Blizzard West of MSP. “Sleet Sandwich” for Metro

Predicting a snowstorm is a maddening game of three-dimensional chess. Snow requires sub-freezing temperatures in the lowest 1-2 miles of the atmosphere. Even a thin layer of milder air can spark a changeover to rain or sleet (ice pellets), keeping overall snow totals down.

It looks like a surge of slightly milder air 5,000 to 8,000 feet above the ground will trigger an icy mix Thursday, from the Twin Cities to the Iowa border.

Think of it as a sleet sandwich, starting as wet snow and ending as snow, with plenty of sleet sandwiched in between.

Blizzard Warnings are posted west of MSP, and some 12-20 inch snowfall totals are likely over far western Minnesota, where a changeover to ice probably won’t happen. Throw in 40-50 mph wind gusts and you have all the ingredients for treacherous travel.

The beauty (wrong word) of an April snowfall? The sun is too high in the sky for it to stick around for long. Skies clear Saturday with highs in the 50s next week.

Whatever snow winds up in your yard (3-8 inches metro with the most in the far norther/western suburbs?) should be gone by Tuesday.

Metro Snowfall Totals Trending Lower. NAM model guidance from NOAA (00z run) shows 4-8″ across the immediate metro, with well over a foot for much of northern, central and western Minnesota by Friday. With a changeover to sleet and freezing rain south and east of the Twin Cities now fairly likely, the solution above is more realistic. Map:

Icy Wild Card. Up to an inch of glaze ice close to the Minnesota-Iowa border? That may be a little extreme, but there’s little question southern Minnesota will see significant icing from freezing rain and sleet, especially late Wednesday night into Thursday.

Peak Thursday Winds. I wouldn’t be surprised to see reports of 50 mph+ gusts near the Buffalo Ridge of west central Minnesota Thursday. Map credit: Praedictix and AerisWeather.

European Model More Aggressive with Snow Totals. ECMWF doesn’t bring as much warm air aloft north, implying more snow and heavier amounts – the 12z European model stirll printed out 8-12″ for much of the Twin Cities metro area. Map: WeatherBell.

Historic April Snowstorms. Here’s an excerpt from a timely post at The Minnesota DNR: “…One of the worst late season blizzards in Upper Midwest history brought a record 15 inches of snow to the St. Paul area on 20-21 April 1893. Headlines in the 20 April edition of the St. Paul Dispatch told winter weary St. Paul residents that “Old Boreas Favors Us: Just One More Blizzard to Add to His Generous Gifts of Winter: Snow Covers Entire Northwest To A Depth Varying From Six Inches To Two Feet.” On 21 April, the second day of the historic blizzard, another set of headlines proclaimed “Swirling Snow: Serious Floods Are Feared: Railroad Traffic On Some Lines Suspended”. The blizzard which struck much of Minnesota, Iowa and sections of northern Missouri was part of an intense storm system which formed “below Kansas” and which brought severe weather, including tornadoes, to large portions of the central United States from 19-22 April 1893. In Minnesota, Bird Island reported a “three day blizzard” with 15 inches of snow; St. Cloud reported 30 inches of snow (probably referring to drift depths, not to average snow depth); Faribault reported a “blinding wind and snow storm”; Northfield reported “two feet of snow on the level”; Park Rapids reported 20 inches of snow; and several carloads of cattle were reported to have perished when a train become stalled near Granite Falls…”

Snow’s Last Hurrah? I may have said something similar a few weeks ago, so never mind. Suffice to say that temperatures rebound into the 50s next week. Just about all the snow that falls in the metro will be gone by Monday – it may take a few days longer over far western Minnesota. ECMWF: WeatherBell.

Praedictix Briefing: Issued Tuesday, April 9th, 2019:

  • A strong April storm will develop in the central United States over the next day or so, bringing the potential of heavy snow and high winds to the Plains and Upper Midwest.
  • This system will bring a swath of heavy snow across parts of the Upper Midwest, with areas from north-central Nebraska across parts of South Dakota into western Minnesota potentially picking up over 18” of snow by the end of the week. Uncertainty in how much snow will fall exists for areas around Sioux Falls and the Twin Cities as snow could change over to rain, freezing rain, and sleet at times during the storm.
  • As the storm strengthens in the mid-section of the nation, very strong winds are expected to develop, at times gusting over 40 mph in areas that see snow (and over 60 mph from Texas to southern Kansas). In areas that see snow, these strong winds will cause blowing and drifting snow as well as low visibilities and blizzard/whiteout conditions.
  • Impacts from this system – especially where the heaviest snow falls – will include:
    • Difficult to impossible travel conditions due to the heavy snow (potentially falling at 1-2” per hour rates at the height of the storm) and blowing/drifting snow.
    • Power outages due to the wet, heavy snow as well as high winds bringing down power lines and tree branches.
  • Blizzard Warnings are now in place this morning from Nebraska to Minnesota ahead of this storm, with additional Winter Storm Watches and Warnings from Utah to the upper peninsula of Michigan.
  • Across parts of the southern Plains, High Wind Watches and Warnings are in place due to the potential of 60+ mph winds Wednesday into Thursday. There will also be the potential of quickly spreading wildfires across this region as well due to the gusty winds and available fuels.

April Blizzard In The Upper Midwest This Week. A strong April storm will develop across the mid-section of the nation during the middle of the week, bringing impactful winter weather to parts of the central and northern Plains as well as the Upper Midwest. As this system forms and pushes east and northeast through the end of the week, a band of very heavy snow is expected to form north and northwest of the low from Wyoming into the western Great Lakes. At times, snow within this band is expected to fall at a rate of 1-2” per hour, especially Wednesday Night into Thursday across the upper Midwest. Strong winds are also expected to form across the central United States, which will help to cause whiteout and blizzard conditions. We will also be watching a zone where precipitation could be in the form of rain, freezing rain, snow, and sleet at different times during the storm. That right now is expected to set up somewhere near the Sioux Falls and Twin Cities areas, meaning overall confidence in snow totals in those areas are low.

Blizzard Warnings In Place. With the likelihood of winter storm and blizzard conditions in association with this system, numerous Blizzard Warnings and Winter Storm Watches/Warnings have been issued from Utah to the upper peninsula of Michigan. Areas under winter weather alerts this morning include:

  • Denver, CO: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning for 4-6” of snow and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • Cheyenne, WY: Winter Storm Warning from Noon Wednesday to Noon Thursday for 5-8” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Casper, WY: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday morning through Wednesday evening for 6-9” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Goodland, KS: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon for 2-9” of snow, a light glaze of ice, and wind gusts to 65 mph.
  • North Platte, NE: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through late Thursday night for the potential of blizzard conditions with 4-12” of snow, ice up to two-tenths of an inch, and wind gusts up to 50 mph.
  • Valentine, NE: Blizzard Warning from 1 PM Wednesday to 5 AM Friday for blizzard conditions with 10-22” of snow, a light glaze of ice, and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • Rapid City, SD: Winter Storm Warning from 6 AM Wednesday to Noon Thursday for 8-15” of snow and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Pierre, SD: Blizzard Warning from 1 PM Wednesday to 4 AM Friday for blizzard conditions with 10-20”+ of snow and wind gusts to 55 mph.
  • Aberdeen, SD: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday afternoon through late Thursday night for the potential of blizzard conditions with 3-10” of snow and wind gusts to 45 mph.
  • Sioux Falls, SD: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through Friday morning for the potential of blizzard conditions with 6”+ of snow, ice up to a quarter inch, and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • St. Cloud, MN: Blizzard Warning from 7 PM Wednesday to 7 AM Friday for blizzard conditions with 12-20” of snow and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through Friday morning for 6-12” of snow, ice up to a tenth of an inch, and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • Duluth, MN: Winter Storm Watch from late Wednesday night through Friday morning for 9-15” of snow and wind gusts to 45 mph.
  • Eau Claire, WI: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through Friday morning for 3-6” of snow, ice up to a quarter inch, and wind gusts to 50 mph.
  • Wausau, WI: Winter Storm Watch from Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon for 4-6” of snow, up to one-tenth of an inch of ice, and wind gusts to 40 mph.
  • Marquette, MI: Winter Storm Watch from late Wednesday night through late Thursday night for 5-10” of snow, ice up to one-tenth of an inch, and wind gusts to 35 mph.

Heavy Snow Potential. A band of wet, heavy snow is expected to fall from parts of Wyoming into the western Great Lakes through the end of the week, with the heaviest amounts falling from north-central Nebraska across parts of South Dakota into western Minnesota. In that defined area is where snowfall tallies of at least 18″ will be possible in some locations. There will be a sharp cut-off line on the north and south side of the system, with totals quickly decreasing from plowable to potentially little more than a nuisance. On the south side this cutoff will be prominent as snow will chance to rain, freezing rain, or sleet at times throughout the event. This sharp cutoff line is expected to be close to areas like Sioux Falls and the Twin Cities at the moment, so confidence in overall snow totals in these areas are low. Note: snow will continue into Friday morning across portions of the region.

Ice Potential. Along that rain/snow line we will watch the potential for accumulating ice at times Wednesday through Thursday. Areas where ice accumulation is expected to be the heaviest will be across parts of central Nebraska and from southwestern Minnesota/northwestern Iowa into Wisconsin where ice totals of 0.15-0.25” will be possible.

Strong Winds Leading To Blizzard Conditions. As the system strengthens across the central United States, winds will increase across the region, with gusts of 40-50+ mph possible. These strong winds would blow the snow around, leading to significantly reduced visibilities (and blizzard conditions in some areas) with very difficult to impossible travel conditions expected. These strong winds will also bring the potential of power outages.

Strong Winds In The Southern Plains. This strong storm will also produce gusty winds across parts of the Southern Plains Wednesday into Thursday. Wind gusts over 60 mph will be possible. These strong winds will have the potential to cause driving issues, blowing dust, flying debris, and power outages. There will also be a high fire danger risk due to the strong winds and fuels that will be receptive to fire growth.

High Wind Watches & Warnings. Due to the expected high winds from Kansas to Texas and New Mexico Wednesday into Thursday, High Wind Watches and Warnings have been issued.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix.

The Deadly Cost of Failing Infrastructure in Historic Midwest Floods. A post at TheHill focused on the limits of flooding infrastructure in a warmer, wetter world: “…But that this level of flooding happened in the first place has once again revealed an enduring fragility of America’s inferastructure and our inability to prepare for or potentially avoid large-scale disasters. A confluence of factors contributed to the massive flooding, including greatly increased precipitation, questionable water management decisions and massive run-offs from melting snow. But the fact remains that ineffective levee systems consisting mainly of makeshift mud and soil barriers and at least one frangible dam in Nebraska left the region entirely vulnerable to the catastrophic consequences of this disaster. The failure of the Spencer dam in Northeast Nebraska is telling. Built in 1927, there have been many warning signs that the dam would not hold up under certain conditions…”

Understanding Tornadoes: 5 Questions Answered as Tornado Season Arrives. Capital Weather Gang has an informative post; here’s an excerpt: “…Is climate change making tornadoes bigger or more frequent? It’s hard to say. Reliable U.S. records of tornadoes go back only to roughly 1950, and records outside of the United States are even less complete. Thanks to storm chasing and the spread of camera phones, more tornadoes are counted today compared with yesteryear, but that does not necessarily mean that more are occurring. And there’s a lot of natural variability from year to year. Over the past decade, the annual U.S. tornado count has ranged from 886 to 1,690 storms per year. Estimates of wind speeds based on post-storm damage surveys can be off by 50 percent or more. And many tornadoes in remote areas leave no clues as to how strong their winds were...”

Radar Data Analysis Pinpoints Precipitation Risk for Vehicle Fatalities. Claims Journal highlights new research that confirms suspicions: “…A paper soon to be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society concludes that the risk of a fatal vehicle accident increases by 34 percent during a precipitation event. That falls within the range of a previous study based on observations that put the increased risk from 10% to 76%. The North Carolina State University analysis goes further than previous studies in that it also projects the increased risk during heavy precipitation events. The radar data shows that driving in heavy rain or snow increases the chance of dying in a crash by 246 percent. That compares to 127 percent for light precipitation. The analysis also found that the greatest risk of precipitation causing a fatal motor vehicle accident occurs during the morning rush hour. Oddly, there is not a similar spike in relative risk during the evening rush hour…”

Exercise Makes You Happier Than Money, New Research Suggests. I read it on the Interwebs….so it must be true. Business Insider has details: “…The scientists found that while those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for 35 days a year, nonactive participants felt bad for 18 days more, on average. In addition, the researchers found that physically active people feel just as good as those who don’t do sports but who earn about $25,000 more a year. Essentially, you’d have to earn a lot more to get you the same happiness-boosting effect that sport has…”

Why and How Capitalism Needs To Be Reformed. Ray Dalio makes a convincing case in Economic Principals that capitalism itself is in need of disruption; here’s an excerpt: “…There has been little or no real income growth for most people for decades. As shown in the chart below on the left, prime-age workers in the bottom 60% have had no real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) income growth since 1980. That was at a time when incomes for the top 10% have doubled and those of the top 1% have tripled.i As shown in the chart to the right, the percentage of children who grow up to earn more than their parents has fallen from 90% in 1970 to 50% today. That’s for the population as a whole. For most of those in the lower 60%, the prospects are worse...”

AI Can Predict When Someone Will Die With Unsettling Accuracy. Would you even want to know? NBC News has the post; here’s a clip: “…Scientists recently trained an AI system to evaluate a decade of general health data submitted by more than half a million people in the United Kingdom. Then, they tasked the AI with predicting if individuals were at risk of dying prematurely — in other words, sooner than the average life expectancy — from chronic disease, they reported in a new study. The predictions of early death that were made by AI algorithms were “significantly more accurate” than predictions delivered by a model that did not use machine learning, lead study author Dr. Stephen Weng, an assistant professor of epidemiology and data science at the University of Nottingham (UN) in the U.K., said in a statement…”

Image credit: Cray.

“Dumb Phones” Are Sounding Better By The Day. Business Insider has the curious details: “The Brooklyn-based startup Light has set an impossible goal of getting people to put down their smartphones. Light launched in 2014 and a year later debuted its first product, the Light Phone. It could only make calls and tell the time, and the company described it as a “quite a smart ‘dumb’ phone.” Light intended for it to be something of a companion to your smartphone and a way to get people to leave their phones at home and go enjoy life. Now, Light is back with its second product, the Light Phone 2, an upgraded version of its phone that might just replace your smartphone for good. The second-generation device couldn’t be coming at a better time. There’s increased scrutiny on how too much screen time affects our brains, and a movement among even the most tech-savvy parents to limit their kids’ access to smartphones…”

Image credit: Light.

57 F. Twin Cities maximum temperature on Tuesday.

55 F. average high on April 9.

38 F. high on April 9, 2018.

April 10, 1977: A record high of 86 is set at Redwood Falls.

WEDNESDAY: PM mix changes to snow. Couple inches Wednesday night. Winds: E 15-25. High: 39

THURSDAY: Blizzard likely west of MSP. Windy with metro snow and sleet. Winds: NE 20-40. High: 35

FRIDAY: Snow tapers. 3-8″ metro. More north/west of MSP. Winds: N 15-25. Wake-up: 32. High: near 40

SATURDAY: Partly sunny, rapid snow melt. Winds: W 7-12. Wake-up: 30. High: 45

SUNDAY: Patchy clouds, probably dry. Winds: E 7-12. Wake-up: 30. High: 46

MONDAY: Intervals of sun, trending milder. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 34. High: 53

TUESDAY: Dim sun through high clouds, milder. Winds: SE 8-13. Wake-up: 39. High: 58

Climate Stories….

Global Warming is Pushing Arctic Toward “Unprecedented State” Research Shows. A post at InsideClimate News had me doing a triple-take: “Global warming is transforming the Arctic, and the changes have rippled so widely that the entire biophysical system is shifting toward an “unprecedented state,” an international team of researchers concludes in a new analysis of nearly 50 years of temperature readings and changes across the ecosystems. Arctic forests are turning into bogs as permafrost melts beneath their roots. The icy surface that reflects the sun’s radiation back into space is darkening and sea ice cover is declining. Warmth and moisture trapped by greenhouse gases are pumping up the water cycle, swelling rivers that carry more sediment and nutrients to the sea, which can change ocean chemistry and affect the coastal marine food chain. And those are just a few of the changes.  The researchers describe how warming in the Arctic, which is heating up 2.4 times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average, is triggering a cascade of changes in everything from when plants flower to where fish and other animal populations can be found…”

Guardian Publishing CO2 Levels in Weather Forecasts. The Guardian explains why they’re taking this step: “…Today, the CO2 level is the highest it has been for several million years. Back then, temperatures were 3-4C hotter, sea level was 15-20 metres higher and trees grew at the south pole. Worse, billions of tonnes of carbon pollution continues to pour into the air every year and at a rate 10 times faster than for 66m years. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, CO2 was at 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. By 1958, when the first measurements were made at Mauna Loa in Hawaii, it had reached 315ppm. It raced past 350ppm in 1986 and 400ppm in 2013. The Guardian will now publish the Mauna Loa carbon count, the global benchmark, on the weather page of the paper every day…”

Image credit: ERSL.

390 Billion Tons of Glaciers Are Melting Every Year Due to Climate Change: Study. Daily Beast has details: “Earth’s glaciers are melting at a starling rate of 390 billion tons of snow and ice per year because of climate change, according to a new study. Nature International Journal of Science published its findings Monday, which includes a tally of the biggest losses worldwide—the largest being the Alaskan glaciers followed by South American ice fields and the Arctic glaciers. “Over 30 years, suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Zemp of the University of Zurich, who projects that glaciers in some mountain ranges will completely melt by the end of the century...”

Boulder Glacier Montana photos: left (1932) right (2005) courtesy of USGS.

Bye, Glaciers: Climate Nexus has headlines and links: “Earth’s glaciers lost nine trillion metric tons of ice between 1961 and 2016 and may disappear completely in some areas by 2100 if current warming continues, according to new research. A study published Monday in the journal Nature finds that glacial melt has contributed to an inch of sea level rise over the past fifty years. “Under current loss rates we are going to lose glaciers–basically all glaciers—in several mountain ranges,” lead author Michael Zemp told reporters.” (AP, CNN, USA Today, Mashable, National Geographic).

Several Agencies Refusing to Take Part in Trump’s Committee to Reassess Climate Change Report. TheHill reports; here’s a clip: “…The Department of Defense, the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are among the agencies that have not yet offered experts to the White House for the initiative, according to the Post. An intelligence official told the newspaper that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence recommended that the intelligence community be excluded from the committee “given [its] role is not to conduct scientific climate change studies but to assess and analyze national security implications of climate change.” Defense Department spokesman Johnny Michael referred questions from the Post about the department’s participation in the initiative to the White House…”

File image: Climate Reality.

Midwestern Mayors Speak Out as Climate Impacts Hit: Climate Nexus has an overview of a story at Rolling Stone that attempts to connect the dots: “Midwestern towns hard-hit by last month’s devastating floods are buckling their seatbelts for more damage as their mayors sound the alarm on climate change and crumbling infrastructure, Rolling Stone reports. A group from the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative, a collection of 88 mayors from 10 states along the Mississippi, traveled to DC last month to ask lawmakers for nearly $8 billion in infrastructure funding and “didn’t hold back” on the devastating impacts of climate change during those meetings. “Before I came into office 15 years ago, I was told not to worry about flooding because there had been a 100-year flood and a 500-year flood. I didn’t have to worry, they said, it wasn’t going to happen again,” Clarksville, Missouri mayor Jo Anne Smiley told Rolling Stone. “Since that time we’ve had something nearly every year and sometimes twice in one year.”

Dumping Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet. Here’s an excerpt of an Op-Ed that caught my eye at Bloomberg Opinion: “It has become fashionable on social media and in certain publications to argue that capitalism is killing the planet. Even renowned investor Jeremy Grantham, hardly a radical, made that assertion last year. The basic idea is that the profit motive drives the private sector to spew carbon into the air with reckless abandon. Though many economists and some climate activists believe that the problem is best addressed by modifying market incentives with a carbon tax, many activists believe that the problem can’t be addressed without rebuilding the economy along centrally planned lines. The climate threat is certainly dire, and carbon taxes are unlikely to be enough to solve the problem. But eco-socialism is probably not going to be an effective method of addressing that threat. Dismantling an entire economic system is never easy, and probably would touch off armed conflict and major political upheaval...”

Image credit: NASA.