Thanksgiving travel weather

Monday, November 24, 2014: Naturally, most of the focus has been on today’s snowy and windy weather and its impacts on driving conditions. Many of you may be anxiously waiting for the time when you have to catch that flight or hit the road to your Thanksgiving meal. Here’s a holiday-focused forecast for anyone hitting the road early or looking ahead to Thursday.

Tuesday will be dry and cold, so for those of you early birds zooming out of the Stateline already, good news!  Keep an eye on the roads for any lingering icy spots from Monday, and safe travels!

Wednesday will be interesting.  A clipper system will be moving into the Stateline, right on one of the busiest travel days across the country.

Futuretrack's outlook for Wed., Nov. 26

Futuretrack’s outlook for Wed., Nov. 26, 7 AM

A clipper system is a quick hitting storm, so its impacts vary.  Its full name is an Alberta clipper- Alberta from the province in Canada where these storms usually get their start, and clipper in tribute to the fast-moving sailing ships that used to zip along the oceans and seas. As you may have guessed, this is a fast-moving storm, so it doesn’t stick around long enough to drop a ton of snow.  In this case, there is the possibility of light snow for Wednesday, but accumulations will be very light and shouldn’t slow you down much.  There is the possibility that this storm stays to our south, so most of the Stateline and into Chicagoland will be dry.

Futuretrack's outlook for Wed., Nov 26, 7 PM

Futuretrack’s outlook for Wed., Nov 26, 7 PM

The bigger impact in this case is that these storms usually bring in some very chilly air in their wake, and that’s the case this time around too. Thanksgiving Day will be a cold one for a lot of the Midwest.

Holiday forecast for Rockford and the Stateline

Holiday forecast for Rockford and the Stateline

Friday will also feature a slight chance for snow, but like Wednesday, the impacts will be light if we do get anything.  The rest of the weekend looks dry with temperatures varying between the 30’s and low 40’s.

Overall, there should not be much that slows you down, but keep in mind, we had snow today and there may be some on Wednesday, so practice good winter driving habits if the roads aren’t dry.

If you need a quick update right before you head out the door, jump over to www.wrex.com/weather and click on the Interactive Radar tab.  Once there, look for the Layers tab at the bottom.

The 13 Weather Authority's Interactive Radar allows you to add layers to the radar, like temperature, snow cover, winds, and road conditions.

The 13 Weather Authority’s Interactive Radar allows you to add layers to the radar, like temperature, snow cover, winds, and road conditions.

You can add the Road Weather layer to the map, giving you a snapshot of the road conditions at that time, as well as over the last hour or so.

Interactive Radar's road conditions layer

Interactive Radar’s road conditions layer

This will hopefully give you a good outlook on how the roads look at your location and at the spot you are heading!  Be sure to stay with the 13 Weather Authority on-air and online leading up to Thanksgiving (and the day’s after for the return trip), and have a safe journey to your destination this week!

-Alex

akirchner@wrex.com

 

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on November 24, 2014
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Record Stretch

Tuesday, Nov. 28- If it’s going to be this cold, we may as well get something out of the deal and set some records, right?  That’s what happened today, and almost happened yesterday, too.

If you look back at the previous entry (Arctic Chill: http://addins.wrex.com/blogs/weather/2014/11/artic-chill), you’ll see a couple things.  1) We’ve been under the freezing point (32° F) for nearly a week, and that likely won’t chance until the weekend, making this a pretty substantial cold stretch.  2) 1951 and 1959 stand out amongst the past cold stretches like this.

Why is that?  Those years were the last time we had weather this cold, or cold enough to set the records that were threatened or fell today.

Here’s how Monday played out (day 1 of the very cold stretch):

Monday's weather threatened to break the record for coldest high temperature

Monday’s weather threatened to break the record for coldest high temperature

Take note that the record was set in 1959.  Now look at the records set for today:

2 records fell on Tuesday- coldest low and coldest high temperature for Nov. 18

2 records fell on Tuesday- coldest low and coldest high temperature for Nov. 18

The coldest high temperature record, standing for 63 years, fell today!  It just goes to show that while unusual, we can have very cold weather in November like this.  Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all that often- we had to wait around 60 years before it popped up as this cold again.

If you are curious about what set up our very chilly weather this time around, head to our website for a web exclusive on the Omega Block pattern that contributed to this long cold pattern.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on November 18, 2014
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Arctic chill

November 13 marked the 2nd day in a row with a high of 30°- that’s also the 2nd day at nearly 20° below average!  The Stateline also saw plenty of flurry and light snow activity, enough that the Rockford airport measured o.3″ of snow by 4 pm, but thankfully the ground and the roads were just a little too warm for accumulation.

The average low for Nov. 12 and 13 is 32°.  We didn't warm up to that value either day.

The average low for Nov. 12 and 13 is 32°. We didn’t warm up to that value either day.

There have been cold stretches like this in the past for the middle of November, but we haven’t had cold like this that stuck around in a while.

Rockford has not been this cold this early in the season since 1995.

Rockford has not been this cold this early in the season since 1995. (Courtesy National Weather Service Chicago)

With flurries in the air, and the threat for snow Saturday night, you may want to start doing your winter prepping a little early, especially as sub-freezing temperatures are expected to last well into next week.

Tasks you might want to start thinking about and doing before winter really sets in

Tasks you might want to start thinking about and doing before winter really sets in

Another item you may want to add to the list is putting up the Christmas lights.  You don’t have to turn them on, but why not put them up before everything gets icy or snowy for a while?  Installing them now means not having to deal with the more treacherous conditions.

Stay warm!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on November 13, 2014
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Why so cold for so long?

Brr!  We here in the Stateline definitely felt the cold grip of winter enter the area this Veterans Day- the air temperature has plummeted from the 60’s Monday evening (Nov. 10) to the middle 30’s 24 hours later.

The air temperature trend from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11

The air temperature trend from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11

Get used to the 30’s, because we’ll be seeing them for a while, at least through next week.  So why will they hang around for so long?

First, let’s look at what brought the unwelcome Arctic air in.  And no, it’s not the Polar Vortex.

Former super-typhoon Nuri helped move warm air north, which pushed cold air south

Former super-typhoon Nuri helped move warm air north, which pushed cold air south

A former super-typhoon named Nuri (a typhoon is the same thing as a hurricane; different name because it formed in a different part of the world (Pacific vs Atlantic, in general terms)) moved into the Bering Sea.  On its move, the storm intensified.  A lot.  While the storm raged near Alaska, it caused some side effect to this that are affecting us now.  Nuri was able to rev up the jet stream nearby, pushing a ridge in the jet stream along the Pacific Coast northward.  This shoving of the ridge moved a lot of unseasonably warm air toward the North Pole.  That push of warm air north dislodged cold, Arctic air from the North Pole and sent to sliding down to us in the Midwest.

That’s what we felt Monday into Veterans Day on Tuesday was the very cold air finally reaching us.  Now, that air will stick around because the ridge is sort of coming back into play.

Broad high pressure on the West Coast makes life difficult in the Midwest

Broad high pressure on the West Coast makes life difficult in the Midwest

Forming Wednesday and lasting well into next week is a blocking pattern called an Omega Block.  We call these patterns blocking patterns because they do just that: block any changes to the weather pattern, resulting in consistent, persistent, stagnant weather for a long stretch of time.

In this case, the omega block (which looks like the Greek letter Omega) is cause by Nuri weakening, relaxing the jet stream near Alaska and causing a strong ridge to form on the West Coast.  That broad area of high pressure under the ridge means weather systems either have to travel all the way around it, or be strong enough to break the ridge down.  This results in the weather being very consistent for a while.

So in the end, the Arctic air that arrived for Veterans Day? It’s not going anywhere, anytime soon.  We’ll have highs in the 30’s and lows in the teens clear into next week!  Bundle up!

-Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on November 11, 2014
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Partial Solar Eclipse Coming Thursday (10/23)

2014 has been a lucky year so far- it seems like every month there’s a unique celestial event occurring.  It was just 2 weeks ago that we had a glimpse at a lunar eclipse, or “blood moon”, and now the moon will return the favor and cast its shadow on the Earth.  This will occur close to sunset for us in the Stateline tomorrow evening.

 

A partial solar eclipse is coming Thursday evening (Oct. 23)

A partial solar eclipse is coming Thursday evening (Oct. 23)

This will be a partial solar eclipse, with the moon blocking out only a section of the sun.  The farther west and north you go in North America during this event, the more the moon will “eat” into the sun.  Up to 85% of the sun may be blocked out over northern Canada.

What may be blocking us from even seeing the partial eclipse will be some lingering cloud cover behind potential rain showers tomorrow afternoon.  Here’s how Futuretrack looks around sunset Thursday evening (sunset will be at 6:04 PM).

The Futuretrack forecast for Thursday evening

The Futuretrack forecast for Thursday evening

Let’s hope the sky is at least beginning to clear out by 5:30 PM, otherwise we won’t see much of the celestial event.

The most important thing to do tomorrow evening, if we do get a glimpse of the partial eclipse, is to not look directly at the sun!!!  Permanent damage to your eyesight will occur.  To safely view the eclipse, check out this link from NASA for suggestions: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/how-to-safely-watch-the-october-23-partial-solar-eclipse/index.html#.VEgyqfnF81I

They recommend building a pinhole viewer out of cardboard, or use specialty wielding masks or eclipse glasses.

If you can’t view Thursday’s partial eclipse, mark this date down on your calendar: August 21, 2017. A total solar eclipse will occur on that date, and should be visible for much of the United States!

-Alex

 

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on October 22, 2014
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National Weather Service’s Winter Outlook (2014)

The National Weather Service issued their forecast for the upcoming winter season today.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Temperature outlook for Winter 2014

Temperature outlook for Winter 2014

The 2014-2015 outlook has chances for warmer weather on the West Coast and the northern sections of the U.S., with colder than average temperatures in the South.

Precipitation outlook for Winter 2014

Precipitation outlook for Winter 2014

The weather pattern looks to be drier than average along the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest, with the South and East Coast looking wetter than average.

Midwest temperature outlook, Winter 2014/2015

Midwest temperature outlook, Winter 2014/2015

Midwest precipitation outlook, Winter 2014/2015

Midwest precipitation outlook, Winter 2014/2015

For the Stateline specifically, we have a good chance for below average precipitation (snowfall) this winter, with equal chances for above or below average temperatures, according to the National Weather Service.  That means there isn’t a strong indicator one way or the other right now for a warmer or colder winter for the Midwest.

A couple things to keep in mind:

-These are probabilities for above/below temperature/precipitation, not definites.  For example, the prediction for below average precipitation for the Midwest means that more likely than not we will have less than usual snowfall, however there still may be a chance that snowfall will be above average.

-Remember that this is a prediction for the whole season- there are plenty of smaller or short term weather patterns that can occur that will throw the prediction off, and because they are smaller in scale or time, they cannot be factored in yet.  For example, remember this pattern from last winter?

This is a Greenland Block pattern, when high pressure near Greenland "clogs up" the weather pattern, keeping very cold air diving down into the center of the U.S.

This is a Greenland Block pattern, when high pressure near Greenland “clogs up” the weather pattern, keeping very cold air diving down into the center of the U.S.

Short term patterns like the Greenland Block can change up the weather for a few days to weeks, and may affect or contradict the overall prediction for the season.

-As mentioned above, this is an overall look at the winter season.  It won’t provide any specifics, like if or when a blizzard may hit, how many snow storms may occur, or how cold it will be on some random date, like January 15.

-It would be really nice to have a clear picture, but forecasters are limited some this year by a lack of strong climate indicators.  For example, a weak El Nino pattern has been struggling to form.  When it finally does form, weak El Ninos are generally harder to deal with because their impacts are not as clear cut as a strong El Nino.  By the way, El Ninos usually bring wet weather for all of the southern U.S., so if you aren’t a fan of snow, keep rooting for El Nino to keep the wet weather to the south of us!

So let’s revisit this some time in March or so, after winter is over, and see how the National Weather Service’s prediction played out.  A few things are guaranteed for this upcoming winter: it is coming, it will be cold, and there will be some snow. ;)

-Alex

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on October 16, 2014
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Soggy Fall Weather Beneficial

October isn’t known for being a very rainy month- the average amount of rainfall for the whole month is 2.67″.  This 2 day stretch of soggy weather has nearly equaled that!  We can thank a strong storm system for bringing all of the moisture in.

An area of low pressure brought very moist air in from the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in lots of rain for the Midwest.

An area of low pressure brought very moist air in from the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in lots of rain for the Midwest.

Dewpoint temperatures jumped into the 60’s at times – we see more values like those more often in the summer rather than the fall!  With all of that moisture to work with, the rain totals have been impressive.

Rainfall for Tuesday, Oct. 14, through 8 p.m.

Rainfall for Tuesday, Oct. 14, through 8 p.m.

Rainfall total for Oct. 13 & 14, through 8 p.m.

Rainfall total for Oct. 13 & 14, through 8 p.m.

With the exception of farmers (they’re trying to get their crops out of the fields, and the soggy weather has not helped at all), the rainfall has been welcome, as the ground has been thirsty at times this fall.  Before the soaking rain showers hit yesterday and today, Rockford was in a 1.5″ deficit for rainfall.  Not any more:

Rain totals for this month and season

Rain totals for this month and season

The recent rains have nearly erased the deficit for the Fall season!  We shouldn’t see much more rain with this storm- after Wednesday morning, another dry stretch sets up for the rest of the week.

-Alex

 

 

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on October 14, 2014
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A little more about the Blood Moon

lunar eclipse

As you may have heard, a total lunar eclipse will occur at 5:25 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7th.  You can read about the basics of the Wednesday’s eclipse by heading here: http://www.wrex.com/story/26728356/2014/10/07/total-lunar-eclipse-means-blood-moon-could-greet-early-risers-wednesday-morning.

Here’s a few additional facts about a lunar eclipse:

-Why doesn’t the moon become eclipsed every time it circles the Earth?  The answer is that the moon’s orbit wobbles slightly, and doesn’t stay as a stationary circle.  This gives the moon chances to duck under and over the Earth’s shadow as it orbits the Earth.

lunar 1

-As the Moon moves into Earth’s shadow, it takes on that distinctive red color, giving it the nickname “Blood Moon”.  The moon does not become fully blackened out, like we would see during a solar eclipse (when the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth).  Imagine sitting in a dark room with someone shining a flashlight in your face.  If someone sat behind you, some light would still reach them, right?  This instance is going on with the Earth and the Moon.  The Moon may be in Earth’s shadow, but it still gets some light from the Sun.  Because the light passes through Earth’s atmosphere, it takes on a red color as the air “bends” or refracts the light before getting to the Moon.

lunar 2

-If you were standing on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, what would you see?  It would look a lot like a solar eclipse on Earth!  You would be able to see every sunrise and sunset occurring on Earth, at that moment, at the same time.  How neat is that!

-Finally, for those you are lucky enough to have an unobstructed view, it may be possible to see the Sun and the Moon in the sky at the same time on opposite ends of the sky, or 180° from each other.  This occurrence is called a selenelion.  The Sun rises at 7:01 a.m. on Wednesday, with moonset at 7:09 a.m.  When you consider that the Moon and the Sun are on opposite ends of the planet during an eclipse, this shouldn’t be possible! Because of the way light bends in the atmosphere, we get to see the Sun before it rises, and the moon after it sets.  This atmospheric illusion occurs right around twilight. In order to see this, you have to have a clear, unobstructed view of the sky.  It will only occur for those few minutes in between moonset and sunrise.  Good luck!

-Finally, this total lunar eclipse is part of a tetrad, or four total lunar eclipses in a row.  Lunar eclipses are not always total, or obscure the entire Moon, so this series is special.  All have been and will be visible in North America during the tetrad.  The next eclipses will occur April 4 and September 25 of 2015.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on October 7, 2014
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Good-bye 80’s (for now)

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Same with our stretch of warm and sunny weather.  For the last week, we’ve had highs of at least 75, with the last 5 days bringing highs in the low 80’s (and no mugginess!  That’s key in my book).  That all changes tonight.

A strong cold front worked through the area, and dropped temperatures in an impressive fashion.  Ahead of the front, we had temperatures in the 80’s with a nice light breeze. (Images at 3 p.m.).

Stateline temperatures at 3 pm Stateline winds at 3 pm

The front then works through Lake Geneva and southern Wisconsin.  Notice the drop off in temperature (23 degrees within 3 hours for Lake Geneva!) and the change in wind direction (key for a front- the wind changing direction to as ushers in a different air mass). (Images at 6 p.m.)

Stateline temperatures at 6 pm Stateline winds at 6 pm

Finally, the front hits the Stateline.  Temperatures plummet into the 60’s with the wind picking up and changing direction. (Images at 8 p.m.)

temp 3 wind 3

Here is the temperature trend in profile.  You can see the definite 16 degree drop off after the front worked through (and it’s neat how the 12 trend is almost symmetrical for the day).

Temperature trend at the Rockford airport, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Monday’s temperature trend at the Rockford airport

Better yet, check out how the front brought different results for Chicago and Milwaukee (O’Hare measured a 20 degree drop in ONE HOUR!  Wow!).  Talk about abrupt changes!

Temperature trend at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport

Temperature trend at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport

Temperature trend at Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport

Temperature trend at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport

So how will this new week play out?  Today’s front has some lasting effects, as we’ll only see the low 70’s for highs at the warmest this week.  This week will be a roller coaster, with warm-ups for Wednesday and Thursday, then more drops late in the week to the 60’s and 50’s.  Much needed rain is coming, too, on Thursday.  Hold on!

-Alex Kirchner

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on September 29, 2014
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Going For Two

What a week we’ve had!  Sunshine and warmth every day, which each day a little warmer than the last.

Highs slowly climbed into the lower 80's this week thanks to sunny, quiet weather

Highs slowly climbed into the lower 80’s this week thanks to sunny, quiet weather

What made this Friday in particular so nice, was that the weather didn’t take a turn for the worst, like we’ve had lately.  Counting today, 3 out of the last 5 Fridays have had horrible weather for outdoor events: thunderstorms, lightning, wind, and bone-chilling dampness and cold.

Stormy and sometimes cold weather impacted high school football games 3 weeks in a row, in addition to impacting other outdoor events

Stormy and sometimes cold weather impacted high school football games 3 weeks in a row, in addition to impacting other outdoor events

There were unfortunate impacts on our typical Friday night events, with lightning and rain delays and cancellations for Friday night high school football, and the Rockford City Market was cancelled two weeks in a row because of thunderstorms and unpleasant cold and damp weather.  These, of course, are wise decisions to keep everyone safe, but they do put a damper on the last few nice Fridays before winter sets in. I think that’s why today’s “2-point conversion” (or 2-Friday conversion) felt a little extra nice- we had splendid weather for Friday night under the lights in a row.

Valid Saturday, Sep. 27 to Sunday, Sep. 28

Valid Saturday, Sep. 27 to Sunday, Sep. 28

Looking ahead, make sure you get outdoors and enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend!  80’s, sunshine, and low humidity should add up for a beautiful weekend.  Enjoy!

-Alex Kirchner

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on September 26, 2014
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