Wet May will give way to humidity and summerlike temperatures as we enter June


After a very active May, the weather pattern slows down and warms up as we enter June.  Cloudy grey skies over the weekend will clear on Monday and we’ll start on a cool note, before temperatures and the humidity  rise mid week and beyond.  Be sure the A/C is working as we’re going to be needing it after Wednesday.  Highs in the low-mid 80s and lows in the 65-70 degree range are expected. Rain chances will be much more scattered, and they will be tied to thunderstorm clusters which form on the Front Range each afternoon and track east and southeast each night.  Right now, that train of storm clusters is likely to run from MT/WY/CO through the Dakotas into NE/MN and IA, but these may trend a little further south than forecast right now.  This will be one of those typical mid summer patterns where these clusters roll off the high terrain in the evening and whatever’s left over approaches or passes through overnight or in the morning.  That’s more likely for us late in the week, while early in the week, we will likely see periods of high clouds (blowoff from the distant storms) mainly each morning and early afternoon, so 100% sunny days all week are not anticipated either, but at least we’ll have at least the first half of the week rain-free.  No organized or major severe weather outbreaks are anticipated either, as those will be mainly near where the storms form along the front range.  Late this week there will be the potential for some of the clusters to give us some gusty winds if they remain strong enough as they reach our area.


May in Review:

Most notable for May was the rainfall.  The western district had 7-11″ of rain, with Kansas City International reporting the sixth wettest May on record with 10.25″ of rainfall.  10.29″ marked the 5th wettest May in 1996.  Additionally, there has not been 10″ of rain reported at KCI since June, 2005, which was just one month shy of 10 years ago. This puts KCI just under 3″ above average for 2015 and over 5″ above average for May.


The rain in the western district was the northernmost tip of a heavy rain area which extended and expanded SSW:

2015-05-31-1005-SCUS-MAY-PRECIP 2015-05-31-1005-COUS-MAY-PRECIP

10-20″+ fell over OK/TX making news with devastating flooding.

The eastern district saw significant rainfall as well, especially SEMO/SW IL, but STL finished the month nearly 1″ below average and is now nearly 1″ below average for 2015.


This series of maps (click to make more readable) show average May rains (L), percent of average observed rains (M) and difference from average observed rains (R).


This extraordinary rainfall has pretty well wiped out the multi-year central and southern Plains drought.  Lingering dryness is spotty over TX/KS/OK.



But this is a big difference when compared with 1 year ago:


This map shows the change from this time in 2014.  Yellows/oranges show worse-off locations while greens show improvement.


Wet areas this month stayed cool with drier areas seeing warmth this month.


The US NWS CPC expects higher probabilities for a cooler than average June centered on the south central Plains, with a ring of warmth from the west, through the north and along the east coast.  The cooler than average weather is in part due to the fact of this being very wet ground and a lot of the sun’s energy will go into evaporation rather than heating even without additional heavy rains.


While a signal for wetness remains across the Southern Plains, the stronger signal shifts northward to the CO/NE area and along the southern and eastern coasts.  Locally, this forecast shows little signal for wet or dry.  Other forecasts are for more widespread wetter conditions.  June rains are largely dependent upon where storm clusters form and track and as we’ve seen, some areas can be inundated while other areas not that far away miss out.

Global Tropics:

Western Pacific:

Super Typhoon Dolphin

Dolphin developed at low latitudes and was most notable for passing just north of Guam. This image was taken several days after the system had passed through the Marianas Islands (Guam is the larger island to the southeast of the eye.  The system was near peak intensity in this image.


TY Dolphin passed through the range of the Guam Radar with these series of images taken (Click to make more readable). The B&W image shows the subtle structure of the rain bands while the 3-D images also show some of the structure.  The red/blue image shows the wind field (speed) with blues winds blowing inbound and red winds outbound.

20150515_0844_PGUA_07WDOLPHIN_95kts-952mb-125N-1497E_100pc 20150515_0847_PGUA_07WDOLPHIN_95kts-952mb-125N-1497E_100pc 20150515_0850_PGUA_07WDOLPHIN_95kts-952mb-125N-1497E_100pc 20150515_0851_PGUA_07WDOLPHIN_95kts-952mb-125N-1497E_100pc 20150515_0856_PGUA_07WDOLPHIN_95kts-952mb-125N-1497E_100pc


Eastern Pacific:

Hurricane Andres (01E)

Andres wasted no time forming from a tropical wave along 100W south of Mexico at the end of May (the East Pacific season opens 5/15).  This series shows the system as it organized and neared peak.  As with most eastern Pacific tropical cyclones, the system moved well offshore and well away from any land areas.  As the month ended, it was approaching colder waters and will rapidly weaken the first week of June.

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Tropical Low 93E formed right behind Andres and was visible as a tight swirl of clouds.  Wind shear from Andres was preventing development, but as that system weakens, this one will strengthen and according to the NHC is likely to become a tropical depression early  this week, as a Tropical Storm, it would be named “Blanca”.  This looks to be a very busy tropical cyclone season in the central and eastern Pacific.


We’ll follow up with the progress of these two systems in later posts.


Warmth and humidity return this week, “best” rain chances west until late week.



A Summertime preview is in store this week as highs climb into the high 70s and low 80s.  Humidity will be back in force as well.  The west will see periodic clouds and shower/storm chances all week, peaking late week, while the east sees more sun and better rain chances hold off until late week or next weekend.

Drought Update:

Little rainfall brought little change to the map, but dryness is gaining hold again in the western district with most of the week’s rain falling west and south over parts of TX/OK and W KS which are in really bad shape. They should see some significant improvement in next week’s update.  Three days in and KC is already a half an inch below average in rainfall.  May and June are the year’s wettest months when 5.23″ of rain falls on average each month.  2015 deficits are nearing 3″. By contrast, St. Louis is only 0.55″ behind for 2015.


This week’s rainfall potential holds some real hope for the western district, and a real chance for a bust. As you can see there is a very sharp dividing line between very little rain east and several inches west.  Remember, these are generalized totals and even within the “forecast” rain bands there will be lucky locations which get lots of rain and those who just by chance, miss the significant showers.  The threat would be a westward shift in the expected rain, which would give the central Plains the heaviest totals and keep those totals..just..out of reach for the west.  The west needs about 1.25″ of rain per week this time of year just to keep up with average.

Here’s the rainfall outlook graphic:



Severe Weather:

There will be a non-zero risk for severe storms this week, but pinpointing one day over another is virtually impossible this week, there is no “overall” strong signal for severe weather. That being said, the central and southern Plains will have the greatest risk, with a few days with a marginal risk into the west.  It will all depend upon where the storm clusters form, where they track and how much cloudiness they leave behind. Later in the week as a larger system comes out of the SW U.S, there may be a potential for more widespread strong storms, but that may not happen until next weekend.  Overall, we’re in for a week with few 100% sunny days out west (more partly cloudy to cloudy at times) and periodic chances for showers and storms, while there will be more sun in the east and rain chances really stay away until late week.  One thing for certain: You’ll feel the humidity return as highs climb into the 70s and low 80s and lows remain 60 or higher over the entire district.

Week in Review:

As expected, a very quiet week across the district with a few showers across the western district on Saturday morning.  Here are the rainfall charts for the seven-day period ending today for both districts:

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Looking back at April:

2015-04-30-0853-APRTEMP_ANMLY ‘

April was a mild month for most of the country, the heat out west faded a bit and the cold in New England did as well. The cold was mainly centered near the still-cold Great Lakes, northern New England and the Rio Grande Valley, with isolated pockets elsewhere. Florida and the Gulf Coast was the warmest.

Rainfall in the west was heaviest south and east of KC and much lighter N and W.


The eastern district fared better, as has been the case for a while now, with the heaviest totals following the tracks of some of the stronger April thunderstorm clusters.


In terms of the percentage of average rainfall, a majority, but not all, of the western district finished on the dry side (again), with a few surplus spots located to the SE of KC.  The east finished with above average rains except a small corridor from the MS river through northern Randolph County, then jogging into Washington County, IL.


Global Tropics:

Two tropical cyclones were observed this week, what is likely to be the final southern Hemisphere system, and the next in what will likely be a v

ery active season for the western north Pacific.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Quang (24S/21U):

Quang developed in the typical late season development area of the Southern Indian Ocean, just south of the Indonesian Islands of Java and Bali around 11-12 degrees south. Quang developed explosively from a tropical low to a tropical cyclone (equivalent to a tropical storm) in one day, then further to an Australian Category 4 severe tropical cyclone on April 30 with wind speeds of 115 knots or 132 mph, which would also be a category 4 (hurricane) on the U.S. scale.  Quang weakened rapidly thereafter due to strong upper level wind shear and progressively colder waters, crossing the Western Australian Coast as a tropical cyclone (tropical storm) before weakening inland May 1.

Here are a series of images showing Quang’s development, peak and demise (click to zoom in to each image):

20150428_0832_mtsat-2_x_vis2km_98SINVEST_25kts-1005mb-138S-1116E_100pc 20150430_0014_mtsat-2_x_vis1km_24SQUANG_115kts-937mb-171S-1092E_100pc 20150502_0032_mtsat-2_x_vis1km_24SQUANG_25kts-1004mb-233S-1164E_100pc

From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Here’s the system’s track to landfall (times are local in western Australia) :


The system’s quick demise was due to rapidly approaching winter in the southern Hemisphere (remember it’s their equivalent of our early November) now.  Water temperatures are cooling, the jet stream is shifting north and large, high pressure systems are now crossing Australia, feeding cooler and drier air into the continent.  The monsoon trough, the dividing line between warm moist air flowing from the equatorial regions and cooler drier southeasterly flow is headed north toward the Equator.  Take a look at these two charts (click to make the more readable and remember that “Late Summer” in Australia is “Late Winter” here in the U.S. and “Winter” there is “Summer” here.  In the peak cyclone season,  the equatorial trough moves southward toward and over North Australia.  Converging winds act on tropical lows or disturbances within the trough, and these can spin up into tropical cyclones.  As we move into this time of year and beyond, this trough retreats to and eventually north of the Equator into the North Indian and Northwest Pacific Oceans. Meanwhile polar low pressure systems and anticyclones (high pressure systems) begin to track further north through Australia.  That brings cool winds to southern parts of the country and dry easterly flow in the center and the north, which joins with the southeasterly trade winds blowing across to the Equator and the trough located to its north.  There really is no convergence and much of central and northern (tropical) Australia is in a dry season.

Australia-Summer Australia-Winter


That’s most likely why Quang will be the southern Hemisphere’s last storm.  Storms can form near the Equator and primarily west of 90E in the Southern Indian Ocean for a few more weeks, but they become increasingly rare, and if they form are weak and short lived.

Tropical Depression 06W:

The sixth tropical cyclone of the NW Pacific season formed Saturday and will likely become TS Noul. Another disturbance further east may also develop this week.



We’ll have more on these systems on next week’s update.

Winter 2014-2015: Colder and drier than average; two mild months overpowered by a very cold February

Meteorological winter runs from December 1st to February 28, for 90 days. The Winter of 2014-2015 was yet another cold one (the second in a row) although the character of the cold was sharply different from the long and persistent cold of 2013-2104. The winters of 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 were both mild to warm winters.  Winter also featured below average precipitation, with the most pronounced dryness over the St. Louis area, easing to very slight dryness in the KC area and a very slightly above average winter precipitation total in Topeka.   Snowfall through the end of February was below average from St, Louis through Kansas City to Topeka, but above average for SE Missouri and SW IL thanks to lower seasonal snowfall average and two significant February winter storms.  The snowfall season continues to run (technically to June 30) to capture fall/spring snows in the total so we won’t have a season snowfall total until mid to late Spring. (Click on any of the images in this post to make them more readable).

Here is the statistic sheet for the three major reporting stations:


One thing that immediately is apparent is that this was a winter of contrasts. December and January were quite mild and February was so cold that it overpowered the warmth of the preceding two months. A different way to look at this is to check out a chart of the 31 day running mean (which is the difference from average) this smooths out the daily peaks and valleys and shows long term trends.  The cold shot in November gave way to warmth through the Dec/Jan period (except for a quick cold shot in early January).  Very strong and persistent cold took hold in February.

temperature trends

For comparison, check out the same chart for the winter of 2013-2014.  That winter we had persistent and sustained cold from Fall right through into Spring.  The cold was also deepest in February of that year. (That cold stretch lasted into April, 2014).


The main driver of the winter weather was the Pacific and the pool of warmer than average water which developed in late 2013.


Taking a look at a sample of upper air charts over the course of the winter tells the story.


In December, an enhanced Pacific jet stream brought the west coast much needed rain and pushed the ridge eastward from its November position off the west coast and into Alaska.  This allowed a mild and moist Pacific flow to spread across the Plains and Midwest.   The true cold was contained in the Arctic circle.


Here’s a snapshot of the jet stream level in December.


The pattern was stagnant and one thing we had were a lot of clouds.  Check out the chart showing how cloudy the month was.  Sunshine was not that far above the thin layer of clouds as shown by the Topeka KS sounding shown from December 11th.


The clouds kept overnight lows much higher than average while they kept daytime highs not so much above average.  The net result was that the daily average temperature was much warmer than what is typical for December. December managed to squeeze out one minor snow event for KC and Topeka with the season’s most calendar day snow of 2.6″ in Kansas City. A weak wave aloft moved through grazing those areas with some light snows..while STL was bypassed and only had .2″ of snow for the whole month.


The overall month turned out very warm as shown by the temperature anomaly (difference from average) chart shown below.  The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.




As January began, the prevailing pattern flipped to a much colder one.  The Pacific jet retracted back across the Dateline and the ridge redeveloped along the west coast of North America and north into Alaska. That shut off the rain on the west coast and opened the door to cross-polar flow, releasing Arctic air back southwards under strong north-northwest flow aloft.


The season’s largest and strongest Arctic high (in terms of atmospheric pressure) moved into the center of the country by the end of the first week.


That brought the winter’s highest atmospheric pressures to the western district, including KC.


The coldest mornings of the winter were experienced across the western district, including KC.  They would have been much colder, except for the lack of snow. -3F was the coldest temperature of the winter in KC on Jan 7 and Jan 8.


The cold pattern didn’t last long, the west coast ridge collapsed and returned eastward to the Rockies, with mild Pacific flow becoming re-established by the middle of the month.


Unlike the pattern in December, this was not such a cloudy weather pattern and allowed for some very warm temperatures under downslope flow across the Plains and into the western district. Several afternoons had highs in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  The winter’s warmest temperature of 78F was recorded in Topeka, 73F in Kansas City.


The majority of the month was dry, although a moist system brought rains to the eastern district on the 3rd, before the Arctic air arrived.  some minor icing events for SEMO/SWIL with the initial cold shot early in the month, with the majority of the precipitation falling as rain in the closing days of the month.  Snow was limited with the major snows along the I-80 corridor and through the Great Lakes with Clipper lows.  The northeastern U.S. meanwhile went from a snow drought to the beginnings of what would be all-time record snows for the winter season.

January temperatures wound up being below average for the Northeast, the south central states and parts of the Southeast.  Temperatures were above average from our eastern district northwest through the Plains and most everywhere from the Rockies west. The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.



February brought about big changes as the ridge aloft rebuilt along the west coast and northward into Yukon and a deep upper low dropped into Hudson’s Bay.  That brought strong NNW flow aloft and renewed Arctic surges for most of the month.  That change, shown below, did not take shape right at the beginning of the month.


February opened with a quick cold shot, but quickly moderated to very mild conditions.  The quick shot of cold followed a major snow along the I-80 corridor from Omaha to Ohio.  That snow continued on to the Northeastern U.S.


Over the snowpack, cold surged south unimpeded for a very chilly morning on the second.


The cold, like the January episode, was brief with warmth re surging by the 7th, except over the new snowpack.  Temperatures out in western Kansas actually reached the lower 80s, with mid 80s in the Panhandle.


Even while summer-like temperatures baked the Plains, the major pattern shift was underway.  Bitter cold was building in Canada, as seen on this surface temperature anomaly chart. The greens, through purples show temperatures -10 to -45 degrees colder than average.


The first of the sustained cold shots arrived on the 12th with morning low temperatures crashing.


The warmth tried to put up a fight, but the Arctic overwhelmed the mild Pacific air.  A wave riding up along the Arctic boundary to the south brought the season’s first snow of significance to the eastern district., with the heaviest snows along the Ohio Valley (as seen by the purple echoes).  The western district was too deep in the cold to get in on major snows and instead received another minor event.

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Here’s a look at the total snows as reported by the local NWS offices in and around the eastern district.


The western district has much lighter totals.


Some of the coldest weather of the season then targeted those areas with the deepest snow cover.  This month it would be the eastern district’s turn to get the coldest temperatures of the winter. Morning lows on the 19th were bitterly cold.


Less snowcover and the timing of the passage of the high pressure center (it passed through in the daytime the afternoon of the 18th)  prevented the western district from recording similar lows as the east.


The cold was widespread.



Another upper wave approached following this cold shot and set the stage for a wintry mix of precipitation the 20th-21st for the eastern district.  That was followed by another Arctic front, the temperatures were not as cold as the earlier shot, but the wind chill values were, and wind chill advisories went up for much of the eastern district the night of the 22nd.

Another cold shot followed a weak clipper low through the region in the closing days of the month with overnight lows dropping back to the single digits – with subzero readings off to the north where fresh snow was on the ground.


This cold set the stage for February’s last snow event – again targeting STL/SEMO/SW IL and heavy snow missing KC again.  Here’s the progress of the snow as it moved through the region.

2015-02-28-0948-RADSFC 2015-02-28-1706-RADAR-KALL 2015-02-28-1820-RADAR-KALL 2015-02-28-2119-RADAR-KALL 2015-02-28-2242-RADAR-KALL 2015-03-01-0745-RADAR-KALL

Snow totals favored the east:


Here is the temperature anomaly (difference from average) for the last WEEK in February alone. The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.


Now, for the last half of the month.The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.


When the month was complete, temperatures were well below average everywhere east of the Rockies, with the core of the cold in the Great Lakes and Northeast.  A very sharp transition to very warm conditions existed from the Front Range westward. The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.

That one powerfully cold month was enough to offset the Dec/Jan warmth for the Plains and Midwest, and really deepened the cold over the east.  The coldest (relative to average) area was in New England where the snowpack was measured in feet.  The warmest (relative to average) was in the inter-mountain west, The chart is in degrees C, so multiply the value by 1.8 to get the equivalent in degrees F.



Sea surface temperatures and the February pattern:


In terms of winter precipitation (liquid and melted snow) the majority of the eastern district was dry.  The west was below average to slightly above average, but average winter precip in that area is only 2-6″ for the three month period, compared to 6-10″ for the same period in the east.  8-10″ fell in the southeast part of the eastern district, with 6-8″ central and 4-6″ northwest.  In the west, a uniform 4-6″ of liquid or liquid equivalent precipitation was recorded.

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This has left drought conditions bordering the western district to the south and west and the eastern district to the south and east.

The winter forecast:

Back on November 24th, we had a post on the winter outlook (click on November on the side bar and you can read the whole post).

Temps: We expected a cold winter, and that did verify, thanks mostly to a VERY COLD late February.  We’d expected the cold to arrive sooner in December (it didn’t) and pull back briefly in January (it did, but the month was the reverse-mild but for one cold shot) and re-surge in February (that part did work out). If not for the intensity of the last half of Feb cold, winter would have been warmer than average.

Precip: The drier than average forecast has worked out (except in Topeka which was about a quarter inch above average).

Snow:  The snowfall season won’t close yet, but the snowier winter has verified for SEMO/SW IL but we’re still behind (barely) in STL and well behind in KC.  We’ll summarize that aspect of the winter season when the window for snow closes (around Easter).

Check out that post and you’ll be able to see how the major forecasting outlets fared in their winter outlooks.

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):

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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.

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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.


2014 in Review

Temperatures were below average in 2014 with precipitation below average in the south and above average in the north.

The yearly average temperature in St. Louis was 65.10, the average low 46.40 and the overall average 55.80.  This is 1.3 degrees below average. St. Louis reached 100F August 25 which was the year’s highest temperature and fell to -8 January 8th, the year’s lowest temperature. In Kansas City, the average high was 62.70, the average low 42.40 and the overall average 52.50 which is 2.10 degrees below average.  97F was the warmest temperature of the year on August 23, while -11F on January 6 was the year’s coldest reading. Topeka’s average high was 66, the average low was 43.30 and the overall average 54.70 which was 0.4 degrees below average.  103F on July 22 was the hottest temperature of the year with -8F on January 6th the year’s coldest temperature.

Precipitation was slightly above average in Kansas City and St. Louis and well below average in Topeka.  For a majority of the region, precipitation was below to much below average. The table below summarizes the temperature stats for the three main cities and precipitation for locations in and around the district for 2014:


No location was near the all-time record hottest/coldest or wettest/driest years on record.


Across the globe, central Asia, portions of North and South America, central and southern Africa, Siberia and northern Australia were cooler than average while warmth was concentrated in Europe, north Africa, China, southern Australia, Alaska, and the western United States.


A closer look at North America shows cold concentrated over central and western Canada, the U.S. east of the Rockies and over much of Mexico.  The coldest areas were over the southern Canadian Prairies and northern U.S. Plains and western Great Lakes. Warmth was dominant over the western U.S. and Alaska.


The charts below show the temperature traces for KC/STL for 2014 (in C and click to make them more readable).  The middle section shows the 31-day running mean which evens out some of the daily highs and lows. This chart is good at identifying long term trends throughout the year. Relative to average, cold weather continued from the year’s open to mid April and reached it’s peak in late February. A turn to slightly warmer than average then began and continued until around July 1, when a cool period resumed until mid August.  Warmth resumed mid August to mid September with a short cool period mid September to mid October. Weak warmth resurged mid October to early November.  A strong cooling period took over in November, with the year’s strongest warmth in December.

2014-12-31-2359-KCTEMPTRACE 2014-12-31-2359-STLTEMPTRACE

Compare KC/STL to some cities out west, Seattle (L) and Tucson (R) which were above average or well above average nearly all year.  Tucson AZ had it’s warmest year on record and was only significantly below average right at the end of 2014 for the last week or so.

2014-12-31-2359-SEATEMPTRACE 2014-12-31-2359-TWCTEMPTRACE


Taking a look at the yearly precipitation totals, highest amounts (45″+ pink/purples) were over south central Iowa, north central and NW Missouri, east central Missouri and part of southern Illinois. 35-40″ totals (deep reds) covered the rest of the district, with isolated 30-35″ totals (light reds).  The orange, gold and yellow tones show lower totals (less than 30″) heading westward across Kansas, but it must be remembered that average rain decreases west of the district and toward the rain shadow of the Front Range.


A better way of looking a the area is to use a percent of average map.  This shows areas of relative wetness/dryness across the region.  Much of SE/EC Kansas, Missouri south of I-70 and SW Illinois had sub-par rainfall totals. NW Missouri (including KC), EC Missouri (Including STL) had above average precipitation  with the Ozarks of southern Missouri below to well below average.


Taking a look at the U.S., in general, we find the wettest areas in the southeast and east and in the PACNW as can be expected with the driest areas in the Desert Southwest. The lowest total on the map is an area near Palm Springs, CA where less than 1/2″ of rain fell all year long. Rainfall of 100″+ was recorded in the highest peaks of the PACNW.


Using the percent of average annual precipitation map, it is easy to see the extreme dryness of the year for the western and south central U.S. and the wetness over the northern Rockies, northern Plains, southern and Rockies. Patchy areas of above/below average are located elsewhere. Relative to average, the wettest area was in SE NM/W TX near SE Eddy county, NM and the junction of Culberson, Reeves and Loving counties in TX. This area had 300% (or three times) of it’s average annual precipitation.  Relative to average, the driest location was in the Coachella Valley of California’s Riverside County between Indio and Palm Springs. This area had only 5-10% of its average annual precipitation.


Here’s a zoomed-in look at the western and eastern district’s total 2014 precipitation.  Click on each map to make it more readable.

2014-12-31-2359-KC_PRECIP 2014-12-31-2359-STL_PRECIP

Weather Events:

Winter Storms:

Significant winter storms struck, almost like clockwork at the beginning of each month in Jan, Feb and March. The heaviest snows focused on the eastern district in January, then the west in February and March. In addition to these major events, several minor or smaller events were frequent.

The first winter storm targeted the eastern district with heavy snows Jan 4 & 5:


February 4 and 5 brought the next major winter storm, this time focusing primarily on the western District:


The next major winter storm would strike March 2 & 3 with more sleet than snow over the district:


These storms in addition to snow falling in December, 2013, left the region with above average snowfall for the Winter of 2013-2014.


Here are some of the official season snowfall reports.



Severe Weather:

Damaging tornadoes struck the western district near Orrick MO on may 10th.

2014-05-10-1735 2014-05-10-1738

Thunderstorms with damaging wind impacted the STL area on October 2nd:



Bitterly cold temperatures on January 6th were the coldest of the year.  These maps show the morning temperatures (near lows) on January 6th, 2014. (Click to make them more readable)


Afternoon weather map on one of the hottest afternoons of the year in late July over the western district:


Notes and asides:

Kansas City finished the year with the first above average rainfall total since 2010.

December: Above Average Temps; Below Average Snow

December 2014, goes down in the record books with above average temperatures and below average to well below average snow.  After a very cold November, the weather pattern reversed and mild weather returned. A reversal of the cold had been forecast, but the persistence of the mild pattern turned out to be several weeks longer than initially expected.  For a good part of the month we had an enhanced Pacific Jet from the east coast of Asia to the west coast of North America.  This was due to the establishment of an upper low in the Gulf of Alaska and over the Aleutian Islands.  At high latitudes, blocking high pressure was centered over the Laptev Sea and lower pressures were over the Beaufort Sea.


Sea this chart for Arctic area geography:


This directed Arctic air east across the Canadian Archipelago to Greenland and the Norwegian Sea.  Mild Pacific and downslope flow crossed west-east across Canada . This kept temperatures mild in our normal cold air source region of NW Canada.

We also had a very strong jet stream and “polar vortex” at the stratospheric level as shown by this image.  Purple/grey tones show the coldest air and greens/yellows/reds show warmer (although still well below zero) air.  The air flows left to right along the white lines.  This type of setup helps contain the cold in the Arctic by assisting in the maintenance of a strong jet stream.


Check out this surface temperature map for December 21st which shows temperatures in the teens and 20s as far north as the northern borders of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.   The cold is very well contained.


This really limited access to the cold air for the lower 48.  The Pacific flow was also a cloudy flow with prevailing cloud cover for days on end. This late afternoon visible satellite image from mid month was a typical one for the month.


Oftentimes, clear skies were just a few thousand feet up, as this sounding from Topeka Kansas shows.  Soundings measure the temperature, wind, pressure and moisture as they ascend through the atmosphere.  This plot shows the structure of the atmosphere as the balloon went up.  The red/green lines together showed a saturated atmosphere through around 3,300 feet, with much drier air just above where the lines become widely separated.


The wind barbs on the left tell the other story..very light winds aloft.  The weak December sun is unable to mix the atmosphere very efficiently and you’ll need some sort of mechanical mixing (wind) to bring the drier air into the cloud layer to break up and dissipate the clouds.  That didn’t happen. Those clouds kept days cooler and nights much warmer and the net result was a warm month in the record books, despite not having a lot of clear and mild days.

As the month drew to a close, warming at the stratospheric level was pushing northward and had stretched and deformed the “Polar Vortex” weakening it in the process.


That allowed the enhanced Pacific jet to weaken and retreat back toward Asia and the jet stream to return to a pattern seen in November with a polar low near Hudson’s Bay a ridge of high pressure over the East Pacific and Alaska and a cold northwest flow to return to the U.S.


That helped bring down a 1050MB+ Arctic high into the U.S. east of the Rockies as this chart for December 30th shows.


The surface high pressure area built down the Front Range of the Rockies deep into west Texas with a lesser push to the east. These 6AM temperatures from 12/30 show the cold air (deep blue=32F or less) deep into TX with the shallower eastern edge of the cold banked up against the Ozark Plateau of E OK/AR.


Even the late month chill.. which was not record setting for the district.. did not do enough to take the edge off of the warm month.   The chart below shows the temperature difference from average for December (in degrees C). Most of the U.S. finished above average with only isolated pockets of cool over the CO Rockies/NC outer banks and S FL.



In terms of precipitation — it was a big month.. for the West Coast (rain) and the inland northeast (snow).  For us it was a far cry from December 2013, which opened with big snows for SEMO/SW IL and ended with big rains.  We did see several weather systems of interest which brought rains. The wettest system arrived as the month opened with moderate to heavy rains Dec 4-6:


Another and more modest system brought rains mid month:


Due to the warmth, snow was lacking, although there was minor accumulating snow in the KC area the weekend before Christmas from a mid to upper level system.  A quick burst of snow for SEMO/SW IL had a hard time sticking due to marginal temperatures aloft.

2014-12-18-0240-SATSFCRAD 2014-12-18-0951-NORSCTTLSNWD

No major winter storms impacted the area and ALL areas of the district fell short in terms of snow.

These are the observed precipitation maps for the region for December.  First, the actual totals:


Most significant rains were over east central KS and west central/SE MO and S IL.  Rainfall decreases west and north. This map is a little misleading though.  SEMO/SW IL have a higher average rain total than points W & N so we’ll take a look at the percent of average rain:


The warm tones show areas with below average rainfall, green and blue above average.  There is a bull’s-eye of above average rains over south central IL and wetter than average conditions in west central MO and a good part of east central KS.  A majority of MO/IL had well below average rains..in some areas 25-50% of the monthly total.

A wider view shows most of CA had a very good month rain-wise as did the western Plains, Missouri Valley and Northern Rockies.  Much of the Great Lakes, Midwest, Southern Plains, Panhandles, TX, the Ohio Valley and the Northern Plains came up short and in some cases very short. Red colors indicate monthly precipitation which was only 10-25% of the long term average for December.


Here are the monthly stats:

DEC 2014    AVG HIGH  AVG LOW  MEAN     +/-

ST LOUIS:     44.60    33.10    38.90  +4.20
KANSAS CITY:  40.60    28.10    34.30  +2.80
TOPEKA        42.80    29.80    36.30  +4.30    

DEC 2014      PRECIP  AVERAGE    +/-   SNOW
ST LOUIS:      2.72"    2.84""  -0.12" 0.2"
KANSAS CITY:   1.83"    1.53"   +0.30" 2.6"
TOPEKA         2.27"    1.35"   +0.92  2.0"

The US National Weather Service December outlook issued mid November indicated no strong signal for either above/below average temperatures and precipitation.


Looking back at November and Autumn

Cool was the theme for Autumn and November with dryness persisting over SEMO/SW IL. KC and STL were just near enough heavy October rains to finish the Fall season wetter than average–although September and November were dry.


No surprise to anyone November was a cold month.  St. Louis and Kansas City were 6.1 degrees below average. Temperatures ranged from 6 to 69 in KC and 14 to 73 in STL. Taking a look at North America, the blue and green tones show the cold was widespread with only Alaska, Yukon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and parts of SW Oregon warmer than average.


In the northern Hemisphere, North America, central Asia and northern Siberia were cold, while the Far East and Europe enjoyed a mild month.


The sustained cold did not set in until around the 10th, when the first Arctic surge dropped south.  That front can easily be seen in this surface map from early afternoon on November 10th.


The coldest morning would be a week later on the 18th when early morning temperatures looked like this:


As in 2013, the pattern flip was assisted by a Super Typhoon re-curving into the Pacific. Here’s an image of Nuri (20W) near peak intensity. Maximum sustained winds were 155 kts (182 mph).


Nuri became a record setting mid latitude storm system which pumped warm air into the Arctic, that pushed cold air south into the U.S.  (This image shows ex-Nuri at it’s peak as an “extratropical” storm system.



November was a dry month. Rains were a 1/2-1″ or less in E KS/W & NW MO and 3″ or less in the remainder of MO and S IL.  All areas finished below average thanks to the cold weather pattern. Rainfall was 25 to 50% of average n E KS/W MO and 50-75% of average in E MO & S IL. Abnormal dryness, as defined by the U.S. Drought monitor, had not yet returned to the region, but may do so in the next few weeks.  These next three maps show the total observed precipitation, the difference from average and the percent of average (click to make the images more readable).

2014-11-30-2300-NOVPCPTTL 2014-11-30-2301-NOVPCPDEP 2014-11-30-2302-NOVPCPPCT

Lets take a closer in look at the district for November.  These are total observed precipitation maps:

The first map is for the KC/Topeka area.  Pale yellow tones show 1″ of rain, while dark to light blue show 1/2 to .90″ of rainfall. Most of the KC Metro had only .60″ to .90″ of moisture for the month.  Topeka averaged about the same.  Areas further west had even less..some spots only 0.10″ to 0.30″ all month. Southeast of KC where the oranges and reds (indicating 2″+) those areas had much more moisture.


For SEMO/SW IL/STL, the area fared better, but remember, AVERAGE November rains are much higher here..so even these totals 2-4″ were below average.



No big snow events were recorded in November, but the STL area was the clear winner with the snows that did fall:

The St. Louis area had 4 days with a trace of snow, 1 day with .7″ of snow and 2 days with 1-2″ of snow. These combined totals brought 3.8″ in the snowfall bucket for November, above the long term average. Kansas City had 5 days with snow, all of .3″ or less and finished with just 1/2″ in the snowfall bucket for November, below the long term average.

Autumn (September-October-November):

Autumn was cool and wet for some and cool and dry for others. Overall temperatures were nearly 2 degrees below average.  KC was 2.1 degrees below average and STL was 1.9 degrees below average.

Lets take a look at how the U.S, North America and the northern hemisphere fared in Autumn.  This next series of maps show the temperature departure (or difference) from the long term average (which is considered to be a rolling 30-year period – now and until 2021, the UN World Meteorological Organization uses 1981-2010). Remember these are in degrees C so the numbers appear smaller than if the charts used degrees F.

The US:


Most of the U.S. east of the continental divide was below average and our area was near the coolest part of the country.  The west was warm.

North America:


Much of Canada/Mexico was also cooler. Far NW Canada and Alaska was warmer than average.

The northern hemisphere:


A wide view shows cold weather over much of eastern Europe, Siberia and central Asia — while the Far East, central and western Europe were mild.  The coldest spot was in Siberia, mostly due to the early development of a snow pack.

Rainfall varied.  The two “official” reporting stations both observed above average rainfall including +2.29″ in KC and + 1.37″ in STL.

In stark contrast, much of SEMO/SW IL had only 50-75% of average rain, with the same for areas just south of KC and over into eastern KS. This is evident on the maps shown below.  The gold tones on the maps indicate areas below average. This clearly indicates that both reporting stations were JUST on the southern edge of the above average rain are over MO/IL along and north of I-70.

. 2014-11-30-2305-AUTPCPPCT 2014-11-30-2304-AUTPCPDEP

A majority of the seasons rain fell in two separate heavy rain events in October. The graphic below shows October 1-3 with the hot pink and purple tones 5″+, the orange tones 3-5″ and the green and yellow tones 1-2″. Much of SEMO/SW IL missed these widespread rains, with very localized heavier totals.


Another major rain event happened October 9/10 taking a slightly more southward track, but again missing much of SEMO/SW IL.  The heaviest totals fell in the SW MO Ozarks, with a secondary band from NE KS through KCI and Columbia to WSW of STL.


This map shows the total observed rain for Autumn over the region.


This map shows Autumn rain over the entire central U.S.


Taking a closer-in look at the area (click the maps to make them more readable) In these maps, the tan equals 16″, light brown 14″, medium brown 12″, dark brown tones equal 10″, deep red 8″, the next lighter shade red 6″.

In the Kansas City/Topeka areas (first map) a majority of the KC Metro is deep red (8″) with dark (10″) and medium brown (12″) just north of downtown. That small speck of medium brown is very near the Kansas City INTL airport, the official reporting station for the city.  The Topeka area is in the 5″ range, and blends toward some very dry three month totals to the south and west.


In the STL/SEMO/SW IL area the immediate STL area is around 10″ with 12-14″ totals north through west of the city.  For SEMO/SW IL the area is depicted in 8-10″ totals, with most of the heaviest totals down over the SEMO Ozarks.  Even though these totals are just a little bit lower than STL, AVERAGE rainfall is higher here than in KC/STL so that means the same amount of rain is LOWER than average here.