Winter Doldrums to finish out January; Snow drought to continue; 2014-2015 Winter forecasts on shaky ground


Nor’Easter this week in New England.

There are indications that this week’s nor’ easter may be the most significant storm in the past several years for the major metros of Boston, NYC and other areas of NJ/NY/CT/MA/RI/VT/ME and NH.

The storm has the potential to dump several feet of snow along with blowing and drifting snow, blizzard conditions for these areas. If you have travel plans to or through major airports of the northeast this week, it is strongly suggested that you change your plans.  Airport closures will be likely in this area and delays elsewhere across the country may result.  As of noon Sunday, here are the winter storm (blue) and blizzard (green/yellow) watches currently in effect and the three-day snowfall forecast through 6 PM Tuesday.  The snow forecast does not include additional totals after 6pm Tuesday until the storm ends.  Another 5-10 inches is possible in some areas.

2015-01-25-1152-NOREASTER 2015-01-25-1154-NOREASTER


Rainfall update:

With the light rain in Kansas City last night and this morning, the total monthly rainfall is up from 0.12″ to .22″.  St. Louis has received 0.05″ and is now 1.07″ for the month.  Only a trace fell in Topeka.

Potential cold weather pattern change in about a week:

Overnight computer guidance has reverted to a much warmer pattern which is casting this possible pattern change into question and there is considerably less certainty than was indicated when the post was written yesterday. We’ll have to see if this solution continues in the coming days or if it reverts back.   There is also no longer any indication of any possible wintry system for the next 10 days in any model, so for now at least our snow drought will continue.

We’l update the blog next weekend to see if there are any changes coming to our weather pattern or if we’ll see quiet week #4!  if you have any interests or travel plans in the northeast please monitor the latest weather in the eastern US: at this NWS web site:

The remainder of yesterday’s blog remains below


Yet another uneventful week this past week and it was the second such week in a row.  At most a few clouds in the skies.  Temperatures started out in the 50s and 60s from last weekend to midweek before edging back down to more seasonable levels late in the week.  A temperature resurgence to warm levels reappeared this weekend.  High temperatures reached 64 in KC early this past week (Jan 19th) while the coldest high was 36 (Jan 22). Topeka KS reached 67 the 19th and only made it to 37 Jan 22.  In St. Louis, temperatures were a little toned down, with 58 the highest reading on the 18th and 37 on the 22nd. Even so, average highs at this point in January range from the upper 30s to near 40.

Not much “active” weather to talk about locally again this week with forecasting again mostly focused on temperatures, so we’ll cover that later and start off by taking stock of where we are this month and then take a look at where we are at for Winter 2014-2015. (Hint: Cold looks in serious trouble and will depend on temps in February.  Above average snow is shaky. Below average precipitation looks right on the mark.)

January has still been below average even with the recent warmth, thanks to a strong cold surge early in the month.  Temperatures are analyzed to be running 1/4 to 3/4 degrees C below average.  Specifically that’s 0.9 degrees F below average in STL, 0. 6F below average in Kansas City and 1.7F below average in Topeka.  We’re going to eat away at those below average numbers this week and it is likely the month will finish near average in most areas.  The chart below shows the coldest weather (relative to average) has been down the Front Range to west TX and the Rio Grande.  New England has also been cold while the west and southeast have been warm or mild.


No rain or snow anywhere and January totals are paltry.  Through today, only 0.08″ of rain has fallen in Topeka 0.12″ in KC and 1.02″ in STL.  Rainfall has been a little more plentiful..but still well below average on the southern/eastern edge of the district over SEMO/SW IL.  Remember.. average precipitation is higher in these areas.  January is one of the driest months in the region, but 2015 is very dry even by those standards.  On average 0.86″ of liquid precipitation is recorded in Topeka, 1.07″ in Kansas City MO and 2.40″ in St. Louis.  These next two charts show total liquid precipitation since Christmas Morning. Totals range from 1.50″ from SEMO/SW IL on the “higher” side to less than 0.08″ in the west.

2015-01-24-1056-EAST_PRECIP_SINCE_XMAS 2015-01-24-1056-WEST_PRECIP_SINCE_XMAS

Not surprisingly, we are returning to dryness and drought.  The NWS U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought developing over the Ohio Valley and beginning to form over much of KS and now into western MO just SW/W of Kansas City.  We don’t typically need much moisture in the cold season, but the recent windy warm days are drying the topsoil and could portend a rough start to the growing season which is now just about 10-12 weeks away if things don’t turn around soon.


Snowfall has also been absent.  January is typically one of the three snowiest months of the season.   January represents the “peak” snow month in the eastern district, including STL with slightly lower totals in December and February.  In the west, February is the peak in KC and further west, December is the peak in Topeka.  Anywhere from 4-5″ of snow “typically” fall in January across the region.  January totals through today include 1.2″ in Topeka, 1.6″ in Kansas City and 0.3″ in St. Louis.   We’re not alone in this lack of snowfall.  A warm December left us with little if any snow and January will underperform as well. Check out this graph from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet which shows the Winter 2014-2015 snowfall difference from average across the Plains and Midwest through Friday, January 23rd.  Red numbers are deficits and green numbers show totals above average.


Areas from western/southern SD through western NE/CO/TX/OK and a small part of southern KS are above average.  Other areas with a snow surplus include parts of north central WI and the snow belts of MI.  There are many more red numbers than green across the Midwest, eastern Plains and Ohio Valley. It’s now late enough in the season to call this a “snow drought”.

Back on November 24, we posted about the outlook for Winter 2014-2015, showing several different private/government agency forecasts and finalizing that with sort-of an outlook of our own.  (Click on the “November 2014” link on the side to scroll down to the post and re-read it in detail). As of this week, “meteorological” winter (Dec-Jan-Feb) is 2/3rds over. Astronomical Spring begins March 20th.  The snowfall season runs July 1-June 30 to capture any late fall or early spring snows.


So far:  taking the average December temperatures for STL/KC/TOP together, the month was 3.6 degrees above average.  With the current forecast through month’s end, lets just say January will turn out to be near average across the district.  That means, for the sake of argument, the winter so far is 1.8 degrees above average.  That means we’re going to have to see average temperatures at least 3.6 degrees below average for February in order for the three-month period to average out to 0.0.  That would be a very cold month!

The anomaly correlation chart (which gives us clues to future winters based upon similar atmospheric/oceanic setups in the past) expected winter to average anywhere from -3.5 degrees F to -5 degrees F (below average).  There is virtually no way this could possibly verify.  Temperatures in February would have to run at least 10 degrees below average for the entire month.  That would likely be an all-time coldest February.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center forecast slightly enhanced probabilities of below average temperatures.  Again, this would require February to be more below average than December was above average.  It can happen.. but chances look low.

The U.S. Climate Forecast System Version 2 (CFSv2) expected broad scale warmth and specifically forecast temperatures around 1-1.5C above average locally.  Locally at least, this has a good chance of verifying.

The JMA (Japanese Meteorological Agency) expected broad scale warmth and specifically forecast temperatures around 1 C above average locally.  Locally at least, this has a good chance of verifying.

The JAMSTEC model expected near average temperatures locally.  This has a chance of verifying if February is a cold month.

Accuweather and Weatherbell forecast cold winter conditions. Accuweather did not specify how cold, Weatherbell forecast temperatures -4 to -6 (below average).  Neither of those forecasts are looking good at this point and it looks nearly impossible for February to be cold enough that we could verify the Weatherbell prediction locally.

In summary, we expected the odds to be tilted slightly to cooler than average temperatures this winter.  That looks iffy to unlikely at this point.


The anomaly correlation chart (which gives us clues to future winters based upon similar atmospheric/oceanic setups in the past) and the US NWS Climate Prediction Center, JMA and JAMSTEC really don’t give us any forecast  information regarding snow, so we can’t use those.

Accuweather forecast near average snow along I-70 from Topeka to STL and above average snow to the south.  That forecast could still verify due to low season snow averages over SEMO/SW IL and moderate snow season averages for Topeka to STL.  We have in the past and still could see one or possibly two major winter storms in Feb and early March which would bring us up to those levels quickly.

Weatherbell forecast snowfall totals to be anywhere from 133 to 167% of average for the winter.  That equates to 15″ of snow for SEMO/SW IL to 27-30″ for the STL/KC/Topeka corridor.  That could still happen (it did in Topeka/KC 2012-2013) along I-70, but chances are falling notably every week without snow.  Chances are also falling for SEMO/SW IL as historically, December/January is a bigger snow producer than February. It could still happen though, as average seasonal snow is only 6-12″ in SEMO/SW IL within the range of one powerful winter storm.

We expected above average snow this winter, and that could still happen-however another two-three weeks without a major storm would put that forecast on very shaky ground.

Now to turn to our upcoming week.  As mentioned at the beginning of the post, this week to be yet another week in the “doldrums” (week #3) with the weather locally an exercise in temperature forecasting.  The most notable (and likely only) precipitable weather producer arrives Sunday/Sunday night in the form of an Alberta Clipper.  Typically Alberta Clippers track just north of our area but this one will have a far enough south track to bring at least a chance for very light rain to the region. These next two charts (first: valid Sun Morning; last: Sun evening) show the track of the system through the area.

2015-01-24-1239-12ZNAM4KM-HSFC-SLP-COUS-H027 2015-01-24-1239-12ZNAM4KM-HSFC-SLP-COUS-H036

Rainfall totals (if any for the west) will be light and there will be slight accumulating snows just north of the district.


This little clipper will become part of what may be a large Nor’easter with snow possibly measured in feet for the major metros..


Make sure you check forecasts for that area Mon-Wed if you plan travel to or through there.  For us, major snow potential through next Saturday evening looks limited to non-existent at this point. (click on each map to make it more readable).  There is agreement in big snows for the northeast U.S., however.

2015-01-24-1239-12ZECMWF-HSFC-TSN-NEUS-H180 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGEMHR-HSFC-TSN-NEUS-H180 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TSN-NEUS-H180

Temperatures will start off mild today, take a bit of a hit behind the Clipper for Monday before rebounding later in the week.  This next series of charts from the US GFS model shows the temperature difference from average at noon today through next Saturday.  (Click the maps to enlarge them) Red to brown tones are warm, while blues, greens and purples are cold. Keep in mind average noon time temps are around 35 so add or subtract the values for that number to get the actual temperature.  This is a good way to track the air masses as the week goes on:

2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H006 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H030 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H054 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H078png 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H102png 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H126png 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H150png 2015-01-24-1239-12ZGFSHR-HSFC-TAN-COUS-H174png

Notice the warmth today (locally)  subsiding and then resurging mid week before backing off by next weekend.  You can also see the cold beginning to rebuild in Canada and the much cooler look to the map by next weekend.

That’s the first hint of a flip to a colder pattern as we get into February. The model forecast for a week from Monday (Feb 2) has the look of an Arctic high spilling down the Plains and eastward.


If true, that Monday would be a very cold afternoon with temperatures in the teens. The other longer range models (Euro, Canadian-not shown) are also currently in agreement with this, so it appears February will flip back to a colder pattern.  We’ll see if we can get any snow to go with the cold. A few of the longer range models are trying to suggest some sort of winter storm early in the first week of the month–but that’s 8+ days away in “model world” and is doubtful right now.

We’ll have another blog post next weekend as our quiet pattern continues.  Should signs begin to point toward more active weather, we’ll have a post later this week.


2 thoughts on “Winter Doldrums to finish out January; Snow drought to continue; 2014-2015 Winter forecasts on shaky ground

  1. Great stuff, thank you. It is looking to me like if you want a big winter this year, the NE is about your only chance.

    It strikes me that the things that have driven our warmer weather this season have been the warmer SSTs in the 120E-180 range and the convective activity that appears to have engendered and the fact that the NAO has been like a hoover vacuum most of the year.

    Both appear to have take and bit of a respite from late Jan. — early Feb. , but models show them coming back toward the end of the time (e.g., by Feb. 10th).

    What do you think the drivers for the weather this winter have been? In November and Dec. you pointed to the Pacific flow, which sure seemed right to me. Changes, nuances since then?

    Also, one thing I noticed is that the models were all showing until just recently a kind of superhighway opening up from NE Siberia, over Alaska, and basically down to Detroit for high pressure systems. That in turn seemed to basically unleash the Baffin/Hudson cold down on us.

    Those earlier model runs seemed unlikely to me: When I have seen a wave of systems march like that across those latitudes it seems like it was massively thick systems (i.e., 1000-500 MB) that did it. Also, those earlier model runs that had the High Pressure Highway were also predicting temps of +30 F very near the North Pole on like Feb. 7th. That struck me as unlikely too.

    Of course, it remains to be seen whether that will actually play out the way the old runs were showing: Tomorrow and the next day are key for that. But, I was curious of your thoughts about the older runs (primarily GFS was what I was looking at) vs. the new, the likelihood of those scenarios the earlier runs predicted, etc.


    • You’re welcome! It certainly appears the Northeast’s fortunes have changed and they will be getting a majority of the season’s snow in between last week’s system and early next week. The NAO/AO haven’t been the best indicators this year and they’ve been fighting a persistent upper low in/near the Barents/Kara Sea (Arctic circle area east of Finland to off the coast of north central Siberia). This upper low tends to have a destructive influence upstream on the establishment of a Greenland Block, of the drivers of the -AO/-NAO. Despite otherwise favorable indicators for the establishment of significant and long lasting cold, -AO/-NAO have been neutral, weakly negative or strongly positive. The MJO has also been strong (although it has weakened of late) and has been persistent in the warm phases (for the central/east U.S.). As we head into February, the phases take on different meaning, Phases 1, 2 and 3 are colder for the central/east U.S. and 4 through 8 are warmer. CPC has a great resource on this here: with the DJF page here: . It all goes to show how each winter season is unique with all the factors in play. Overall signals continue to point toward a colder pattern, but we just can’t get everything to line out just right…the clock is running fast now and it may well turn into a cooler Spring rather than a cold winter. I was running some stats and for KC at least, we’d have to have a February at least 6F below average to get our winter average temperature into the “below average” range. That’s not impossible to do–but will become exponentially more unlikely with each “average” to mild February day we have.

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