2 Storms = More Snow & Cold

***Watch WISN 12 News for the latest weather information!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 Blog!  Back on November 23 I issued the winter forecast for southeastern Wisconsin based on the LRC.  In that forecast I mentioned a certain part of this year’s weather pattern could bring the potential for major winter storms to our area.  That part of the pattern is about to return!

Before we talk about the potential for a ‘bigger’ storm, let’s focus on the snow chance that heads our way for Thursday.  The quick moving storm system for Thursday will be what we call an ‘Alberta Clipper’.  These typically bring our area light precipitation, and I expect that to hold true again on Thursday.

Since we are in the winter though, any type of light amounts of precipitation can translate into snow, and really anything that sticks can cause some headaches.  On Thursday afternoon, I expect light snow to develop fromwest to east across southern Wisconsin.

Below is the forecast surface map from the HPC for 7pm Thursday.  This shows light snow in our area as the main area of low pressure is well to our northwest.

This snow will fall during the evening commute, so there could be some issues or extended travel times tomorrow.  Snow totals across our area will likely fall into the 1 to 2 inch range in many locations, but I could also see some areas staying under 1 inch, and a few getting close to 3.

Below is the snowfall forecast that I showed on WISN 12 News This Morning on Wednesday.  This is from our in-house high resolution computer model.  This model did very well with our snow this past weekend!

Once this quick clipper moves by, the focus will be on the weekend.  Mark has been talking about this storm in the past couple of blog entries.  I want to talk more about how this fits in the overall pattern and this year’s LRC.  After looking at the pattern and what lies ahead, I think this storm may be our ‘signature’ storm of this year’s pattern.

So where have we seen this before?  Let’s look back to October 24 and the jet stream, or 300mb level.  The shaded areas on the map below highlight where the strongest winds, or jet streaks, are located.  Of note is the very strong jet stream winds that were about to crash into the Northwest Coast.

These strong winds helped in forming the huge windstorm that hit the Midwest back on October 26!

Now fast forward roughly 47 days to this coming Friday.  The forecast 300 mb map below is from the 6Z NAM(North American Model) showing another intense jet streak with very strong winds approaching the Northwest Coast.  This feature is almost identifcal to the one back on October 24.

Strong jet streaks can help to build ridges and troughs, in turn leading to storm systems at the surface.  If you would like to read more about jet streaks and their importance just follow the link below.  It gets a little technical, so that is why I’m just supplying the link.


Since I believe this to be the repeat of the feature that produced the wind storm, I’m once again expecting a large and intense storm to form over the weekend.  As we have been discussing the track of the storm will be key.  It may mean the difference between a foot of snow, or an inch of snow.  Or it could mean the difference between rain and a mix or all snow.  By looking back to the past, the position of the long term longwave does offer us some clues.

With that said, I think the current position of the GFS track, shown below, is too far to the east at 6am Sunday.

In order to get the track to shift, we would need the storm to slow down or strengthen.  No matter if we get hit by the storm or it stays east, it looks to get very windy and cold on the backside of the storm.

Make sure to stay with Weather Watch 12 for further updates on Thursday’s snow, and also the potential for a weekend storm!

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson


24 Responses

  1. I have plans to travel in Wisconsin this weekend. Do you know when you can say with confidence what path the storm will take?

    • Jason,

      Since the snow on Saturday may not be until later in the day I would say the highest confidence will be in our Friday Night forecast, but we should have a better idea by tomorrow. Keep in mind if even if the weekend storm stays east, there be a lot of wind on Sunday which could cause the snow we have on the ground to blow around in open areas.


  2. Hi, Jeremy —

    About the weekend storm possibility — by saying you think the one model has it too far east by 6 a.m. Sunday, do you mean the “lion’s share” of the snowfall would be during the daytime Sunday — or overnight Saturday? I am a pastor at a little church in Reeseville and I need to know if I should be prepared to make a decision about cancelling services. {Our Sunday morning events start and 9 and go til Noon — and no, my sermon is THAT LONG! 🙂 }

    Thanks for your help!

    Don Steinberg

    • Don,

      I think some snow is possible by Saturday afternoon. I think we’ll have to hold off until Thursday to get too specific about the weekend. Hopefully things start to line up a little better with my thinking soon:)


  3. Remember back to last year when we had that Christmas storm that tracked west of us into Iowa and the next time through the cycle it tracked pretty far south and east and we only got a glancing blow. (By the way, that was the storm where your forecast blew the other guys out of the water including the NWS). This makes me think the current GFS track is certainly possible although I think it will be a little more west regardless. I think this is going to be Indianapolis and Detroit’s storm to deal with and we’ll get some snow, but probably advisory level totals.

    • Daniel,

      I could see the more eastern track the next time in late January. Looking back to last year, the GFS had the Christmas storm moving well east of our area, and it turned out to move west giving us mainly rain. While I’m not calling for rain, I do think the GFS should trend more west in the coming runs based on the last time around. In order for that to happen the storm needs to slow a bit and also strengthen sooner.


  4. WISN Storm Team,

    How much more of a western track does the storm need to take to affect SE Wisconsin? Watching some of the different models, this looks like a rather large storm, are blizzard watches or warnings possible with this storm? Looking forward to your insight. You all do a awesome job on this blog and I love it!

    • Kosta,

      Great to read your comment and thanks for being a part of the blog! The storm is already going to impact SE WI this weekend. The GFS which has an easterly track into the Ohio Valley and eastern Great Lakes still brings a band of snow through our area. However, as I have mentioned I think this is too far east.

      With that said if the main low pressure area would track into Indiana and then lower Michigan we would have a major storm on our hands in my opinion, and possibly a very memorable one.

      As for blizzard warnings…here is the criteria that I believe it is for a warning to be issued.

      A Blizzard Warning will be issued when the following conditions are forecast to last at least 3 hours. Falling and/or blowing snow frequently reducing visibility to 35 mph.

      I did a quick search so if the definition is off someone can post the correct criteria in the comments.


      • Jeremy,
        What do you think the chances are that this storm will slow down and make more of a curve to the north and west? I’m really hoping for a direct hit here, but I’m not seeing that with the computer models.

      • Justin,

        I’m still leaning that this takes a little more westward track. When storms are forecast to be big, sometimes the computer models make errors this far out. The models will change but the question is how much and in which direction.


  5. No matter how bad it gets for us at least it isn’t anything like this regarding the typical areas downwind of the Great Lakes…

    “If the snowfall happens as forecast, it could mean some locations will have 5 to 10 feet of snow on the ground from the most recent lake-effect, the storm and the new lake-effect,”

  6. Are there any chances of additional lake-effect snow?

    I think that whoever gets the brunt of the storm will be experiencing a blizzard. Are there chances that the same wind gusts we received in October will be similar to this storm…along with the snow?

    • Chris,

      Keep in mind the storm back in October had the lowest pressure ever recorded in WI. If the low bombs out again, it may occur well away from our area, so while we will see wind, I’m not sure it would get as high was back in October. Remember, I believe this is the feature that produced the windstorm, but even at that each time through the cycle the exact jet stream position is different, moisture content for storms to work with is different. I’m trying to take the upper level flow and the long term longwave ridges and troughs and translate that down to the surface to make a forecast.

      Its not easy, but I think the LRC gives us an advantage. Once we get into next week I think we should be able to talk about potential storms or features down the road, now that I’m confident that the cycle length is around 45 to 47 days.


  7. Jeremy,
    At 4 p.m Tmj4 meterologist said with confidence, that the storm for Sat will stay south of us, only bringing us 1-3 inches of snow. I was amazed how quick the snow totals became concrete with still 3 days left before it gets here. So what do YOU say is going to happen with the storm? I was hoping that we would get the brunt of the storm…….for once this winter 😦

    • Stacey,

      Lots of time between now and then. I would suggest watching Mark today at 5, 6, & 10pm. He’ll have new info to work with. When I worked in Kansas City, one rule we had in the comments section of the blog and something I haven’t discussed here yet. If someone references another forecast or station we don’t use them by name. With respect to them, just say another source or other forecast. I’m surprised this didn’t come up sooner:)

      As for other forecasts, we can only control what we put on the air/web. Our #1 focus right now is on the snow for Thursday. That will cause some problems. After that snow moves by the models should come into agreement on the weekend. The 18Z NAM now reaches the beginning of the weekend storm. I am liking what I see…we need to watch the 500mb vort max that comes out of Nebraska. This feature may strengthen in future runs. Already it brings us the potential for accumulating snow sometime Saturday or Saturday evening/night plus the potential for some lake effect snow.

      Thanks for your thoughts.


      • Jeremy,

        By “liking what you’re seeing,” does that mean you are seeing the storm getting better (as in more snow for us), or better in the fact that it will be too far south for heavy snow? I hope you mean the first “better”! 🙂

    • Interestingly there are 3 “other” stations saying the storm will mainly miss us to the south. These 3 “other” stations don’t have the great winter storm track record of Weatherwatch12.

      There is a massive discussion about this storm on Accuweather’s website and just about everyone is saying this is one of the most difficult storms to predict in quite some time. I guess this is where having the LRC in our back pocket can prove quite useful.

  8. If we don’t get at least 6 inches in a single storm this winter, I’d say I’m moving somewhere where they actually get a foot of snow to enjoy.

    • Stacey,

      I’ve been there and done that…it’s called Marquette, Michigan. The winter of 2000-2001 I lived through 272″ of snow. I moved after 1 year:)


  9. Then I suppose I should move to Marquette huh? 🙂

    • Even in a down winter you would see around 100″ of snow. Sounds fun until it doesn’t melt until May;)


      • Jeremy, I lived in Marquette, MI for one year as well. 1995-96. Born and raised in Green Bay I was amazed at the snowfall. I believe at the time, the snow total of 260″ ish was the record and then 00-01 broke it again? I can’t recall. Regardless.

        stacey, even with MQT’s snow totals, places to it’s northwest in the UP, especially the Keweenaw get much more. I’d say one could move to Houghton and get completely buried while staying off the radar, literally.

        I often dream of a cottage up there near the lake. sigh.

  10. Jeremy:

    Your post at 1:25 p.m. regarding the definition of a blizzard didn’t mention the requirement that visibility be frequently at or below one-quarter mile in addition to the frequent 35 m.p.h. or higher wind gusts.

    I really enjoy this blog, especially the comments. It’s so difficult to get an intelligent discussion of the weather, especially locally.

    As I get older, I like winter less and less but I still love an old fashioned snowstorm. It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend.

  11. The 0z runs have finally caught up. Enjoy your snow storm! And yes, the LRC provides a HUGE advantage with storms that confuse the models. 😉

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