Saturday, March 5, 2011

Caution is the Word

Local weather prognosticators sounded particularly cautious today in assessing next week's snow chances after their favorite, trusted weather models threw them a major curve in the last 24-48 hours. Most forecasters fell silent when it came to making specific snowfall accumulation forecasts. An exchange between WCCO's Mike Fairbourne and weekend anchor Dennis Douda on the Six seemed to capture the climate (no pun intended) pretty accurately. Douda pushed Fairbourne to toss out possible snow amounts, asking, "So what do the models say?" Fairbourne held firm like a veteran CIA agent. "I'm not tipping my hand," said the veteran weathercaster. "It's still three days away." (By 10 p.m., Fairbourne provided a bit more information; see below.)

As of Saturday night, here's where the newly cautious (prudent?) forecasters stood with respect to a potential midweek storm:

WCCO: "Looks like a shovelable, plowable event."
KSTP: Expects bull's eye of storm to miss Minneapolis to the southeast.
FOX: Thinking closer to the low end of a 3-6" range.
KARE: "We're not going to miss it, but it won't be 10+ inches."
Strib: Potential for 2-5" metro
MPR: No update 
NWS: Snow likely Tuesday night and Wednesday

The progressive history of the forecasts for this storm can be found here.

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  1. Bill,does mpr only staff one forecaster(Paul H),they have pulled a disappearing act again,its been 53 hours since their last post and even more then that if you want a weather forecast cuz that post was just an analysis of the NWS flood report.Track of storm is holding steady,gfs has come back some towards euro,but the euro solution brings the heaviest snows to SE mn,monday mornings model runs will seal the faith of this storm,it will snow and accumalate in metro question is how much(as you know I need 2.5 at the least),but the action doesnt stop at wednesday many snow 'events' look possible after then!

  2. My understanding is that MPR has a second person who is supposed to fill in either on weekends or when Paul H. is away. I've been told they only provide updates on weekends when there is a brewing storm, which would sort of seem to be the case this time.

  3. update on the Model solutions

    GFS has shifted but just enough to call it a wobble, but now has a fairly strong negative tilt to it.

    Gem (Canadian) has made a huge 150 mile jump to the NW and brings the low just south of Lacrosse and than NE to Green Bay, almost a perfect track to impact the metro. It also has a good negative tilt to it (which means stronger,)as well as a very well defined 500mb low.

    The ECMWF (European) now is south and east of it's of its previous run and does not strengthen it until it approaches lake MI, causing almost a complete miss for the entire state of MN.

    The NAM is only a 84hr model and has not completely pick it up yet.

    We may not know what to expect till 24 hours out, and at that time confidence may be only moderate.

  4. let me rephrase something about the ECMWF, it would bring some light accumulations to eastern and se MN

  5. randyinchamplin
    I saw that on the gem,why is it being discredited,the nws mentions it as well but actually says their ignoring it.why?whats the chances that is the correct model,given the fact that the euro and gfs has shifted from west of us and then further east of us,like i said i believe monday mornings model runs should seal the faith.

  6. there goes mr.douglas again,hey i'm a snowlover and would like to believe what he is blogging,but hes the first to say to never throw out amounts that far out,during his midnight blog he goes and documents the next 5 snow events(including today)if you add everyone together by March 20th according to douglas we will end up with 16-20"+,what do you all think about that?

  7. This storm appears to be pretty much cut and dry. It should evolve as a classic late Winter/early Spring storm where abundant moisture is tapped from the Gulf and there is just enough cold air NW of the 850mb low track to produce heavy wet snow.

    Axis of heavy snow should lie 100 to 150 NW of surface low track. The model consensus has this low tracking from near OKC to near MKE/ORD. That would place the heavy snow axis roughly from OMA to Ames, IA to LSE.

    Good mid to upper level support should create the signature comma-head over the upper midwest by Wed. AM. Storm will quickly depart by Wed. evening.

    There should be a 12 hour window (06z Wed. - 18z Wed.) where southeast MN will receive 1/2" to 1"+ per hour snow. This should yield Warning criteria snow totals. My best guess at this point is that a solid 6" to 10" snowfall can be expected over the southeast 1/4 of MN. MSP metro will lie just northwest of this swath yet I still expect the metro to receive a good 3" to 7" snowfall with heaviest amounts SE suburbs.

    I would expect the NWS to hoist Watches by this evening from MSP south and east.

  8. Anyone who can answear it-

    A Question of curiosity-

    What is a Heavy snow warning, and when is it issued?

  9. Big Daddy,
    Qgree on the PD blog. It's one thing to suggest the possibility of significant snows on such and such a date, but he presents it like it's a simple shopping list -- i.e., pick up milk on the 16th, two cartons of eggs on the 14th, etc.

  10. Anonymous
    heavy snow warning is issued for 6+ inches in 12hrs or 8+ inches in 24hrs,but I hardly see it issued,usually only in the midwest.

    I question your cut and dry comment,its the same thing you said about Thursday's event when you said 3-6" and I also remember you saying why isnt this storm receiving more love,my back is still hurting from that .01 I had to clean off my driveway,your prediction very well may come true,but it is too early still for numbers,theres been too much variations over the past week and more can change in the next 48hrs,from nothing to over a foot for the metro is still possible,if the last runs of Gem model was the only one used we would have a blizzard,euro would be advisory level snows and gfs would be low end warning levels,time we tell.

  11. Before the "Big One" hits lets not forget today -- water vapor imagery clearly showing the upper level disturbances (a.k.a. vort maxes) moving toward the Minnesota area. At the surface these tend to create inverted troughs. Result: light snow we are seeing on radars in MN and a few sfc reports. Then another shot of very light snow Mon night as another disturbance moves across.

    Then Tue night/Wed its the much now over-advertised snow storm to impact the area -- those in Rochester, La Crosse, Macon City, etc., enjoy the best the storm has to offer. Mankato to Twin Cities -- can't complain as they look to escape the worst of it. That is at least a little bit of good news in the flood outlook situ -- the area doesn't need anymore snow!

  12. You usually don't see heavy snow warnings because of rarely is the only "bad" weather heavy snow. You usually have winds, low vis, etc., to go with it, which is why you almost always get the Winter Storm Warning. There is always a Blizzard Warning to fall back on, with a blizzard defined by winds and visibility (not snow) - but that makes people sit-up a bit more.

    Overall all the different watches/warnings are confusing and outdated. The whole system needs to be updated, badly.

  13. Bill, with all the extra weather forecasts that are showing up on your blog, I think you should start including grades for the "regular forecasters" that keep throwing out their own predictions here. Let's see how they stack up against the broadcasters!! :)

  14. Anonymous,
    For now at least, I'm inclined to maintain grades only for the so-called established weather outlets. The original intent of the blog, which can change over time, is to give the "average" consumer/weather watcher a "Consumer Reports" type of guide to evaluate the forecasters that are most widely accessible. Also, I think that regular visitors to the blog will be able to make their own assessments regarding the other forecasters that make their predictions here. Have to draw the line somewhere as it takes time to grade and evaluate!

  15. I really enjoy this blog. I spent ten years in the nevada desert and missed the seasons and storms. Since I moved back to MN in 08 I've become addicted to (safe) stormchasing and constant weather watching.

    I learn quite a bit by reading most of the posts and comments and trying to decipher the terminology as best as I can. I'm not a meteorologist by any means, just a guy who is fascinated by storms and the weather in general.


  16. JMigz,
    Pleased that you found us!

  17. anyone in the area,radar returns look like some heavy snow!

  18. does anyone find it interesting that the latest from the NWS uses the wording 'heavy snow' for their forecast for wednesday in the metro?

  19. 'big daddy': Thanks for reminding me about that dismal prediction last week. That is just what a weather forecaster looks forward to, a back seat driver to tell them what they did wrong at the previous intersection after the fact. I will make sure to listen for your comments after we go thru the next intersection; that should happen around Thursday when the storm has passed.

    All of us idiot weather forecasters would be battered, bruised and left for dead if we had to take a punch for every time we've been wrong over our lifetime. Remember, most of us live and die by model data and we know it. If we always waited for the last second to finally throw our necks out on a line, we would be out of a job and this profession would be boring as hell.

  20. novakweather,I have nothing wrong with your prediction or putting your "neck out on a line",its your comment of 'cut and dry'(weather is by far cut and dry,an storm and its snowfall can change even after the precip starts)theres nothing wrong to wait till 48hrs before said snowfall,like our NWS they have yet to hoist any watches/warnings/or advisories,cuz the models have variations,you even said they would and they havent because its not cut and dry yet,and i will give you my prediction in the a.m. so you could track.

  21. I have been up in Big Lake today, they had their business expo up there sponsored by the local area chamber of commerce, the key note speaker was Reed Timmer of the Discovery Channel production "Storm Chaser's" It was a fund raiser for Wadena, I'm glad I went.

    Now for my forecast...

    During the last 2-3 weeks there has been two or three storm system's that were forecast to just barely brush the far se corner of MN. When those system's came on shore and the models got
    a hold them and were able to see sounding forecast's over land they shifted them to the SE. As Paul Douglas has said many times in his blog, until mother nature proves you wrong you may want to follow persistence, ie what has happened in the weather pattern recently.


    northern metro 0-2", central metro including the airport 1-3" south metro 2-4, confidence level 5 out of 10 since I think there is a 50/50 chance that this system will drop se, there is a chance that the metro could see very little snow fall

  22. bill: love the site
    novak; looks like you are using the garcia method for snowfall (or your own variation)...great for classic winter storms, brutal for spring storms because it focuses on the mixing ratio/track of the low and not so much on temp profile unless you actually do the work to factor it in...
    randyinchamplin; looks like you have studied a little weather, just enuf to be dangerous; and then you read other peoples blogs/forecasts, aggregate them into your own thoughts and call it your forecast...gimme a break

  23. As is very common during a potential event like this we all need to be sure to zoom out and look at the big picture of the storm. What does this mean? With big late winter/early spring systems you have to keep watch of both sides of the synoptic storm system at hand. In this upcoming event there is a definite threat of severe convective weather across the Mid and Deep South. Many times, if convection really gets going and evolves to a significant event it can 'steal away' some of the so-called thunder of the northern snowy side despite all indications of a big event. Just wanted to point this out to those focused on the north-side only. When you get burned by this enough times over the years you tend to not forget and remind yourself when forecasting. ;-)

  24. Anonynous It's randyinchamplin

    before you crank on me, I suggest you e-mail the MN Forecaster, I think the reason that he put me up against the pro's is that I can explain my reasoning, as I always have. I no longer relay on my local media mets to provide me with accurate info, I look at 500bm lows, how strong is the 500mb positive vorticity, how strong is the 700mb Vertical Volicty, and what has the pattern shown in the last few weeks

    Shame on you

  25. DDwx: Your last post was fantastic.

    I couldn't agree more that convection is a wild card in the evolution of this storm. It could easily burn all of us who are forecasting significant snows for southern MN. However, it is difficult to determine if this will happen ahead of time. Of course, it becomes quite clear as the severe weather starts to evolve. I have to admit that I am concerned that this could happen in this case.

    Anonymous: Another good point in reference to temp profile during a Spring storm. However, I'm fairly confident that enough cold air is in place to make this more of a "Winter-like" storm. At least on the northwest side of the track.

    Long story short, this storm has a long way to go and anything could happen between now and Wednesday. Good stuff everyone!

  26. "randyinchamplin; looks like you have studied a little weather, just enuf to be dangerous; and then you read other peoples blogs/forecasts, aggregate them into your own thoughts and call it your forecast...gimme a break".....

    I Agree....from another anonymous person and follower ...I sure the "H" hope he doesn't continue during severe WX, could be dangerous. I suggest anyone always defer to the National WX Service, specifically during severe WX season, it's their mission.

  27. Fox's Ian Leonard posted a response under the "Updated Cumulative Grades: Will Anyone Break From teh Pack?" entry. However, assuming not many people would see that, I'm taking the liberty of reposting here:

    Ian Leonard said...

    I know that I am not cute, lord knows I am no where near cute or remotely handsome....but hype the storm, sorry no. I was the only one in the media who did not hype this so called storm and Bill here at the minnesota forecaster has the stats to prove it. I am fine with folks not liking me for one reason or another, that is all a part of our business but don't attach anything false to your reasoning. If I change my hair to look cuter would it help?

    yours in weather, not cuteness

    Ian Leonard

  28. anyone in the area,radar returns look like some heavy snow!