January a warm and (mostly) dry month with little snow; Winter 2014-2015 has been warm with little snow so far

January entered the record books at midnight last night and it was no surprise that it was another warm month.  All of the three major cities in the forecast district finished with above average temperatures. Kansas City was the warmest, with temperatures 2.5 degrees above average.

Temperature extremes included a high of 73 and a low of -3 in Kansas City; a high of 78 and a low of +1 in Topeka; and a high of 63 and a low of +3 in St. Louis.

Rainfall was well below average for a majority of a month for all but the southeastern most corner of the eastern district.  The numbers are deceptive due to rainfall which fell on the 31st.  That rain was more than the entire month before that date at KC and Topeka, and helped those cities to squeeze out last minute surpluses. St. Louis had nearly an inch and a quarter less than average for the month, even with rains on the 31st.  Yesterday’s post has stats, maps and graphs showing where we were at before the last-minute rains.

Snowfall was lacking once again with St. Louis recording less than 1/2″, Topeka just an inch and a half and Kansas City 2.3″. Keep in mind that average January snows are around 5″ and by this point in the winter we should be over 10″ for seasonal totals.  January is typically the snowiest month in STL and the second snowiest month in KC (February is the snowiest) and in Topeka (December is the snowiest there).  Here are the stats for January:


Let’s take a look at some charts.  The map below shows the temperature difference from average (in degrees C) for January.  Warmth is shown over the central and western U.S., with cool weather over Texas, the Gulf Coast, east and eastern Great Lakes. Much of Europe was also warm as was the far east, while northern Siberia and eastern Canada were cool or cold.


Next, we’ll take a look at temperature graphs for St. Louis, Kansas City and Topeka (click the image to make it more readable). It’s easy to see the early month cold snap after the very mild December, and the mild to warm weather which took us right up to the month’s end.  (the brown area is average, red line the record high and blue line the record low).

2015-01-31-2300-TEMPS_KMCI 2015-01-31-2300-TEMPS_KSTL 2015-01-31-2300-TEMPS_KTOP

In terms of precipitation (rain mostly), (click the image to make it more readable).  The blue line represents the wettest January, the red the driest and the brown line is average. The green line is the observed precip.  One thing to note is the long stretch of time where the green line doesn’t climb.  Little to no rain fell in that long stretch and it’s easy to see when the majority of the rain fell.

2015-01-31-2300-PRECIP_KMCI2015-01-31-2300-JAN_PRECIP_KSTL 2015-01-31-2300-JAN_PRECIP_KTOP

Here are the maps for the average January precip and the observed precip: (click to make larger)

2015-01-31-2300-AVERAGE 2015-01-31-2300-OBSERVED

For snowfall, the same key applies for the line color as above, we don’t have data for Topeka. In the case of STL, the record least snowiest Jan was in 1989 with 0.1″, so 2015 is just .2″ above that.

2015-01-31-2300-SNOW_KMCI 2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_SNOW_KSTL

In terms of sensible weather, the month was rather uneventful. The biggest stories involved temperature swings and near record high atmospheric pressure.  Some of the coldest mornings were on the 7th and 8th of January.  The early morning temperature map from these two dates are shown below (click to make more readable):

2015-01-07-2002-SATSFCRAD 2015-01-08-0120-SATSFCRAD

This cold was accompanied by very high atmospheric pressure in the center of an Arctic high and her is the surface map for noon January 7th:


That high was generated in part due to a massive ridge of high pressure over Alaska and the west coast.


Ten or eleven days later, the pattern had flipped, and temperatures were in the 50s and 60s the afternoon of January 19th.


This was due to the nearly total collapse of the western ridge and re-establishment of mild and dry Pacific flow.


There were no major snowstorms anywhere in the eastern or western district. There was a threat of light freezing rain in the east January 11th, but mostly rain fell.  The end of the month brought a wet weather system on the 31st. Heavier snow fell up along the I-80 corridor and around 100 miles N/S of that interstate from Omaha to Chicago and points east.

Meteorological winter is now 2/3rds over and we have another 4-6 weeks (through mid March) before the window for accumulating snow closes.  Let’s take a look at the stats for winter so far:


Temperatures are 2-3 degrees above average from STL through KC to TOP. Even if this February were as cold as last February (8F below average in KC) winter would STILL only be about 1.75 degrees below average — and at a minimum, Feb temps would have to be at least 5-6F below average in order for winter to be below average (and then just barely).  Could that occur? Certainly. Is that likely to occur: not very.  All the forecasts that called for a cold winter are on life support as of this date.  (See the post from a few weeks ago for a recap of the winter forecasts).  Lets take a look at the temperature track for meteorological winter (DEC-JAN-FEB).  The brown shaded area represents average or “normal” the blue bars are the actual temperature.  Red lines are the record highs and blue lines the record lows. (Click to make the charts more readable).

2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_TEMPS_KMCI 2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_TEMPS_KSTL2015-01-31-2300-TEMPS_WINTER_KTOP

Its easy to identify the one sustained cold period we had..early January. Otherwise it’s been mild. December’s overnight lows were well above average, the highs not so much (remember it was cloudy). In January the highs have been well above average in the mild period.

Lets take a look at winter precip (mostly rain this year).  Again the long periods of dry weather can be seen in the charts where the green line more or less tracks left to right with little movement upward.  The wettest system we had was Jan 31st (!) in KC and TOP where the line goes up the most. STL has been faring much worse.

2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_PRECIP_KMCI 2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_PRECIP_KSTL 2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_PRECIP_KTOP

In map form, this shows the percent of average “normal” for winter 2014-2015 precip: The entire area has seen below average precip this winter.

2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_PCT OF AVG

Now for snowfall.. We’re above the least snowiest years, but well below average (brown line) and nowhere near record snows (blue). It’s also easy to see that there have been no big upticks, only small infrequent increases..in otherwords no significant snowstorms all year. If no more snow falls, right now (Feb 1st) STL would have its fourth least snowiest winter on record while Kansas City would be tied at #7 least snowiest (with 1920-1921).

2015-01-31-2300-SNOW_KMCI 2015-01-31-2300-WINTER_SNOW_KSTL

We’re not alone.. drawing a line from western NE through Sioux City IA to Moline IL and Chicago IL.. south snowfall has been absent. North..snowfall totals have been better.  This DOES NOT include last night and today’s snow up along I-80.


Only 1.9″ in Columbia MO this year, 3.5″ in Paducah KY. Less than 5″ in STL, only 2.5″ in Springfield MO. Less than 8″ in KC.  Where do we go from here? We still can get big February snowstorms, in fact some of the heaviest snows have fallen in February.  After about mid month however, the chances really drop of for SEMO/SWIL due to shifts in the atmosphere as we head toward Spring and it becomes harder and harder to “line up” all the variables needed for heavy snow. By the end of February, the same is true for STL and by mid March KC.  The bottom line is we have a good 2-4 weeks left south, 4 weeks central and 4-6 weeks north to get significant snows.  This time next month if we’re still sitting near our present numbers than that might well be it for this winter snow season.



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