Clipper Thursday to bring snow to southern Minnesota
Modles differ on system track Thursday (Rochester or Metro?)
Bigger storm still likely Sunday for Minnesota
GFS shifts track slightly north in latest model runs?
+2 hours of additional daylight since December 21st!
You'll need to find the shades today! The combination of some sunshine and bright "highly reflective" snow cover means it will be brighter out there than it has been for much of this winter.
It's called "albedo." That's the reflectivity of various ground covers on incoming sunlight.
Fresh snow cover is the most efficient solar reflector, returning about 80% to 90% of the sun's incoming energy back into space before it can heat up the air near the ground.
Bare ground can absorb and "reradiate" about 80% of the sun's rays. That energy is then used to heat the air near the surface.
The result? Temps can run a good 10 degrees cooler on days like today with fresh snow cover in Minnesota. If we had bare ground today like most of the winter, we'd likely make a run well into the 40s again; with fresh snow we'll stall somewhere in the upper 30s in most areas.
Thursday Clipper: Which track is best?
The models differ a bit on the track of Thursday's Alberta Clipper sailing in from the northwest.
The clipper looks to feature a relatively narrow band of snowfall about 60 miles wide.
The GFS lays that band out along the Minnesota River towns of Redwood Falls and Mankato southeast toward Rochester, and suggests a 2" to 4" snowfall.
The overnight NAM run shifts the system north...from Willmar into the Twin Cities. It should be noted that the overnight NAM is sometimes less reliable, but it bears watching to see what the next couple of model runs do today!
Sunday storm: Still on track, but which track?
Looking ahead to Sunday's potential snow storm I am reminded that there are 3 main factors that determine snowfall amounts in winter storm systems.
1) Storm Track:
The surface low pressure track is a key to where heavy snow may fall in winter storms. Generally speaking, the heaviest sow band favors an area about 90 to 120 miles north & west of the surface low pressure track.
This can vary of course from storm to storm, but it's a pretty good rule.
2) Moisture Profile:
Obviously, the amount of moisture a storm can draw in effects snowfall totals. The biggest factor in overall snowfall totals for Minnesota is usually the availability of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
If southerly winds ahead of the storm have time to pull up enough Gulf moisture, we get dumped on.
3) Temperature Profile:
Temps within the overall storm are critical to determine precip type and snow intensity. Generally, warm air is drawn up ahead of the system, and cold air wraps in behind mid latitude cyclones in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.
Often, the freezing, or "rain-snow" line sits just south of these low pressure centers. That's why the heaviest snow lies north of the low track, with mixed precip reducing snowfall totals as you go south.
Sunday's potential system shows some interesting trends.
The overnight GFS runs have shifted the track slightly north. If that pans out, the heaviest snow band could run from near Fargo to Brainerd and Duluth, instead of Redwood Falls to the Twin Cities.
The modes will likely show more shifts in the days ahead.
As usual, I'll wait until about 24 hours ahead of the onset of snowfall to issue my "final" snowfall predictions. This is the window where model accuracy and preparation time for people affected by the storm usually meet. At this point the best information is to say there will likely be a snowfall event Sunday, with specific totals to be determined as we approach the weekend.
4" to 7" snowfall possible in southwest Minnesota Thursday
Sharp snowfall cutoff on the system's northern edge
Flurries at most for metro
Sunday storm track trending north - watching for more changes
Winter Storm Thursday!
Here we go!
The next winter storm is moving through mainly SW Minnesota Thursday.
The Alberta Clipper type system looks like an efficient snow producer. It's already produced lightning strikes in Montana, a sign of strong upward lift and potential heavy snowfall rates.
From Twin Cities NWS forecast discussion:
THERE IS ALREADY A LIGHTNING STRIKE UPSTREAM IN MONTANA THIS AFTERNOON...WHICH IS USUALLY A PRETTY GOOD INDICATOR OF THE STRENGTH OF THIS SYSTEM.
LOOK OF POTENTIAL WITH THIS STORM FOR TONIGHT...BUT THE QUESTION TODAY HAS NOT BEEN IF THERE WILL BE A 6+" SNOWBAND...BUT WHERE.
Here at the weather lab, it looks like a general area of 4" to 7" in southern Minnesota Thursday.
There may be a narrow band that could produce some heavier 6" to 10" totals along the I-35 & I-90 corridors, including northern Iowa.
Prepare for snowy travel conditions in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa Thursday!
Twin Cities: On the northern edge
It appears the Twin Cities may just escape the brunt of Thursday's system. The GFS and other models have been consistent in keeping most of the snow south of the metro. The NAM has tried to move snow north...but the latest run is more in line with the GFS's "southern solution."
Sunday: Storm still looks good, but track is a wild card
I'm still closely watching Sunday's potential storm for Minnesota, which is still out over the North Pacific today.
Think about that for a minute. There's a storm over 2,000 miles away in the North Pacific that's likely to affect Minnesota Sunday. That we even have the tools and technology to even make that statement is really quite amazing and useful I think!
But I digress....
Overall the storm structure still looks potent for Sunday, but the track has shifted north.
If that holds, the heaviest snow bands would end up in central and northern Minnesota, The metro could still be in line for some heavy snow....the latest GFS runs are suggesting around 5" or so near the metro...with 6" to 12"+ potential in a large area of central and northern Minnesota.
It's still too early to pinpoint who will get heavy snow or just how many inches. But the storm is still "on" for somebody, at this point it may just be a question of where.
**If the track moves much further north a "dry slot" may limit snow from the metro south, and keep heavier snow totals in central and northern Minnesota.**
At least there are 3 likely storms for "Somewhere, Minnesota" in the next week or so!
Oh yeah, did I mention there's potential for another storm next week?