Weekend forecast and spring storm thoughts

March 17, 2017: Say goodbye to winter for a while! Spring temperatures are here to stay through at least next week, which bodes well for the weekend forecast. A cold front will slide through Friday night, which means conditions won’t be as warm as Friday, but they will still be comfortable for this time of year.

Radar valid 8 PM Friday (March 17, 2017). A cold front cools things off for the weekend.

Highs on Saturday will be right on average for mid-March, with Sunday looking gorgeous.

Weekend forecast valid March 17, 2017

Sunday night is starting to look interesting. Another cold front approaches from the northwest, triggering showers and possibly a few thunderstorms for Sunday night.

Forecast for Sunday night, valid March 17, 2017

There’s enough energy building up that strong to severe thunderstorms are possible. Large hail would be the main threat if they do brew up. Most of those should stay in Iowa, but a few could bleed over into northern Illinois during the night.

Storm threats for Sunday night

While the risk is pretty low for severe weather Sunday night, park the car and move anything else outside into the garage, just in case! Have a great weekend!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 17, 2017
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Lake Effect Snow In Action

March 14, 2017: Lake effect snow was the driving force behind last night’s snowfall, and all of the snow that fell in Chicago and southeast Wisconsin recently, resulting in some pretty impressive snow totals.Locations around Chicago saw between 5″ and 10″ of snow, while areas along the Lake Michigan coastline in Wisconsin saw between 1 ft to nearly 2ft of snow!  Snow amounts ranged between 1″ to 3″ Sunday night into Monday in Chicago, with a new 5″ to 7″ falling between Monday night and Tuesday during the lake effect portion.

Here’s a refresher on lake effect snow. You have to have cold, dry air flowing over warm, moist air.

This typically occurs over a large lake, when the air right above the lake waters is warmer and more humid than the air above it.

If the lake is big enough, there’s enough time and space to have the warm, moist air naturally rise very quickly into the cold, dry air. The bigger the temperature difference, the quicker the warmer air can rise, cool, and condense into clouds and showers. The humid lake air provides plenty of “fuel” to create snow.

At that point, you have intense snow showers forming, then falling over areas near the coastline, generally following the air flow off of the lake. These intense showers aren’t very wide, so snow amounts can jump quickly over a short area.

In this week’s example, snow amounts jumped 5″ or so only over a 15 mile span. This is especially hazardous for drivers- one minute you have clear to slightly snow roads, then next instance you can’t see because of the intense showers, and the roads become snow-covered and very slippery very quickly. Pileups can occur easily in these rapidly changing conditions.

The brief round of lake effect snow blowing in from Milwaukee Monday night added another 1″ to Rockford’s total ,bringing a lot of our area up to 4″ or more for total snowfall.

This is the most snow the area has received at one time since December.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 14, 2017
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Adding Up

March 13, 2017: The last time we had at least this much snow on the ground was December 26th. Since then, there’s barely been a dusting on the ground, with only March 4th recently breaking that stretch with 1″ reported for snow depth, which lasted only a day.

With this past winter being practically snow-less since December, any amount of snow greater than 1″ is significant. Where does this recent snow event stack up?

The numbers are still coming in, but this latest snowfall ranks 3rd among our notable snow storms of the winter. December had two storms that added up to decent amounts. December 10th-11th produced 6.3″, with December 4th’s snow storm coming in 2nd at 5.3″.

As winter begins to wind down and we get into the spring season, our snow chances start to diminish, but on average, we can see snow pop up any day through early April. The average daily amount, though, starts decreasing in about 10 days, so this may be one of the last bigger events that we see.

Don’t hold your breath yet about snow being over, however. This may not be the last time we see flakes piling up in the Stateline early this year.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 13, 2017
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Winter Weekend and Snow Thoughts

March 10, 2017: With a chill in the air, conditions feel a little more like winter again, and will stay that way throughout the weekend and into early next week. We are on the north side of the jet stream, which is giving us a little dose of colder air from Canada and the Arctic.

This will keep wind chill values in the single digits for at least another night.

Wind chill forecast for Friday night, March 10

It may look a lot like winter again by Monday. A snow storm is likely on the way for early next week.

Futuretrack model for Sunday evening, valid Friday night, March 10

Snow has been in the forecast all week, though as we get closer and closer to Monday, the picture is getting clearer. Lately, weather models have been trending the low responsible for our snow farther to the north, putting us under the heaviest portion of the forecasted snow, for now.

Futuretrack model for Monday, valid Friday night, March 10

If the storm track continues to trend northward, we may see the heaviest portion of snow staying away from us, but there hasn’t been much change in that direction yet.

Since there are a few uncertainties still, stay tuned for a more definite snow forecast over the weekend. What does look certain is a few inches of snow, over a 24-hour period, kicking in Sunday night and possibly lasting to Monday night.

Dust off the shovels!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 10, 2017
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Windy Start to the Week

March 6th, 2017: There may be a little more spring cleaning to do after the start of this week! You may be picking up a few branches when all is said and done later this week.

Why so windy? We have a deep area of low pressure moving through the region through Wednesday. The deeper the low, the stronger the winds are. The “pressure gradient”, or how much the pressure changes over an area, is tight, as in it falls quickly. This boosts the winds, giving us blustery conditions.

On top of that (literally) we have very strong winds at in the middle levels of the atmosphere. These are able to mix down toward the surface, giving us the very strong wind gusts over 40 mph. The combination of these two ingredients provides the blustery, windy days we will be seeing.

Overall, get used to wind gusts near 40 mph, and a few may approach 50 mph by Wednesday.

We should see calmer weather on Thursday once the low departs the region.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 7, 2017
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Winter 2016-2017 recap

March 2nd, 2017: Welcome to Meteorological Spring 2017! For record-keeping purposes, Winter starts on Dec. 1 and ends on Feb. 28/29. And what a winter this past one was!

We saw plenty of snow…then barely any snow. There were some cold days early…then it felt like spring for what felt like half of February.

Overall, we saw 17″ of snow, which is over a foot below average. Taking a closer look, nearly all of that fell in December! February 2017 ended up tied for 2nd least snowiest, and for a while, it was looking like we may tie for first with barely anything falling.

In fact, just today, we exceeded February’s total for snowfall in the first two days of March!

Don’t worry about being too dry, however; we had nearly 6″ of liquid precipitation (both rain and snow, if melted to its rain equivalent), which was over an inch above average.

The amount of warmth felt over the second half of the winter was pretty impressive. This of course led to conditions being too warm for snow much of the time we saw precipitation. February 2017 was the warmest for Rockford! The winter overall was the 8th warmest on record, with records going back to 1905 in this case.

Other records of note:

  • February 22nd tied the warmest winter temperature on record at 70°
  • Rockford saw the longest stretch of 60°+ days in the winter at 6 days in a row
  • That same warm streak came in 2nd for days in a row at 50°+ at 7 days
  • 5 of the top 10 warmest winter days on record came this February

Check back in on the blog soon- we’ll be taking a look ahead to March and what Meteorological Spring may have in store for us.

-Alex

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on March 2, 2017
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The spring-like February continues…

It wouldn’t be ‘February 2017’ if we didn’t end the month with temperatures WAY above average, right?

Today will be calm and quiet. Winds will stay around (or under) 10 mph out of the south and for the most part, we’ll see sunshine. Temperatures will top out in the lower 50s.

We’ll add to the warmth on Tuesday and we’ll ditch the quiet conditions.

An area of low pressure will push out of the Plains and into the Midwest, which will bring us a few showers late tonight and possible a few thunderstorms after midnight. These thunderstorms look non-severe but may give a few heavy downpours. We’ll likely see a few light and very widely-scattered rain showers on the first half of Tuesday.

Things get a bit more active come Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Warm and moist air surges in on Tuesday afternoon (temperatures near 60 and dew points in the 50s) with very strong winds high above us and an incoming cold front. Together, these could pop a few strong or severe thunderstorms in our area. An early, general time-frame says we should watch for those storms between 4PM and 9PM. We will narrow that time-frame as we get closer to tomorrow evening.

A Storm Outlook shows areas near Little Rock, St. Louis, and Springfield have the highest chance for severe storms. Our risk is considered low, though we’ll keep a closer eye on the areas between I-80 and north of there near I-88.

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This post was written by Morgan Kolkmeyer on February 27, 2017
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Hot to Cold

Feb. 24, 2017: What a week we’ve had!

Last Friday kicked off a very warm stretch of weather, but that run ended Wednesday. We’ve been dropping about 15 degrees each day, with another potential 10 degree drop coming tomorrow as winter comes roaring back in.

Temperatures were very warm most of the week, but we’ve been in a free-fall over the last 2 days, losing 15° a day.

This afternoon we were sandwiched between two seasons: spring weather with severe thunderstorms was to our east over Indiana, with severe winter weather in the form of heavy snow and blizzards were over Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin.

Severe storms were to our east during the afternoon of Feb. 24. Blizzard warnings were to our west the night before and through Friday.

Winter finally catches up with us tonight in the form of light snow.

While the accumulations should be light, dust off your winter driving skills and be ready for slushy roads at times tonight and tomorrow morning.

The snow should leave early tomorrow, but in its place comes strong winds. With highs only around 30 degrees, that means wind chill values in the teens.

We haven’t had to deal with those in what seems live forever, so dust off your winter jacket too.

Stay warm this weekend!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 24, 2017
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Why so warm?

Feb. 21, 2017: The record-setting warmth keeps rolling on this week, with likely one more day of record breaking conditions before we resume our usual cold February weather.

So, what gives? Why has the weather been so extraordinarily warm lately?

There are a few reasons, which add together to provide a record breaking week:

  1. No snow, or snow cover
  2. A large, broad ridge to block out cold air
  3. Very warm air to our south
  4. A general warmer than average weather pattern

To start off, snow reflects sunlight. This means the sun’s energy can’t go into warming the ground, which warms the air. This leads to colder air, so when we don’t have snow like right now, the air is generally warmer.

Next, there is a big, blocking ridge set up over us. The ridge is set up to our north, bottling up any cold air over Canada that usually sits over us.  The “blocking” part of the ridge blocks or weakens any weather systems that try to push in over us and sweep in cold air. Instead, they get directed south, which is why California has been so rainy and stormy lately.

This ridge has allowed the ground to bake over the west, creating an impressive area of very warm air. Southerly winds blow that air in to us, giving us a dose of very warm conditions.

Lastly, according to the National Weather Service, 90% of the days since January 2014 have been warmer than average. When we start out warmer than usual, it’s easier to jump to record-breaking weather.

All of this has combined to create an exceptional warm streak, one that hasn’t been seen in nearly 90 years. This pattern does finally break down by the end of the week, providing what will feel like very cold weather, but actually just gets us back to average.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 21, 2017
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(Winter) Hot Streak!

Feb. 20, 2017: Is it Spring yet? Certainly feels like it! We set a few records this afternoon, and look to add a few more later this week.

Monday marked 4 days in a row in the upper 60’s; each day set a new record for warmest temperature on that calendar date.

Temperatures were also very close to tying the warmest February temperature on record. The warmest every for February was set at 70° back on Feb. 25, 2000.

We also broke a nearly 90-year-old record for longest stretch in the 60’s in a row in the winter! We haven’t had a warm stretch like this on record. We could break another record (stretch of 50° or warmer in a row) later this week with the warmth sticking around.

Head’s up: we do have “reality” setting back in by this weekend! The 30’s return as cold air swoops in, getting us back to average after a long stretch of very warm weather.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on February 20, 2017
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