So about those clouds…. | Severe weather record for 2014

Ten years of doing weather on TV and I am still humbled by the atmosphere. I expected a few breaks in the clouds today, but not large holes. Some areas managed to see a fair amount of sunshine (through thinner clouds) this afternoon. I was hoping for that YESTERDAY and it didn’t happen. Thus, I figured we’d stay mainly overcast today. Evidently, the atmosphere didn’t catch my forecast. So, what happened? Well, part of me thinks it has something to do with a little feature that moved into the area I did not expect. I talked about it on air at 6p. Watch the loop of the water vapor from today below and see if you can spot it.
Do you see that little push of moisture into the area from the North? Watch is sink through Iowa and then into NW Missouri. I think that may have been enough to mix up the atmosphere and cause some thinning of the clouds. Remember, we’re still stuck in this overall ridge. This is an Omega block (the larger feature resemble the Greek symbol: Ω).

It’s often tough to get things to move through the ridge. That said, little smaller-scale wiggles can certainly happen and become trapped under the ridge. But there is change happening. Right now, the storm pushing ashore on the West coast is squishing that Omega. Eventually, it’ll shove that thing out of here, just in time to replace it with rain for the Sunday.

Latest guidance continues to suggest any meaningful rain will hold off until after 7pm Sunday. Catch the keyword? Meaningful. I cannot totally rule out a rogue shower trying to develop out ahead of the main wave. Should this happen, it’d only be in the form of a brief sprinkle. Once the main course gets here, that will be full-on rain.
I still believe we’ll find ourselves in the dry slot for Monday, at least in KC. Our Northern and Eastern counties may still see some light rainfall. But that’s all this will be: rain.

Latest run of guidance for next weekend is still up in the air. The Euro model now paints a snowy picture, indicating around 2-4″ of snow right along and South of I-70. The GFS…says no. It doesn’t put any moisture close to KC! Here is the GFS for next Friday night at 10p:

It places the system well to our Southeast and very meager amounts of moisture in the area. If you look closely for the 5400 line (also known as the freezing line), it’s North of KC. So simply going off the GFS, no snow for next weekend.
Now, here is what the latest Euro is advertising:
Uh-oh. That’s a different story. The freezing line plunges South (blue line marked 540) and there is a fair amount of moisture for it to work with right over KC. This would be why the model claims KC sees a few inches of snow.

As always, these are just computer models and they are trying to give a solution for seven days from now. Much can, and will, change. It’s too soon to buy into anything just yet. So I will put in a small chance of snow for now, but that may change. However, as you’ll see in my Sunday blog…a particular model wound up doing a VERY good job for this past week.

Taking a second to look back at the severe weather year that was (or wasn’t), we may wind up setting a record. With only a few weeks left to go, this will likely go down as the year with the fewest tornadoes in the last 61 years.

This is a breakdown of the average number of tornadoes per month in the US:
3 PM

And this is how 2014 has been:

That’s pretty quiet, compared to average. The typical “height” for tornado season is in April & May. Notice how this year, the peak was in June.
And, in this part of the country as well as the South, there is Second Season, which allows for severe weather and that usually happens in late August to September. Here again, notice how that was delayed into October, with nearly 70 tornado reports.

So far this year, we’ve only had 823 reports of tornadoes all year. Compare that to last year (which took the crown as the year with the fewest number of tornadoes), and this has been a very quiet year for tornadoes.
2 PM

I also listed the years of 2011 and 2004 because 2011 was a big year for Tornadoes (remember the outbreak in Alabama on April 27th?), and 2004 was the year with the most tornado reports ever. Here is an expanded view of that data:


So it’s obvious things have greatly settled down since 2011. Given the trends, I would expect 2015 and 2016 to be years where things pick back up again.

Hope you all have a great Friday night.

The grunge is here to stay

No, it’s not 1992 and we’re not in Seattle, but this period of “grunge” isn’t going anywhere soon. The low, gray overcast is locked in place and I just don’t see it clearing out of here completely for a while. So, what’s the deal? Well, someone clogged up the atmosphere.
That big ‘H’ is blocking the flow, as you can see in the 500mb map. We have storms on either side of the U.S., but the overall flow is stuck right now.
Nothing is really moving across our area to sweep this air out of here. And looking a little higher up in the atmosphere, there a small area of high pressure over the Gulf Coast area that’s just sitting there and spinning. This is helping to act like a straw and draw up moisture from the South. It’s like having a fog machine of sorts.
This is a chart of the 850mb level, about 5,000 feet up in the atmosphere. You can see the circulation around the High, which I have enhanced for you a little bit.

We’ll have to wait on something to come in and clear the air before we see any kind of change. Luckily, I think this happens over the weekend when part of the storm system that’s hammering California spins this way. Now it will not be the exact same storm nor will it pack the punch it has now, but it should bring some decent rain to the area. This is how I see things setting up by Monday morning.
2 PM

What implications does this have on the Chiefs game Sunday? Right now, not much. I think the game (which starts at Noon) should stay dry.

No forecast is really ever “set in stone” so should the system appear to speed up and arrive sooner, we will have to make adjustments. If anything, things have been moving so slowly, we may wind up going the other direction and delaying things into Monday.
Either way, as it stands now, rain for Sunday night into early Monday. Then, by Monday afternoon I am some concerns. I’m worried we find ourselves in the dry slot of the storm. The Euro picks up on this, as does the 18z run of the GFS. I noticed this yesterday but didn’t alter my forecast until I saw more info.
GFS Mond

So based on this, I will increase chances for rain Sunday night and then decrease chances for rain on Monday. Here again, we’ll have to monitor for any changes, especially if this whole thing hits the brakes and slows down.

Looking farther ahead in the magic crystal ball, there are some indications for another system to move through next Thursday into Friday. Temperatures would be in the middle 30s during the day, so I cannot rule out a little wintry mix. Obviously, we’re talking a full week away from today and–as many of us know all too well–so much can change between now and then.

Later tonight, I plan to produce a video blog talking about “chances of rain” in TV forecasts. Seems there is some misunderstanding about the “% chance” you see in a TV forecast really means. I’ll try to break through the fog on this in the video. Keep eyes peeled; I’ll post an update here on this entry when the video is complete.


7:45pm UPDATE
Video blog is up! You can watch it here:

Freezing Rain Advisory This Morning

Good morning bloggers,

A FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY was just issued by the National Weather Service. Temperatures are currently below freezing and a band of rain showers is heading this way:


Let’s see if the temperatures rise to or a bit above freezing, but if not there could be some icing up of elevated surfaces such as bridges, overpasses, decks, and patios.  That area of light freezing rain showers was moving east at around 15 mph.  Let us know what you experience.  I am on vacation. Kalee and Jeff are in right now with live updates on 41 Action News.


A Cloudy Warming Trend

Good Tuesday evening bloggers,

Well colder air and low clouds moved in today, as expected, as highs dropped to the 30s.  We may see a few hours of a partly cloudy sky tonight, but the next several days will be cloudy.  Despite the clouds we will be in for a huge warm up as winds will be persistently blowing in from the south and southeast all the way from the Gulf of Mexico.  This will bring in warmer and more moist air each day.  However, as the warmth and moisture increases so do the low clouds, fog and drizzle.  This is caused by the warmer air replacing the cold air as there are no real storm systems to track.  The one exception will be a weak storm system moving south Wednesday.  This will create a few rain showers tomorrow, then this will be followed by the thicker moisture and drizzle/fog.

Here is a time line of the weather through Saturday.

WEDNESDAY MORNING:  Rush hour will be dry and cold.



WEDNESDAY AROUND LUNCH TIME:  A few rain showers will be possible with temperatures above freezing.



THURSDAY MORNING:  The morning rush hour looks damp to wet with some drizzle and a few rain showers.  Again, temperatures will likely stay above freezing, so no icing is expected.



FRIDAY:  We will still be socked in with low clouds, drizzle and fog, but temperatures will warm to the 50s.



FRIDAY: A surface high located over the Tennessee Valley will be pumping south winds and Gulf moisture north, creating and extensive area of low clouds in the middle of the country in which KC is in the middle.



SATURDAY: It still looks cloudy, but the drizzle and fog will likely exit as highs reach the 60s.


Have a good night and rest of your week.



Model verification, GFS vs Euro, and a look at Monday’s forecast

There is a lot to this blog tonight! I do not expect you to read it all in one sitting. Bookmark the link and come back when you have time; we have a lot to discuss!
Let’s start with a quick look at what is coming our way for Monday. Finally, we’ll see the sun again! A weak cold front will actually be pushing through but the “true” cold air will not show up until Tuesday. With the sun helping out, I think we make the upper 40s for most locales in the viewing area.

This will be above the average for this time of year, which is about 42°. As mentioned, there will be another shot of colder air for Tuesday into Wednesday. Highs will dip a bit but then start climbing as we move toward the end of the week.

I don’t see significant chances for rain until Sunday. Even then, it’s not a done-deal so we’ll have to keep watching the system and see how it develops.

As of 8pm tonight, KCI has recorded 0.02″ of rainfall. This was enough to push us over the average for annual rainfall. This marks the 1st year since 2010 where KCI has been above average on moisture.
4 (1)


Looking back over this last week, I want to do a compare & contrast of the various models and my forecast from a week ago. Here’s how things shook out.

The overall takeaway from this: the Euro wins again. I will openly admit I went AGAINST the Euro down the stretch (and despite what my gut told me). Perhaps it was peer influence, perhaps it was just not believe. I won’t make excuses. This just shows that longer term forecasting is never perfect but there are things to learn. This also shows both versions of the GFS were off base.

So, as of today, what are the models suggesting for the coming week? Here ya go!

Note: the upgraded GFS Parallel model is offline right now as some tweaks are made.
I decided to lean toward the Euro like I typically do. I’ve noticed the Euro has a very warm morning temperature bias in the short term, so I disregard that. The one day I am shying away from the ECMWF is on Thursday. Now should we find ourselves socked in with clouds, then I think it’ll be right. But something tells me we should see a little bit of sun and (hopefully) that will help boost our temps. Of all the days between Monday and Friday, Thursday is the one where my confidence is lowest.

GFS Model vs. ECMWF Model
As you know, there is always talk about which model is better: the GFS or the ECMWF (Euro). I have spent a lot of time researching this and have been looking at both models in detail for more than three years now. As you have seen, I document the model numbers each time I forecast and up until a few months ago, I had stacks and stacks of old forecast sheets sitting around. I know what my personal bias suggests, but what about the facts? Fair warning: WE ARE ABOUT TO GET VERY GEEKY!

Meteorologists rely on computer forecast models to help predict the future and provide a forecast. When it comes to figuring out what may happen beyond about 72 hours, there are two main forecast models we look to: the GFS and the ECMWF. Yes, there is a Canadian model and yes, there is a Japanese model. But in the interest of time, we’re going to boil this down to the ones many of us use/know: GFS & Euro. What is the difference between the two? Why is one better than the other? Is one actually better than the other? Let’s lay down some groundwork then go into detail on which model has the better track record.

The GFS stands for Global Forecast System and is operated by the United States government. The supercomputers used to process the complex mathematical equations and yield a conclusion are controlled by NCEP. You can read more about this here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/model-data/model-datasets/global-forcast-system-gfs
The GFS model is considered a Spectral Model and runs at a resolution of 18 miles (27 kilometers) and new model simulations–known as “cycles” or “runs”–are produced four times a day: at 6am, Noon, 6pm, & midnight (Central Standard Time).
Think of the resolution as vision. The smaller the number, the better the detail and thus the sharper the picture being painted by the model.
For those curious, a spectral model is one where the data being output at first necessarily numbers you and I are used to. Instead, the output from the equations paint a picture of the atmosphere which look like waves. Remember that the atmosphere is actually an ocean of air with ripples and a flow.
You can read more about this and grid point forecast modeling on this site: https://www.e-education.psu.edu/worldofweather/node/2029

So the basic takeaway on the GFS is this: it’s a model which is simulated four times a day with a resolution of 18 miles.

Let’s shift gears and discuss the basics of the ECMWF, which stand for the European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasts. It is operated, funded, and maintained by the United Kingdom. It runs on a resolution of about 10 miles (16 kilometers) and the new simulations are produced only twice a day: 6am & 6pm (CST). Like the GFS, it is a spectral model with outputs–also called “solutions”–that simulation the flow of the atmosphere. The United Kingdom places considerable amounts of time, money, and effort into their supercomputers and research to keep them updated.

The basics of the ECMWF: higher resolution model (10 miles) ran twice a day but with much more powerful computers and finer detail.

Without a doubt, depending on what meteorologist you ask, one model is more favorable than the other. There are some who will live and die by the output from the GFS. There are also those who believe the GFS is “worthless” and will hang on every solution the ECMWF spits out. But is there any truth to which model is more accurate? Yes.

Let’s take a look a couple of charts that show overall performance of the major forecast models. The first is courtesy of Dr. Ryan Maue from Weather Bell Metrics.

3Model Compare
I will not get uber-nerdy on you with this, but the chart is looking at the 500mb level and finding the anomaly correlation. What in the world is that? It’s how we find the skill of the forecast, using the model output vs the actual observation but skewing it in respect to the season (to keep things equal). You can read more on ACC here: http://old.ecmwf.int/products/forecasts/guide/Measure_of_skill_the_anomaly_correlation_coefficient.html

The way the line graph above works is the line closest to the top is considered more accurate. The numbers to the left range from 0 to 1, with the 1 being 100% accurate. Do not be confused: this is a general broad brush of the models. The ECMWF can easily miss a forecast completely. This chart does not mean that the Euro is ALWAYS more accurate than the other models; this is simply an average. The takeaway from this is that more often than not, the ECMWF will have the right idea and has been a step ahead for years.

Another chart to share with you now.
This is similar to the chart above but goes back to 1984. Click on it to enlarge and see that the Euro model has been leading the pack for a long time.
Verification since 84

So while these graphics may show that the ECMWF is “always” a step ahead, keep in mind this is still just an average. For example, the average temperature for a summer day could be 85°. That does not mean there wasn’t a day in the past where the temperature only hit 55° or a day where it was 110°. Average is simply the middle ground.
Statistically speaking, however, the ECMWF is the correct solution more often than the GFS. Each model has its own biases, where it tends to overdo or underdo things.

Currently, the US government is in the process of upgrading the GFS model. Right now, it’s called the GFS Parallel and and listed as GFS T1534. At last check, the scheduled implementation date for the upgraded GFS is set for mid January. There is talk this may be pushed back. As of this week, the supercomputers are offline as NCEP performs minor adjustments.

Not to be outdone, the Euro model is scheduled to go through an upgrade in the coming months as well. According to Dr. Maue, the Euro will move to an even higher resolution of 10km (or about 6 miles). This will, in theory, keep the Euro a step ahead of all other models.

In the end, there is never a “sure fire” model which will always be right every single time. If there was, we wouldn’t have the others out there mucking things up! Sometimes the models go on a hot streak and sometimes they go on a cold streak. You never know for sure until after it’s happened and by then… everyone knows the forecast! As a meteorologist, you have to know the biases each model has and understand the reasons why a model may be giving the solution it is. And your forecast is only as good as the latest run of the models.

Thanks for reading my long-winded novel. I know some really like to know more about this stuff. If you’re up for even more reading, check this out: http://www.energyblogs.com/weather/index.cfm/2014/1/6/Differences-Between-the-GFS-and-ECMWF-Weather-Models

Feel free to drop me an email or a tweet with questions.
Have a great week,

Fog tonight then a few showers on Sunday

All that’s missing today is snow on the ground, THEN it would feel like true winter! We’ve been socked-in with the thick overcast sky today. It shows up very well on the visible satellite picture.
Given the moisture still around from the rain on Friday and those low clouds, I believe we’ll see the fog return tonight. What worries me a bit: temps may fall to right around freezing in and around KC. This could lead to some bridges and other elevated roadways turning a bit slick. While I feel this will be isolated, all it takes is one bad accident. So if you do plan to travel, use caution tonight.

Since last weekend, I have been seeing indications that’d we’d see a few showers on Sunday. The Euro model has been consistent with this while the GFS has been all over the place (having it one day, doing away with it the next). As of today, here is our in-house powercast model for Sunday evening.

This won’t be an all-day rain event like we had on Friday, but I do think we’ll see a few showers. That will all clear out by Monday morning and we should have a great afternoon.

Speaking of great, looking ahead in the forecast there is some very mild air coming this way. By about Thursday/Friday of the coming week, we’ll see a nice return flow going on in the atmosphere and this should boost our temps up into the mid to upper 50s.
2 PM

Those who are wishing/hoping/longing for the snow are going to have to wait. At this point, I don’t see snow falling for a while. Looking back on the last few years, December hasn’t been all that snowy of a month, with the exception of last year.
3 PM
Notice, however, the 20-year average is just under five inches. At this time, I don’t think we’ll see five inches of snow this month. For Kansas City, in the last 30 years it’s February that is the snowiest month with an average of six inches. The snowiest February in the last 30 years was just year before last (2013) when 20.5 inches of snow fell at KCI. So don’t give up hope, we still have plenty of time to pile up the fluffy white stuff.

A new report out from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) talks about El Nino and they say it has not officially developed….yet.
But once it does develop (and it should) this will have implications on our winter season. If you missed the winter weather special we aired on Thursday, you can watch the entire special on our website: KSHB.com/winter

I have completed my blog for the comparison of the GFS vs ECMWF (Euro) models. I am waiting to find a quiet day to post it so it does not take away from any active weather we may have. Also, in tomorrow’s blog I will talk about the verification from the last week on the models and we’ll see who had the “hot hand”.
In addition to that, I am working on an article for our website that touches on some phrases and words some might be using incorrectly. Keep an eye open for both of these writings from me!

Until then, be careful on those roads tonight.

Oh, something else I have been meaning to address….

Some have asked this question and I’m going to openly answer it.

Why it is, when you visit our website, that this forecast:

Doesn’t match this forecast:
Bottom Web

Well, the simple answer is: someone didn’t update the text at the top of the page. See, it’s up to each meteorologist on duty (on air) to make sure everything behind the scenes is updated. Granted, we do a lot more than just give a weather forecast on TV these days. We are busy doing a lot more off camera than on. But that’s no excuse to leave critical information unattended.
Now with that said, not everything happens in a flash. It does take time for the cache to clear on some devices and for updates to get pushed through the tubes of the interwebs. Sometimes the 7-day graphic gets refresh by the system before the text at the top of the page does. Other times, it can be the other way around.

But if the forecast numbers seem way off base, trust the 7-day image before you trust the text forecast near the top of the web site. And hopefully the next meteorologist on shift will get things updated so the forecasts are in harmonious sync again.

Which City Has The Most Unpredictable Weather

Good morning blogger, It’s FRIDAY!

“Most every American has some basis to complain about unpredictable weather. As a mid-latitude country with shining seas and majestic mountain ranges and fruited, wind-swept plains, we’re subject to pretty much every type of weather meteorologists have thought to identify.” This came from a great article I just read and I have the link below.   Have you heard the line, “if you don’t like the weather, then just wait five minutes”.  Even when we get the forecast right, I hear people all the time talking about how we got the forecast wrong.  Forecasting the weather in Kansas City is quite difficult, but where do we come in with the “Most Unpredictable Weather Cities In The United States?”. 

Nate Silver and Reuben Fischer-Baum wrote this great article that came out yesterday with an in-depth analysis of this topic of “Which City Has The Most Unpredictable Weather”.  Here it the link:  Most Unpredictable Cities.

Looking at the top 50 populated cities in the United States here is the list of the Most Unpredictable Weather Cities:

  1. Kansas City, Missouri
  2. Oklahoma City
  3. Minneapolis
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Indianapolis
  6. St. Louis
  7. Birmingham, Alabama
  8. Boston
  9. Milwaukee
  10. Dallas

Yes, Kansas City is the most unpredictable larger city in America.  Kansas City is actually the 23rd city on the list but the other cities above us are smaller communities lead by Rapid City, SD and Great Falls, Montana.  Where are the most predictable top cities to predict the weather?

Easiest Cities to Predict the weather:

  1. San Diego
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Phoenix
  4. San Francisco
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Sacramento
  7. Seattle
  8. Miami
  9. Portland
  10. Tampa

I grew up in Southern California and even there, throughout my life, I have heard so many times people talking about how the weatherman is wrong all of the time. It is obviously a topic of conversation everywhere.

Well, we got today’s forecast right on the nose. It’s raining, and we need it.  After this rain goes by we have a challenging forecast for the weekend. Is it going to be cloudy all weekend long?  At this moment it certainly looks like we will be socked in throughout the weekend with creates a challenge on forecasting high and low temperatures.  Earlier in the week one of the bloggers talked about how we were colder than every other forecast by far for Saturday as we had a forecast high of around 40 while others had highs in the 50s Saturday. We haven’t budged from that forecast of near 40 degrees. Let’s see what happens.

Have a great weekend!


Winter Forecast 2014-2015

Good morning bloggers,

Temperatures stayed above freezing and there was barely any precipitation at all, just some very light drizzle, but now a wetter storm system approaches and we need the rain.  Our Weathering Winter Special is on tonight at 6:30 PM and our weather team will weigh in with their own snowfall predictions for this winter.  We will be tracking the rain storm approaching on 41 Action News today and tonight. Let us know if you have any questions about this winter forecast posted below:

Winter Forecast 2014-2015:














Look At What Is Coming Our Way

Good morning or early afternoon bloggers,

Weathering Winter will be on at 6:30 PM Thursday evening!  And, I will have an in-depth Winter Forecast blog posted by noon Thursday!

We have found the disturbance that is going to bring us some rain, possibly lots of rain. I will show it to you in a second, but first we have a chance of some freezing drizzle or freezing very light rain later tonight before the temperatures rise above 32° on Thursday:


There may be few slick spots on untreated surfaces where the precipitation falls. This will likely be a brief and quick moving little system later tonight, but even a little icing can cause some big problems if you get caught in it.  We will be monitoring this closely. Where will this very small thing be located later tonight, and what will those temperatures be when the precipitation falls? We will answer these questions on 41 Action News today and tonight, and then beginning at 4:30 AM tomorrow.

What is next? Take a look at this:



There is a rather well defined subtropical wave with some tropical moisture being tapped from the Pacific Ocean.  This wave is forecast to come across our are later Thursday night through Friday and the trend in the models is for this to provide us with a good chance of rain. We really need it as only an inch of rain has fallen in the past 50 days or so.


This second map shows the surface forecast valid at 6 AM Saturday, and the rainfall amounts that added up from late Thursday into Saturday morning.  There is a 1.50″ bulls-eye in that little purple dot near Baldwin City, KS.  Since we can see this system now in the Pacific I have high confidence that it is targeting our area. Let’s monitor this closely.

So, what about winter? We will open that discussion tomorrow. Are you ready?  Have a great day.


Weak, Very Weak Storm Systems

Good evening bloggers,

Our Weathering Winter Special is on at 6:30 PM Thursday right after 41 Action News at 6 PM

Bloggers, we have just about finished our Winter Forecast, and now I have the task of writing up an extensive discussion of what we see in this pattern for Kansas City. And, I will be discussing the entire nation and what this pattern means for the entire nation on Weather2o20.com. I should have this completed by Thursday morning, and I will post it here.  This pattern is not a good one, at least so far for Kansas City. And the next two chances of precipitation are another reason why.  There is a very weak system approaching us early Thursday morning and temperatures will be below freezing early in the morning. The models have, maybe, 0.o1″ early Thursday and that is a stretch. But, we still have to monitor it closely.



I will be discussing all of this on 41 Action News including this second system which reminds me of our first decent chance of snow on November 15th:


When we had the chance of snow on November 15th all we needed was a wave aloft that had any strength to it at all. It would have needed just a little amplitude and we could have seen a couple of inches of snow. Instead, it was flat, and we have the same problem on this chance of rain on Friday. The set-up is there for rain on Friday, but if the wave is flat the rain will likely stay south of KC. If it has any amplitude at all, then rain will spread farther north.  The Canadian model has been the most aggressive with Friday’s wave, but not the other models as you can see below. This latest GFS model is flatter than previous runs. If it is any weaker, then poof!


The snowflake contest will likely go on a rather long time.  Take a look at this European Model Forecast for ten days from now:

1You can click on this map for a larger view. A strong jet stream is forecast to continue to be generated over the Pacific Ocean and the flow over the United States is expected to split and be very weak.
This is a boring weather pattern any way you look at it. We are expecting a better chance of excitement later in the month. This is not a good trend at all.

That’s it for now.  We will go into a deeper discussion on the winter on Thursday, and you can see our Weathering Winter special Thursday evening.  Have a great Wednesday!