Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter rolls on

In our winter forecast back in November, we predicted 3-4 winter storms with 3-5 cold, Arctic outbreaks. We've already had 2 good winter storms, some might argue there have been 3 depending on what area you are in. Our first real cold, Arctic cold snap occurred earlier in the month, when highs were only in the teens back on January 11th and 12th. This next cold snap coming in is going to be a harsh one, with single digit highs and wind chills down between 15 and 30 degrees below zero.

The snowfall will be significant in SE Kansas too. Accumulations of 8-10 inches appear likely, with some areas getting up to a foot. The wind will crank up and blowing and drifting could be a big problem too. We still need moisture, right? Well, when you start talking about the specifics of this winter storm, you start to ask yourself how bad do you want the moisture. The snow is good for the wheat crop, but I always feel bad for livestock that have to be out in the elements. I know they have extra hair at this time of the year, but when you see how cold it gets at night, you wish you had the world's largest heated barn to bring them into.

We may have one more good cold snap in the middle of February with some snow, but I think there is light at the end of the tunnel as Spring is now less than 2 months away. Millie couldn't be more ready, especially after the 70 degree weather we saw last week.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Analyzing winter storms

We are in the middle of winter and as storms develop and move across the Pacific, the government has decided to investigate the storms long before they reach us here in Kansas. The aircraft in the picture is actually stationed in Japan through February, but in March, they will move it to Hawaii. The twin engine Gulfstream 4 jet will fly through storms to collect data such as temperature, pressure, wind speed, and humidity. That data will be fed into computer models (ones we look at in the Storm Center) to help increase the accuracy of the forecast with respect to precipitation, temperature, and wind. Without data from over the ocean, we have to rely on satellite data and land based weather balloons that are launched in the morning and at night all across the country. But because the prevailing wind direction across the US is west to east, those weather balloons almost never travel west to sample the approaching winter storms. The aircraft is based in Japan in an effort to collect as much data upstream as possible as the storms approach the west coast of the United States.

Monday, January 10, 2011

And finally.... snow!!!!

The wait is finally over for our first measurable snowfall in most of Kansas. We had a storm move through about 2 weeks ago that dropped 1-2 inches of snow in western Kansas, but this latest storm affected everyone in the state. The area of Kansas that didn't get much snow was in the southwest, but most areas in southcentral, central, and northern Kansas had anywhere from 4-7 inches.

Subzero temperatures don't happen that often in Wichita. If we get to subzero temperatures Wednesday morning, it will be the first time since December 8, 2005 that we've had a negative temperature. Before that, Wichita had a spell of almost 10 years without subzero temperatures.

The snow is great for the wheat crop and good moisture for Kansas. If you melt down the 4-7 inches of accumulation, you'll find it turns into about .10-.20" of liquid, which isn't enough to end the drought. But, it is enough to erase the fire situation for a little while and it's a start. Something is better than nothing, right? Millie loves the snow. If I throw it up in the air, she bites at it and loves to roll around in it. Thank goodness I don't have to bundle her up like you do with kids. This is when that thick coat of hair comes in very handy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Where is the snow??

Almost every forecast I looked at for the winter 2010-11 said "above normal temperatures and below normal snowfall" because of the La Nina conditions in the Pacific. So far, the forecast has been right on the money. I'm not a huge winter fan and I have to admit the temperatures lately have been fantastic (and the lack of wind has been nice too). But the lack of snowfall this winter is just amazing. Northwest Kansas averages over 41 inches of snow in a winter, and Goodland has yet to get 3 inches. Wichita averages just over 16 inches of snow in a typical winter, and we still haven't had anything measurable.

If you look back at previous winter seasons, the winter of 1922-23 only saw .7" of snow in Wichita, which is the least snowiest on record. This winter is almost identical to the 2001-02 season where almost no snow occurred until late January, February, and March. That winter, we ended up with just 4 inches of snow. Depending on your thoughts about snow and winter, we still need moisture, and the lack of it is hurting the wheat crop. A pattern change is expected this weekend that could bring some moisture to the area, but how much we'll get is still a little uncertain. It is safe to say it won't be enough to erase the drought conditions, but even if we could get .25" - .50" of liquid precipitation, that would sure help out. Get ready for a BIG blast of cold next week, that could be around for 4-6 days.

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