to the south, or the cold rain in between.

Turkey Day Travel Trouble Spots

We are two days before Thanksgiving, and if you are like me, and many people are, you are going to be traveling. The biggest travel period starts today, with return trips coming from Friday through the weekend.

Today and this afternoon, most of the country is going to be great for taking the trek to see family and loved ones. The exception is the Pacific Northwest, where a round of mountain snow and rain across Puget Sound could make any passages across the Cascades tricky. If you are in Seattle and have loved ones in Yakima, make sure to check conditions in Snoqualmie before you head out!

The rough weather in Washington will be short lived, though, and tomorrow looks even better for travel. There will be a bit of a return flow through the Red River Valley which may mean some light rain in Dallas, while the snow seen in Washington will diminish to just a few mountain flakes in the northern Rockies of Montana and Wyoming.

These two features portend a trickier trek home, however. The combination of low pressure emerging in the northern Plains and moisture arriving in the southern Plains are going to fuel rain and thunderstorms from the Piney Woods to the Lower Mississippi Valley by the time dinner wraps up on Thanksgiving. Storms could get a little heavy from Corpus Christi to Houston, so be on the look out deep in Texas.

Black Friday will be a gray Friday across much of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Persistent rain and thunderstorms will be possible from Louisiana to Mississippi and steadily increase eastward to Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. On the back side of this feature, I wouldn’t rule out some snow mixing around Lubbock and Lawton. On the north end, a cold front dangling from CAnada will move from northeast Minnesota and charge east towards the Great Lakes and ultimately land in New England by evening. It should be warm enough that rain will fall in the Great Lakes, but don’t be surprised to see snow in northern New England on Friday evening.

The low pressure bringing snow potentials to Texas will fill with warmer air, and tamp out the snow threat. Still, rain, heavy at times, will become increasingly likely through the mid Mississippi Valley eastward to Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. The steadiest wet weather right now seems to be seeking out St. Louis and Kansas City, but it’s too early to stake this forecast out as gospel truth.

This whole feature is going to really get ugly overnight Saturday into Sunday. It will start to draw on colder air from Canada and the Gulf Stream to ramp up rain and wind. Expect a very rainy start to Sunday from Cape Cod to the Delmarva as what is likely the year’s first Nor’Easter gets organized. Fortunately, it’s likely too warm to be a snow event, but the wind and cold rain will still be unpleasant enough. Rain falling on Buffalo may also lead to some urban flooding.

This system will blast through New England by the time night falls, fortunately, but it will leave behind that cold, windy weather that can only mean that the glad tidings of Thanksgiving are over, and winter is replacing autumn. Elsewhere, the travel period will end as it is starting: snow in the Cascades, but not much else.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Safe travels!

Buffalo getting pounded by several FEET of snow

The beginning of winter and the approach of spring are tenuous times for the Great Lakes. With a cold November interacting with yet unfrozen lakes, all it takes is a persistent wind to lead to some particularly impressive snow totals. Suburban Buffalo is in the crosshairs for those kinds of numbers.

The snow is supposed to be heavy enough and at such a time that due to safety concerns for he fans, the Buffalo Bills home game has been moved to Detroit for the weekend. Orchard Park, home of the Bills, is south of that 21.4″ forecast in the city of Buffalo, and could be inline for nearly 3 more feet of snow. (This forecast is for snow on top of what has already been received.)

What is wild about this, is the synoptic outlook for the region, and really the country. Sure, there is low pressure in eastern Canada driving the west-southwest flow off of Lake Erie but there isn’t a lot of atmospheric moisture attendant to the feature.

Buffalo, and Watertown in the same position, just northeast of Lake Ontario, are simply in the wrong place, withstanding a full fetch off their respective Great Lake. Fortunately, much of the rest of the country, excepting the Gulf Coast, where rain is likely tonight, is headed for a pretty quiet travel weekend. Unless you are heading to Buffalo.

September/October Forecaster of the Month

In the past, when I was unable to get to a forecaster of the month, and I paired two months into one post, I would title the post “ForecasterS of the Month.” You’ll note that I did not pluralize it this time around, for the very good reason that the forecaster was one and the same for both months. Autumn has swept in, and Victoria-Weather has swept two months in a row!

This is a win, admittedly, for model guidance. Hurricane Ian devastated southwest Florida, but otherwise, the US was impressively dry. Precipitation was sparse, which meant there was little variation from model guidance, and V-W knew how to read the output. Go team!

OutletForecast Wins (year)
The Weather Channel7.33
National Weather Service6.16

August Forecaster of the Month

I don’t know about you, but to me, August seemed totally nuts. As a result, at least for me, this meant fewer forecasts than I would like. Of course, we got to write quite a bit about how unbelievably quiet the tropics were, and how some heavy rain events were across the country. It’s not just forecasting here!

Your tax dollars have been at work so far this year, with the National Weather Service maintaining the lead they have had in 2022 with another victory, a decisive one, in August. Way to go, America!

Somewhat strangely, for individual forecast wins on the year, the NWS finds themselves in third, which just means they are consistent.

OutletForecast Wins (year)
National Weather Service6.16
The Weather Channel4.83

Severe storms roll through Twin Cities

Last night, thunderstorms developed along the Minnesota – Iowa border and lifted north through the Twin Cities. One cell in particular tracked from the south metro to the northeast metro. The cell videoed above was part of the tornadic cell, but was not within the tornado warning.

The cells was ultimately responsible for a smattering of weak tornadoes on the southeast side of the Twin Cities metro, with tree damage in some targeted locations on the storm’s path. Eventually, the storm reached the Minnesota State Fair, going on in Falcon Heights, near St. Paul.

Not only did these storms produce quite a bit of strong wind (as seen above), they dumped a quick burst of rain, that left the Fair submerged.

Another line of storms is poised to roll through the Twin Cities in the next hour or so, and though there are some stronger cells, they are mostly non-severe. Just another quick shot of rain — this time focused on the north metro — and a cooler work week ahead.

Historically quiet August appears in order

We are approaching the end of August, and the peak of hurricane season is a little more than two weeks away, and we haven’t had a named feature since Tropical Storm Colin graced the Georgia coast at the beginning of July. The way it looks, we will make it until at least September until we have our “D” storm, given the current NHC outlook.

Each of those two yellow x’s represent a wave that ultimately could become a named tropical feature, but the NHC outlook suspects that formation chance is merely 20% through the next 5 days, which takes us to the end of the month with a day to spare. If these storms fail to materialize, and nothing else crops up in the intervening days, it would be the first time since 1997 that we went through August without a named storm in the Atlantic basin, and only the 2nd time since 1961. The fact that one of those x’s lies off the coast of Africa suggests that there is little time for another feature to arrive behind it, and a surprise is even less likely than usual.

The long range GFS model is pretty consistent with a tropical feature showing up at the beginning of September, and that wouldn’t really be a surprise. There is no causation of a quiet September simply because there is a quiet August. Colorado State hasn’t revised their predictions for the season yet. A quiet season in 1992 didn’t have a named storm until August — Hurricane Andrew. That 1961 season didn’t have any August storms, but did have two Category 5 hurricanes later in the season.

I haven’t found a season that hadn’t had a hurricane by September, though, and that would certainly be unusual, if not historic. We’ve also had the first season in 8 years without a named storm before the hurricane season officially starts on June 1st. It’s been a slow start, and it continues to remain slow for the coming days. We should appreciate that while it lasts.

Flash flooding in the news in 2022

The remnants of a weak tropical feature came ashore in Texas over the weekend, noted only in reference to how quiet the Tropics have been this season. This weak, nameless blob was about all that had troubled North America this summer so far. It gathered a lot more attention overnight into this morning by dumping torrents of rain on the Dallas metro, leading to flash flooding throughout the Big D and Fort Worth.

At least 2 inches of rain have fallen in broad swaths of North Texas and up to 8 were estimated in some spots, making city streets waterlogged and impassable in some places. Radar shows that more rain is coming, though fortunately, Fort Worth should be drying out.

Flash flooding is different than river flooding, in that the onset is much more rapid and isn’t necessarily confined to existing waterways. River flooding can be planned a bit better for evacuations and bracing for the impacts of rising rivers, but flash flooding, like the rain in Dallas, can happen with a lot of rain coming in just a few hours, and is not as easy to anticipate.

There are two particular amplifiers of flash flooding. One of them is the increasingly paved surfaces we find in urban areas. Water pools, unable to drain from roadways, and can cause vehicles to hydroplane or even float. If the water is moving, for example if a nearby waterway has spilled out of its banks, or if the inundated roadway slopes, just a few inches of water are enough to move a vehicle. If water is deep enough, it can cause engines to stall.

The worst case scenario for flash flooding is usually found in hilly or mountainous terrain, such as what happened in eastern Kentucky this summer. Rainwater is channeled into valleys, causing existing rivers and creeks to rise quickly, and sweep away mud, trees and edifices in the water’s path downward. Unlike normal river flooding, which arises from water coming downstream after snow melts or a long, wet season, flash flooding happens in an instant as water flows downhill. Some of the deadliest flash flooding instances in the US occurred in Oregon and Colorado.

Heavier rains are a response to slow moving storms with higher dew points, and are possible even when severe weather hasn’t occurred. It’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings, and not pass through standing water, because you never know what lies beneath.

Could cooler weather lead to some stronger storms?

Late August usually brings out the posts about the coming tropical season and the increasing threat. The peak of the tropical season is less than a month out, and while the NHC continues to forecast a busier than normal season, the Atlantic remains quiet. So we turn our attention to the rest of August in the continental US.

The 8-14 day outlook from the CPC has much of the country in below normal temperatures. This is accompanied by above normal precipitation in the same regions, and as a reminder that summer is still around, a heat wave on the west coast.

Oceans continue to warm through the summer as the sun angle stays strong, which is why late August and September are busiest in the Atlantic, but over large landmasses, air masses are more vulnerable to changes. While the sun is warming the oceans, the angle is reducing, and the jet starts sinking south. There is more variability in the weather pattern, and when there is variability, there is the threat for thunderstorms.

There might be some instinct to believe that the extremely divergent temperatures relative to normal found on the coasts versus that in the middle of the country. Looking at the upper level pattern, though, this doesn’t quite seem likely. Typically weak summertime flow is going to continue until late in this outlook period, which means these cooler temperatures will probably be a result of moisture and cloud cover thanks to an array of surface perturbations.

Shorter waved features are more spurious, and is why there is less confidence in the below normal temperature field than with the warmer regions, which are a result of strong jet stream ridges in the forecast. There isn’t the full level cold air mass in the middle of country to provide the clash of airmass you need for big severe outbreaks. There will certainly be some thunder embedded within all the rain coming Middle America’s way, but not high risk days from the Storm Prediction Center.

Generally, there is usually a late year severe weather peak at the beginning of fall, as cold air really starts to come back to town. Unlike the spring severe season, cold air is denser and tends to completely supplant warm air. Cold air is reinforced, and warm air has a tougher time coming back, so the severe season is shorter than spring, where warm air keeps trying to bubble up.

Like the tropical season this year, we shouldn’t read to much into this quiet October. The hurricane season, like the fall severe season could still get very interesting very quickly.