A Different Track

Times change, so do trends. With that comes change to the blog.

Obviously things aren’t as updated here anymore as I would like. I just went two solid months between posts, and its during the winter season which I love the most and would post about. Looking back, I would cram like 15 some odd posts in one month!

The new school semester in full swing(and three Meteorology courses on the platter), I’ve also become more dedicated to photography in shooting mainly sports for Central Michigan’s CMLife. I’ve also been focusing on my IT support job within CMU’s new College of Medicine. Additionally, I am currently the webmaster for the Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (S.C.A.M.S) at CMU. I hope in my learnings at this position (creating a new modern website) I can spruce this blog up and perhaps get a actual domain for more flexibility!

Basically things have cranked up, and I want to focus on those. I’ve found the Facebook page to be more rewarding for now as it lets me brief the weather quickly, and it gets sent directly to folk’s feeds for feedback! So consider following that. The primary use of the blog now is a archive of my events or adventures with the weather, much like the previous post about almost being in a EF-2 tornado, which I promise won’t happen again. Hopefully this is a short term change, and things can be like they once were.

I like to think I can teach people about the weather and the forces behind it, but learning in class is making me realize how hard it is to convey these dynamics and processes to others without the background. This happens in EVERY subject, and that’s something mind-blowing I’ve realized in college. I try my best to slip in the Goldilocks zone to keep things science-y, yet understandable.

Thanks for everyone’s support, stay tuned!

The Day Winds Down

This was a euphoric sight to see after a day near strong winds and driving rains. A somber evening winds down as we return home from Indiana and the November 17, 2013 severe weather outbreak. Wind farms will forever be a symbol of this day to me.

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When Big and Little Combine… (Feb 7-8, 2013 Snowstorm)

A progressing shortwave, similar to our recent clipper systems, will cut down from Canada Wednesday and merge/phase with a longwave trough moving across the continental U.S. This interaction will ensure moisture transport from the deep south into the Great Lakes region, amplifying precipitation amounts in the area. In this way, it is different than our previous shots of snow.

This is a good example of how tricky weather can be. This past weekend, the storm was little more than a trace-3″ disturbance, now it threatens to bring triple that amount to some locations of the state. Quite interesting to see models not show agreement, and then all of a sudden snap in line with each other. Euro had this solution previously, and the GFS/NAM had come into agreement by Tuesday morning. This actually falls near a date back in 2008 when much of mid-Michigan had a 1-2 punch of snowfall:

On February 6, 2008, a snowstorm hit most of Southeast Michigan. Widespread amounts ranged from 6 inches across central Livingston, Oakland and Macomb Counties to greater than 10 inches for all of the Flint (11.3 inches at Bishop Airport), Tri Cities (12.0 inches at Tri Cities Airport)and Thumb regions. Areas across the southern Saginaw River Valley were dumped with 16 to 18 inches of snow from southwest Saginaw to Birch Run to Vassar. -Detroit/Pontiac National Weather Service

Accumulation wise, central Michigan and lower Michigan look to be in the cross-hairs for persistent snow beginning Thursday morning and continuing through to Friday morning. There is some discrepancy between the GRR(Grand Rapids) and DTX(Detroit/Pontiac) forecast offices. as to what the heaviest snow amounts will be. My experience is that GRR likes to over estimate snow accumulations, and DTX likes to hold a conservative line on accumulations. Typically with winter storms, you get little pockets of the high accumulations, but they are not as widespread as the forecast covers. These higher amounts will also depend greatly on how consistent the early snowfall is. Therefore, I believe isolated areas across mid-Michigan will receive 9″ or 10″, but most locations across mid-Michigan will see 6-8″. Along the I-94 corridor, a good swath of 3-6″ seems like a good bet as they will get high intensity snowfall, but for a shorter duration. With warmer temperatures moving into the region, this snow will have a wetter characteristic compared to lighter dry snows this past week.

Grand Rapids NWS depiction for snow accumulations through Friday morning.dtx

Snow will begin to trickle in Thursday morning for central Michigan. Snow should then continue through the day, intensifying in the afternoon. Overnight, snow will be at the strongest. This leaves little time for morning commuters to have  a clear surface, and roads will likely be covered and treacherous  Further south in the state, the initial snow will not begin until the afternoon/evening on Thursday, thus lower amounts are expected. However, once the main portion of the system is over the region, heavy snows will be occurring  and accumulation rates will be high enough to cause transportation issues.

The Detroit forecast office has a great briefing of timing, expectations, and other facts about the storm available to view in a PDF document online here.

Bitterly Cold Air Inbound

The cold will get colder next week as jet stream features carry cool air down from Western Canada (Alberta and Saskatchewan). Here is a rough ground estimated temperature from the GFS for Tuesday night. The red/blue lines show their listed temperature value, while the black lines show Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP) in millibars.

Cold air plume invading the Midwest from Canada.

Cold air plume invading the Midwest from Canada.

Thankfully, the warm nature of the Great Lakes will shield us Michiganders from the bulk of cold air. Notice how tightly the lines of temperature are packed north of Michigan indicating the strong temperature gradient. Also, directly west of Lake Michigan lies a -5F degree line, where we will stay a good 10 degrees warmer than that with lake shielding. Nonetheless, highs on Tuesday may only reach the mid teens, and the rest of the week struggles to get above 20. Nightly lows will be in the single digits, early morning commuters will be able to count the temperature with their fingers. These bitter temperatures combined with strong winds will make wind chills in the negatives, so bundle up!

As is common with cold air over a warm body of water, the lake effect snow machine will be churning. With this strong cold air mass moving through, shoreline locations will see a good bit of snow. Along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan accumulations will be as much as 6″. Lake effect snow events can vary in short-term, so will keep an eye on where accumulations will trend. (Worthwhile to note Grand Rapids NWS has a Winter Storm Watch out for counties along the Lake Michigan coast. Gaylord NWS also has Watches out for a little clipper coming across this weekend and the additional lake effect snows)

Snow n’ Cold

After a slow start to the snow season, a healthy coverage of snow has fallen. A few initial inches of snow fell for most of southern and central Michigan after a large storm moved through the Midwest on Dec 21. The winners during that storm were southern Wisconsin and Northern Michigan which picked up well over a foot of snow in parts.

Ground snow captured on visible satellite after the Midwest storm on Dec 20-21, 2012.

A day after Christmas, we received what was a glancing blow from a storm forming in the deep south and tracking up the Appalachian Mountains. These types of storms often look favorable to dump a significant amount of snow for Michigan. However, we often suffer a robbery of moisture. If conditions are favorable, the storm will redevelop off the east coast, thus displacing storm energy a few hundred miles east. This is a scenario that happens a lot, and computer models often overlook this in long-range forecasts.

Christmas storm radar imagery.

Compared to past instances if this storm type, I think SE Michigan faired well on the snow part. The deepest amounts showed up outside the  thumb as lake effect snows helped enhance snow totals. This snowfall also happened the night of Central’s bowl game at Ford Field in Detroit. That was an adventure on the roads! (CMU won, so that was icing on the cake!)

Total snow accumulations for SE Michigan.

This storm also brought storms producing tornadoes in the south on Christmas day. Luckily, no fatalities occurred, but plenty of people were injured in what could be the costliest Christmas day tornado outbreak.

The near future looks calm but cold. Overnight temperatures will start in the teens this week, but dip into the single digits by Wednesday and Thursday. Daytime highs will be in the teens. Many storm disturbances will pass well south of Michigan. These will roughly follow the jet stream as they develop in the south and exit the east coast a few days later. As these storms develop and move out to sea, it will help shift cooler temperatures south, and thus we get into stronger polar air. Bundle up, winter is here!