Feb 242013

Another Winter Storm

This will be a pretty nice and mild Sunday even as projections place another winter storm in a portion of the Ozarks by late Monday.

Mild Sunday

Overall, a warmer day is expected in the Ozarks today.  Seasonal norms have climbed since their bottom out back in January with a low/high range now around 29/51. High temperatures will be very close to this mark today.  I expect a lot of sunshine to go with this.

Monday/Tuesday Storm

First off, Kansas City will appears to be on track to add at least another 6″ to their winter snow total!  The heaviest snow band is projected from northwest Oklahoma, into south-central and eastern Kansas and on into central and northern Missouri.  This all happens Monday evening into Tuesday morning.

As for the Ozarks, snow will range from nothing in northern Arkansas to perhaps near 6″ in Benton County Missouri and areas nearby.

I’ve got Springfield on a 1-2″ snow track with totals ramping up the more north you head.

Snow Projection Monday Night/Tuesday

Travel north to Kansas City or west to Wichita will be a mess Tuesday morning!

This again will begin late Monday evening and last into the overnight hours.

Colder Trend

All of next week looks chilly!  All high temperatures will stay in the thirties during the week.

Feb 122013

Forecast for Snow Overnight

The Ozarks are still on track for some snow overnight tonight!

Snow Set Up

A system in the southwest is beginning to transport humidity, clouds and precipitation northward this morning.  The 4:30 a.m. radar image is shown. Green rain, blue snow.

This will start as a chilly rain in the Ozarks toward evening.  The temperature profile between rain and snow is right on the line for later tonight and into the overnight hours.

As is often the case in these borderline snow systems, additional cooling needed to keep the precipitation as snow for longer periods of time will come from either the core of heavier bands of precipitation or from higher elevations.

Weather Early This A.M.

Since temperatures will be right around freezing when it’s snowing, accumulations will mainly be seen in grassy areas.  But in areas of enhanced snow some sticking on roadways is possible. Take into consideration that you will be waking up to whatever falls on Wednesday morning!

Steady Wednesday and Thursday

Most of whatever snow the Ozarks receives will melt on Wednesday and Thursday with the return of sunshine and an above freezing daytime pattern.  Forties on Wednesday, right around fifty on Thursday.

Big Front

Colder than normal temperatures blast into the area Friday and Saturday.  Only thirties for maximum temperatures heading into the weekend.

Next System

The next “weather system of interest” comes our way on Monday. Looks like initially a rainmaker for the Ozarks with snow on its backside. Worth watching.


Jan 262013

Rain Forecast: Tonight Through Monday A.M.

Overall, a warmer pattern of weather has started which will last through Tuesday with rounds of rain and thunder thrown in.

Fifties and Sixties

Warmer weather will rule.  Today’s highs should crack fifty-degrees in a few areas.  This will happen again on Sunday when upper fifties are possible.

Highs well into the sixties will follow on Monday and Tuesday as warm southerly winds continue to blow.

The record highs are 72° on Monday and 74° on Tuesday.

Rain Chances

The first round of rain showers will work its way into the Ozarks tonight. While the rain has a chance to be widespread, the totals will likely be fairly low, with most areas receiving less than two tenths of an inch.

Rain and Storms

Another round of rain is expected in the Ozarks on Tuesday. The amount of humidity from the Gulf looks fairly impressive with this system, suggesting a high potential for heavier rain. The question is where exactly?

I’m leaning toward a scenario where a line of storms will form in the Ozarks on Tuesday and sweep southeast, meaning the rain should be better organized and heavier in areas southeast of Springfield on this day.

SPC Tuesday Severe Risk Area

Instability will be around so storms are definitely in the forecast for Tuesday. There is even a possibility of severe storms on Tuesday given the instability and wind shear available.  The details are still a bit sketchy with enough subtle variation between the models to not be able to pin down how much of the Ozarks will see a severe weather threat.

Mixed-Layer CAPE Spread: Unstable Air Indicator

I included the SPC severe storm forecast for Tuesday and a plot of the increase in instability.

Jan 112013

% Probability of 2" or More of Snow Saturday night and Sunday Morning

Quite a shock to the system is expected over the next few days as widespread sixty-degree highs this afternoon change to a chance for snow and winter precipitation by late Saturday night.

Warm Today

Low clouds are expected to break later today, opening the floodgate on warm temperatures.  All areas should record high temperatures in the sixties this afternoon.

Saturday FROPA

A cold FROntal PAssage will occur on Saturday, restricting our daytime highs to the forties in the Ozarks.  This cold air will continue to press into the Ozarks during Saturday evening , setting the stage for winter precipitation and snow.

Precipitation Type

A band of rain showers will probably form along and behind the advancing cold front on Saturday.  No winter precipitation is expected during the day on Saturday.

The temperature profile will be begin to support a mixture of sleet and eventually snow over much of the Ozarks by late Saturday evening.  This will be aided by and upper level disturbance riding out of the southwest over the top of the shallow cold air.  A wave or minor low should form a kink along the cold front. All of this will enhance the precipitation somewhat late Saturday night.

Computer Model Temperature Trends

I don’t see an ice storm with this system. I do see a mixture of winter precipitation which could briefly contain some freezing rain and sleet late Saturday evening.

As for snow accumulation, it is most likely in the band shown on the included probability map where the blues are showing a greater than 40% of snow accumulating more than 2″.  The best guess on the heaviest snow is along a line from Joplin to Lake of the Ozarks between Midnight Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday.

Cold Spell

Very cold!  High temperatures on Sunday and Monday will be right around freezing. While the work week will recover slightly, it will still be chilly for the season.

A flow of northwest air aloft along with building arctic air in Canada point to a prolonged cold spell into the end of January.

Jun 222012

Gary Ellison Plays Some Ragtime

While attending my daughter’s piano recital Thursday night, we all got a treat.

After all of the kids played their pieces (I’ll post my daughters songs too), Janet Ellison, the music teacher, asked her husband Gary to play some music.

Now Gary Ellison has the designation of “Missouri’s Official Ragtime Piano Player”.  I knew this from the first day we signed my daughter up and even heard him play one tune.

But to my surprise, he gave us a history lesson AND sang!

Gary gave a review of the songs written by Missouri’s most famous composer.  I knew some of these melodies but (and I shouldn’t have been surprised by this) my Mom was much more familiar with a few of them.

I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story. Thanks Gary!

Jun 032012

SPC Slight Risk for Today

We have some morning rain and thunder in the Ozarks. This activity is not expected to be severe, perhaps a hail report or two may come of this.

Later today, air out to our west will become more unstable with daytime heating and higher dew points out over Kansas and Oklahoma. This in conjunction with a disturbance in the upper atmosphere will cause storms to re-fire out west. These are expected to be severe and some of them will move into the Ozarks later today.

Here’s my morning Vlog report on what is expected today.  I’ll be doing another update early this afternoon.

May 222012

3D Rotation at Peak Intensity

It was one year ago today, on a Sunday, that an insidious tornado tore through the southern portion of Joplin, Missouri.

Insidious because of how quickly it formed, where it formed, how intense it became and where it traveled.

Even with all of the technology at our disposal, 158 people lost their lives (NWS statistics).  Here is a list of the highest single tornado death tolls on record.

Back in the 1950’s, a tornado killed 116 people in Flint, Michigan. During and soon after this tornado, huge advancements were made in tornado awareness,  radar technology, storm forecasting (the “watch box” was introduced to the public) and emergency response.  It has been stated that Flint was the last 100+ person death-toll from a single tornado due in large part to all of these advances and others such as warnings, weather radio and Doppler radar.  While this is no doubt true, no one should believe that we reached a plateau or that this type of disaster could not happen again.

In fact, just as you would adjust what the dollar is worth because of inflation, this Joplin death toll needs a similar adjustment. Note on the list I linked above that all of the deadly tornadoes higher than Joplin happened before there was radar (Doppler or otherwise), tornado warnings, tornado watches, television, cell phones and certainly the internet.  When considered in this light, the tragedy of Joplin glares even brighter.

High death tolls are a matter of horrible circumstances coming together.  The real truth is that this can happen again and it will, somewhere.  Population areas continue to expand.  There are some who think even higher fatalities are possible.

Before I go any further, I would recommend reading the National Weather Service “Service Assessment Report” for the Joplin tornado (PDF file).  A panel of individuals performed an assessment (as they do for most major tornadoes and/or outbreaks) of the events leading up to the this tornado.  There are some valuable insights in this paper.

I’m an old school guy with regard to tornado warnings.  Even with my all of my experience with tornadoes in the Ozarks and my inside knowledge of radar signatures, our family still takes shelter, without question, when a tornado warning is issued.  I’m a strong believer that a tornado warning is not “soft”, rather, it offers a choice to take shelter, yes or no. A personal decision.

But many people don’t take shelter, at least not right away.  The reasons vary but it mostly stems from a rather inescapable truth about tornado warnings: many times, nothing happens to you personally after the warning expires, even if a tornado is reported in the warned area. I state this not as a slam of the warning process but as more of a reality check of the current knowledge and dissemination limitations of the warning system.

The assessment report hits on this when it states that many folks sought a “second opinion” before deciding whether the tornado warning was important enough or close enough to take action. It is human nature to want to know what is going on around you.

Everyone needs to know that we in this country are fortunate enough to have a government organization, the National Weather Service (NWS), whose mission it is to save lives and to watch 24/7 for threatening, destructive or deadly weather situations.  This is a free service paid for by your tax dollars. The warning system is a good one. Not perfect but good. It is easy to loose site of the fact that the people in the hot seat issuing warnings have a tough job. They are being asked for more and more precision even when the current technology, understanding of the meteorological process, small scale sampling of the atmosphere and dissemination paths are not up to full potential.

The question I would throw out is this: are far can we take the precision of the tornado warning process?  There is an old observation, made to drive home the idea of not ignoring tornado warnings, which states “no one is going to come and ring your doorbell and tell you a tornado is coming!” Well, I don’t know about doorbells but technology might help in the not-too-distant future.

The NWS is slowing rolling out a warning system in corporation with the cell phone industry which will give you a short text warning based on you GPS position.  The only issue I might have with this is when cell towers go down or become overloaded during large tornadoes like Joplin.

On the other hand, weather radio is essential to anyone who takes storm safety seriously.  The reason: it broadcasts a signal on a VHF frequency 24/7 and has the ability to alert you by county and to wake you up if weather threatens while you sleep. My only wish would be to make them GPS-aware in the future which would improve the accuracy and make them truly portable.  It’s one device which should definitely remain a uni-tasker, designed only to do one thing!

Coming back to the Joplin tornado, the amount of time it took for this tornado to become a monster was very, very small. The tornado was low to the ground, perhaps indistinguishable to the untrained eye from a low cloud near the ground and made worse if trees and building blocked the view of the horizon. It started on the edge of very densely populated city (couldn’t see it coming for miles and minutes beforehand). It was really the second storm to threaten the Joplin area that evening (read the assessment report) which may have caused some confusion.

This video shows the beginning of the Joplin tornado and sums up how quickly it spun into existence:

May 092012

90 Day Rain Departure from Normal

It was an absolutely fantastic day in the Ozarks!  Low humidity, warm temperatures and a gentle breeze.  I painted some of my front porch today but just stopped; that’s not how I plan on spending the rest of the evening!

High pressure has slipped into the area. It is large and slow-moving, we are still on its “cool” side with northerly winds.  The dew points. a measure of water vapor in the air,  are low, in the middle forties in most locations.  This will pretty much set the bar for the low temperatures potential Thursday morning once the winds calm down.

The dry weather is nice however there are some places that need rain.  They are largely the same area outlined in my April 2012 climate summary for the Ozarks.  I included the 90 day (3 month) departure from normal precipitation. If you live in southern Missouri, particularly southeast Missouri and northern Arkansas, you have had a slightly dry spring thus far.

Is there hope for rain?  Yes, but it will probably fall short of what is needed.

It will come this weekend as a very weak and somewhat non-committal low pressure area aloft drifts slowly south of the Ozarks. This when combined with a front will provide some focus for showers to develop.  The chance for showers is there but the rain totals look light at this time.

Northwest flow aloft will continue into next week.  This will mean another high pressure area will move into the area, clearing out whatever showers may be around.

Also, since the jet stream winds are light and the overall humidity values are low, the chances for severe storms in the central U.S. for about the next 7-9 days look pretty low!

Mar 122012

It is *oh* so important to talk about the concept of tornado weather.

Tornado weather is not as obvious as you might think.  If you are relying on just your senses, you can be misled.

The most important statement I can make here is that a tornado watch means tornado weather so watch for tornadoes, no matter what time of day or year it happens to be!

Many of you probably have some less than useful statistics in your head regarding tornado occurrence.  The idea that statistically tornadoes tend to strike in the late afternoon and in the spring months, while not inaccurate, is not very helpful when assessing the risk for a tornado.  One only has to to look to our Leap Day Outbreak to know that tornadoes can and do strike at night and in February!

Moreover, studies (namely the Super Tuesday Outbreak Assessment PDF file) show that people may not take tornado information like a watch area as serious if it occurs during a cool time of year or during what they consider to be a lesser threat time of day or year.

From the assessment:

“Over 50 percent of the people interviewed acknowledged that they associate tornado outbreaks with the springtime or summer months. This caused many of them to minimize the threat of this early February outbreak because of their perception that it was too early in the year and outside the “traditional” tornado season.”

Many of the ingredients which make a weather pattern tornadic simply cannot be sensed such as overall strong jet stream winds, the proper low level winds (not just windy!) and particulars involving unstable air, to name a few.  This is why meteorologist are charged with the task of looking for these features and alerting the public to their presence.  If you think about it, you’ve experienced strong winds, high humidity days, abnormally warm weather, cold air colliding into warm, thunderstorms, etc, lots of times without tornadoes forming, there is obviously more to tornado forecasting!

Now, is there anything you can do to help yourself? Sure!

  • Look at Radar: There are so many sources to see radar screens now.  The interactive radar at Ozarks First is a great place for a quick look.  It’s a situational awareness concept: are there thunderstorms close to you?  How fast are they moving and from what direction?  Knowing that thunderstorms are near even before you see darker skies gives you a leg up!
  • Buy a Weather Radio: As I stated before, these are great little devices that can be programmed to alert you when severe weather threatens your immediate area.
  • Pay Attention to Tornado Warnings!:  Wow, pretty simple.  There are some who don’t act because they believe nothing has ever come of warnings in the past therefore they aren’t worth listening to. Get over it!  While they are not perfect, tornado warnings are the best information we can muster as meteorologists.  The National Weather Service is always trying to improve the process. It’s a matter of personal responsibility!

FYI, if you hear the “freight train” or rumbling sound of a tornado, you’d better already be in a shelter!  The sound of a tornado is caused by the intense wind which ramps up quickly close to the tornado. With weaker tornadoes, no hearing advantage at all.  In the largest storms, perhaps some.  If you hear it, it’s very close!  I wouldn’t rely on hearing a tornado as your only “OK, this is serious” clue.

Finally, a note on warning sirens.  The outdoor tornado warning sirens are extremely helpful but in case you didn’t know, they were never intended to be heard by everyone, especially if you are inside.  If you are relying on outdoor sirens as your only alert to a possible tornado you are in trouble!

Next blog on this topic: Taking Shelter!






Mar 112012

This is severe weather awareness week in Missouri.  It was picked to be in March, right before the severe weather season kicks in although I have more to say about this in my next post!  The primary concern is for tornadoes, severe winds and large hail awareness during this week.  Lightning and flash flooding have their own awareness times although it certainly wouldn’t hurt to review all dangerous weather.

Regardless of when awareness week is (and it varies from state to state), here are some of the things you should be thinking about.

First, the entire state will have a tornado drill on Tuesday, March 13th at 1:30 pm.  This test is to encourage people to think about what they would do in the event of a tornado.  Treat it as a you would a real tornado and think about what you would do to stay safe, keeping in mind that you may be in different places like home, work, school, shopping, etc.  Also keep in mind that all family members must know what to do even if the entire family is not together!

Second, make a commitment to buy a weather radio.  Why? Because it can be programmed to alert you only when the weather threat is in or close to the county you reside in.  By alert, I mean sound a tone that can wake you up!

I will blog about this all week, in the meantime,

Please visit the National Weather Service site for additional information and links to useful information.

Also, a tornado FAQ web site is maintained at the Storm Prediction Center.

Next blog on this topic: What Is Tornado Weather?