A more active weather pattern

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We are moving into our fourth cloudy day in a row and a storm system is approaching.  A weak disturbance will be passing overhead today and then a much stronger system will move across Wednesday night.  There is a good chance we will see a quick band of rain changing to snow Wednesday night, but be careful about how excited you get about this first fast moving storm.  It is going to be a very fast moving system and our window of opportunity for any accumulation of snow will be quite small for a few hours Wednesday night.

There is a Dense Fog Advisory in effect this morning.  The winds are light and some fog has developed.  A disturbance zipping by aloft today will move past us by early this afternoon. There will be almost no wind today. The fog will lift, but it may stay cloudy most of the day. After the disturbance move by we may see some clearing. And, then our attention will focus on Wednesday’s storm system.

This first map shows a surface forecast valid at 6 PM Wednesday evening.  A storm system will be strengthening at the surface with a low pressure area forecast to be near the Oklahoma/Kansas border just southeast of Wichita, KS.  The first blue dashed line is the 540 mb thickness line. This 540 line is quite often indicative of where the rain changing to snow line will be located. Notice that at 6 PM Wednesday there may be some drizzle or light rain just beginning to develop, but this 540 line is still back over central Kansas. A snowstorm will be developing Wednesday afternoon and evening over northwestern and western Kansas.

By midnight Wednesday night that 540 line is passing us, so it would become cold enough to snow at this time, but will there be any precipitation left?  The surface low is forecast to be near Columbia Missouri at this time with heavy snow forecast by this computer model across the northwestern half of Iowa extending southwest into northeastern Kansas.  You can click on either of these two maps for a larger view.

Take a look at where the upper level storm is forecast to track:

This map, above, shows an upper low centered just north of Kansas City with a vorticity maximum (we call it a vort max) located just southeast of Kansas City. You can see this vort max by looking at the big X on the map.  This is a rather strong and fast moving upper level storm. The potential for snow is much greater along and northwest of the track of these features. I would like to see it track a bit farther south, and then I would be convinced that the snowflake contest would quickly come to an end around midnight Wednesday night. If this system tracks any further north, then we could get missed by any accumulation of snow.

I will be analyzing the new data and we will try to update the blog later this afternoon after we establish a trend in the computer models.  The snowflake contest may come to an end Wednesday night.  We will be working on some special weather graphics including a snowfall accumulation forecast map on 41 Action News tonight.

Have a great day! Thank you for spending a few minutes of your day reading the Action Weather Blog.


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64 comments to A more active weather pattern

  • DougHeadyImpersonator1

    This is a weather pattern more like it! A couple chances of snow here and there actually. I’m hoping we get at least 2-4″, I just want to see the ground white again! :) If we get 4-8″, even better, over 8″ is getting a little deep lol. I’m betting we are either going to get 1-3″ or get missed by the snow all together. Let’s see what the models are saying this time tomorrow morning, that’s when I will put my prediction down, too much variability this far out.

  • Gary, The pattern has changed,for the better,as winter is finally knocking on our door…I,m posting before you complete this blog,so I,m not going to discuss wed./thur. event…I would like to know if you believe in what the last couple of GFS model runs are indicating for Christmas day…It seems to be getting some support from the Canadian model,also as they want to produce a sig. snow storm for our area…The ECMWF has the mid-level low cut-off over us,w/ the surface low much further south… What do you think of these scenerios,and which one does the LRC support,if any ????

    • Kevin,

      I do believe there will be a storm near Kansas City Christmas week. The flow over Canada is getting blocked up and an Arctic blast is organizing up there. The jet stream may be forced farther south and then we would be suddenly in the path of the storm that is being forecast by the latest models. It does fit the LRC well. In the last cycle, this Wednesday night storm is the beginning of the Superstorm Sandy part of the pattern, and next weeks storm was there, but it tracked to our north. With the more blocked up flow over Canada the farther south track would put us in good position.

  • Jerry

    So last time through your cycle, this storm didn’t impact us much at all — no precipitation — but now this time through, it may be our first significant winter precip of the season?

    • Jerry,

      I hope it brings us significant precipitation. But, yes, the last time through it became strongly negatively tilted on October 27th to 28th, http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/dailywxmap/dwm_500ht_20121028.html, here is the link to the map. It is becoming negatively tilted this time too and it is again going to form into a big upper low over the northeast and affect them for days, just like Superstorm Sandy did. But, this time there isn’t a hurricane being pulled into the system, as it is the December version of the pattern.


  • Weatherfreak01


    It is my understanding of the LRC that it predicts when lows/storms will happen. It does not say what the low/storm will produce or even exactly were the low/storm will hit. So a low/storm that hit on X date and produced only a trace might produce a blizzard next time it comes around. Or if it hit us next time it might impact Iowa. It is tool to predict the engine that can produce weather/storms. It does not necessarily predict the storm itself.

    I am not fully convinced of the LRC. I do find it an interesting premise though.

    • WF01,I do believe in the LRC,but you are correct in what you are saying…A mid-level low,may not stay in the same latitude,yet it has been shown to,pretty much,in the same longitude… I had an issue with the LRC last spring/summer as we went into the drought…After looking at archives,I submitted to its existence…Blocking is a MAJOR problem to a storms placement…That,s another issue that can only be dealt w/ as time progresses…

  • Kole Christian


    This doesn’t give us as much…

  • Gary,one last question…What is the LRC cycle length??? 51,or 52 days,or ???

  • Good call Gary. Hopefully the diligent monitoring will bring back some of our good bloggers, like Mowermike and the others. And KCChamps, keep posting up those maps!

    Gary, I see you are hedging on the lighter side for Wed night. Hope you’re wrong. lol Really liking the activity looking into next week. It’s been a long time since we’ve had some potential winter weather to watch!

  • mukustink

    Snow lovers don’t get to excited. We will not get much and the snowflake contest will continue. Keep the maps in the back pocket for the next possibility. Like Gary said in his blog this will zip on by! No snow for you!

    Mowemike aka ScottBS what say you on this possible event?

  • mukustink

    Gary you renewing those Chief’s season tickets? If you are going to why? I’m curious as to why people would renew when it’s a given that this team will be bad for another 4-5 years. Pioli has set this club way back. Like I said Pioli will be fired at the end of the season and we will get a new GM. The problem is still Clark Hunt owns the team and cheap is his motto.

    • Dobber

      Here’s Johnny!

    • Muku,

      I likely am going to renew. My neighbor is splitting it with me so it isn’t as expensive. I probably wouldn’t renew if I weren’t splitting it. Perhaps I am wasting my money on the Chiefs. I just hope for a good hiring of a coach. Let’s see what happens in the next six weeks.

  • OlatheMatt

    So Gary said 5% chance of white christmas, how is that looking?

  • f00dl3

    12z NAM is a fantasy.

  • f00dl3

    Well – maybe not so much a fantasy. Only 1″ in metro.

  • MikeL

    12z NAM and 12z GFS show an I-80 snowstorm. Not much along I-70. Still time for changes, but I think I’ve seen this movie before…

  • f00dl3

    It’s 2012. Not 2010. We are not gettin a Christmas day blizzard or any such thing at all this winter :D

  • Jerry


    What does your theory tell you about the event starting to show up in the models for 12/25 – 12/26?

    • It is a storm that tracked to our north in the last cycle. This time, it will likely be farther south as the jet stream is stronger and there is the potential of an Arctic blast.

  • Kole Christian


    It was December 2009 we had the Christmas Day blizzard. February 2011 had a blizzard also. But winter 2011-2012 is one I hope never happens again. This chart seems to say we’ll get 1-3 depending on temperatures. “http://wxmaps.org/pix/mcigfs.png”

  • davidmcg

    Energy on the blog has sparked up. 28 posts already and it isn’t even 11AM yet. I am as suspect of this storm as you are Gary. Starting to look good, but is it? Bad things with winter area is too many variables have to come right together for any specific accuracy, unless its a superstorm and you can see it days out. Winter forecasts are just harder like that. NWS Topeka has upped the chance for Jefferson County and maintained their forecast of 3.2″ total between 6PM Wednesday and 5AM Thursday. Ground temp as of 30 minutes ago 6″ deep had dropped to 34.8°, almost 3 degrees cooler than yesterday. Might have just been overnight cooling of the ground, maybe not. Our fog out here was very light this morning as compared to yesterday.

  • ChiefsFan

    It looks like the weather team is thinking the snowflake contest will end Wednesday night or Thursday they have 50% weds 70% chance Thursday

  • McCabe58

    F00dl3 are you saying that strictly on how this year has gone so far, or do you really just dislike snow that much? This is missouri and anyone who’s been living here longer than 2011-2012 knows the weather can and will change in a heart beat. Something’s gotta give with this drought pattern that we’ve been in. So why not now? I’m going to try to keep my excitement minimal, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be on here with the rest of the snow lovers getting my hopes up at everyone of those maps kcchamps posts lol. At least there is finally something to track, be happy about it! We NEED the moisture however it chooses to fall!

  • rred95

    yep this system wed might indeed go poof for us , but at least we can have something to watch and at least there is something there that can go poof… exciting!(not be sarcastic) … guess our standards are so low now anything is awsome.

  • weatherman brad


    who would be closest if the snowflake contest ended Wednesday night and thursday morning, I remember picking December 20th for the contest. just curious.


  • R-Dub

    I still think we have a good shot at getting some snow this week. May not be enough to end the snowflake contest but I’d be surprised if the ground doesn’t turn white.

    For the next week storm…I’m just really skeptical of anything showing a major snow storm. If it really winds up and brings a lot of moisture, I think we’ll get mostly rain instead of snow, with some snow on the backside.

    • RickMckc

      Looks like the 12Z GFS agrees with you on both counts. IMHO it’s just nice to have something to talk about other than dry.

  • mban112

    Snow, snow, snow!!!

  • McCabe58

    Moving down to Pleasant Hill this past month kinda has me bummed… I’m only 25 miles from Blue Springs where I was living, but that can be a big difference when we’re talking about snow being south or north of i-70 :( I hope we do get some snow, it doesn’t even have to be anything crazy. Just enough to whiten the ground and I’d be happy. Someone said something about ice showing up for next week? Anyone else seeing that or were they just trying to stir the pot? lol

    • RickMckc

      McCabe, look at this for next week. Scroll to the bottom to see projected precip & type.


      What is interesting is that the “storm” shown at that time has been on the GFS for the past three days … at the same time frame.

      BTW, since the biggest snows in this area typically come from lows moving up I-44, you may have actually moved closer to the sweet spot. Just not for this one.


    • Dobber

      Unaccuweather was saying ice!

    • R-Dub

      The storm is bringing some warm air with it, which *could* lead to freezing rain or other icy precip, depending on how long the cold air hangs on at the surface when the warm moist air moves in.

      But the way things have been in the last 15 months or so, we haven’t seen the cold air masses really hold on tight in the face of warm air advection from the south. And the cold air ahead of the storm is not predicted to be that cold. So I wouldn’t worry about an ice storm for now.

  • Hockeynut69

    Is this storm a named storm and is it Winter Storm Draco? Let’s hope we don’t get the Fako from Draco.

  • RickMckc

    Where is Champs when you need him? :)

    12z NAM … “wxcaster.com/gis-snow-overlays.php3?STATIONID=EAX”
    12z GFS … “wxcaster.com/gis-gfs-snow-overlays.php3?STATIONID=EAX

    For those new to blog, you have to cut and paste what’s inside the quotes into your browser address window. We have to post links this way so that the blog system doesn’t hold them up for moderation which can sometimes take hours. (Makes me wonder why posts from certain individuals can’t also be automatically held up for moderation … but I digress.)

    Also, it’s important to remember that those maps are simply graphical representations of raw numerical model output to which Evan Baxter’s equations have been applied. That means there are always two contingencies in play when you look at them:

    1. How accurate is the model output for the current weather system?

    2. How accurate are his equations in general?

    That’s why people like Gary and his team make the big bucks. :)

    If you want to know more about the science of numerical model forecasting (which I personally find fascinating because of my math and computer science background), there is a great entry here:


    Let the (winter) games begin!


  • ChiefsFan

    What’s the data say for metro kc, I don’t do we’ll reading these maps

    • Anything from a dusting to three inches based on the output. At this point, trends are more important than the actual output.

      Trends are how the models are moving the storm around. Is the Low moving north or south? Faster or slower? After a few runs, you can determine if there is a trend developing (and then try to determine where it is going). Come Tuesday the trend will be identified and by Tuesday night Gary and team will be able to issue a snowfall forecast with some confidence.

      Having said all of that, the most accurate model data will be the RUC which you can start paying attention to Wednesday. By late Wednesday, forget the models and look outside/pay attention to radar echoes. But don’t get discouraged or excited too quickly. Promising radar echoes have hit the ‘wall’ around the city and faded, and others (like last weekend’s storm) look very boring and then flare up all at once and give us a nice event.

  • Adam Penney

    12z Euro goes absolute bonkers for the Christmas storm.

    Over a foot of snow easily for the entire metro.

  • McCabe58

    I appreciate the info Rick, I’m gonna take a look at that when I can get a chance. Is the “bullseye” over KC for next weeks storm at this point on the models? We’re still over a week away so I know they will change several times between now and then. Snow hater or not you gotta at least be a little excited that a significant storm is showing up! Why wouldn’t you want a white Christmas??

  • Weatherman Kumke

    Let it begin. Winter storm watch for Hwy36 and north. 4-7 inches. EAX talking about potentially extending it even more south to include city if EURO models continue to indicate more southernly track

  • anshad

    NWS going 2-4in in North KC…

    “Rain before 9pm, then rain and snow between 9pm and midnight, then snow after midnight… Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.”

  • madnick44

    I’ve asked this question before and never received an answer…where does the forcast that is on the storm sheild weather radio app that I downloaded to my phone come from. You can access the blog from the app and it has the 41 Action News logo on it….is the forcast from the Action 41 weather team or somewhere else ??

  • Skylar

    There’s a winter storm watch for the north side for 4-7″ and high winds.

  • f00dl3

    Skylar – by north side I think you meant 20 miles north of the metro area :) North side of the metro area is not under any watch/warning/advisory at this time. Atchison & Platte counties are as close as it gets.

  • R-Dub

    Uh oh, EAX with the early winter storm watch. I’m not sure but I think that makes me feel worse about our chances!

    They might be a little trigger happy with advisories this time b/c it’s been so long since anyone drove in the snow.