Lake Snow & ‘Signature Storm’

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

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog!  Lots to talk about in today’s entry including the small, but intense lake effect snow bands that grazed areas early Sunday.  We will also shift our focus and look ahead to the ‘signature’ storm that will arrive by next weekend.

Let’s start by talking about the lake effect snow that produced about 1 to 2.5 inches of snow in very isolated areas of southern Milwaukee county and northeastern Racine county Sunday morning and early afternoon.

Here is a radar image from 12:14pm Sunday.  Notice the intense snow over south Milwaukee.  At Mitchell Airport heavy snow was reported at Noon.  The airport recorded 1.3″ snow. 


While the quick burst of snow was hitting parts of the city, other areas in Milwaukee county were enjoying sunshine.  The nature of lake effect snow is that it can be unpredictable, and often hits isolated areas producing a wide range of snow totals.

It has now snowed in Milwaukee a trace or more on 19 of the 23 days in January!

More snow showers are possible on Monday, but accumulations should be very light.  The main area of low pressure will stay well to our north.  That means snow showers and flurries on Monday, with a trace to half inch possible as of this writing.  Make sure to watch 12 News for the updates.

Below is a surface map for Monday morning at 6am.  Notice that most of the snow stays north of our area.


By later in the week, what I have been referring to as the ‘signature’ storm in this year’s pattern will return.  This will be the 3rd time that the storm has occurred in our cycling weather pattern.  The weather pattern theory that I use to make long range weather forecasts is called the LRC, or Lezak’s Recurring Cyle.  I will get into the basics of the theory, and apply it to make the February forecast on Tuesday. 

The first 2 times through the cycle the storm produced a lot of wind, rain or snow, and a push of much colder weather on the backside of the storm.

Before we look ahead to this cycle’s version of the storm let’s check out how it looked in October and December.  The LRC uses the 500mb level of the atmosphere to follow the weather pattern.  At this level we concentrate on the long term longwave positions. 

Below is the 500mb archive map from October 27.  Notice the upper low just north of Lake Superior.  This storm translated to the surface with a record setting low pressure for both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The second time through the cycle, the storm once again produced a strong area of low pressure at the surface.  At the 500mb level, the map below from December 12 shos the upper low over Illinois.  The trough extends north to Hudson Bay.

This time through the cycle the high winds and snow in parts of the area prompted blizzard warnings.  In Milwaukee, snow totals were held down due to rain and a late changeover to snow.

Now let’s fast forward about 48 days to this Saturday, January 29.  Again a strong upper low is diving into this favored long wave position.  The FORECAST map below from the 18Z GFS shows the upper low near Lake Superior.  At the surface, a strong surface low is forecast to form over the Great Lakes.  

While we are still about 6 days away from the storm moving into our area, we can begin to see a few things.  First, there will once again be a warm-up ahead of the low.  On Friday highs should be in the 30s.  From Friday-Sunday a lot of wind is expected with gusts possibly around 40mph. 

A huge temperature drop is expected on the backside of the storm with falling temperatures on Saturday, and likely the coldest weather of the season to hit Milwaukee either Sunday or Monday.

At this point the system may be moisture starved for our part of the state.  We’ll have to see the final track and strength of the low before we get too specific, but right now I have snow showers in the forecast for Saturday.  We will continue to talk more about this storm and the overall weather pattern on Tuesday.

Until then, please post any questions or thoughts in the comments section of the blog.  

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson


10 Responses

  1. Jeremy,
    So do you see SE WI getting any 6+ snow totals in this sig. storm?

    • Stacey,

      Unless the track shifts much farther to the south, or a secondary low develops I do not see 6″+ in our area.


  2. I think the Euro paints a better picture, but all the same the “bomb” returns!

    • For “lrcweather” —

      What is the “better picture” that the Euro is showing?


      • Don – while we can see the storm returning in the models, I thought the Euro did a better job of representing it based on what is expected. I expect its location will vary a bit in the models upcoming.


  3. Do you believe we will get any big snow storms this season or are we done with large snow totals coming down at one time?

  4. Hi, Jeremy —

    I’m glad the Pack won and is going to the Super Bowl because at least we have something to look forward to and stay excited about since the “signature storm” is apparently going to let us down in terms of producing any snow, but end up being like ti was in October — just wind and cold. SIGH! Given earlier indications, such as in late December, I was expecting/looking forward to another big snowfall for our area. I forgot that the return of the “signature storm” doesn’t bring with it the guarantee of what we’ll actually end up with in terms of precip. Glad you reminded me of that a while ago so my expectations weren’t too high for a big snowstorm — but my hopes were! 🙂

    Speaking only for me, it’s these little dustings and inch or two snows ever other day that put the “blah” into winter. Give me a big snow anytime over a bunch of little ones.

    Of course, I can’t complain too much — I’m sure Milwaukee area snow lovers are really bummed this season!

    I’ll stay tuned, though, to see how things play out…

    Thanks for continuing to teach me/us about the weather!


    Don in Reeseville

    • Don,

      At the moment it doesn’t look like a big snow producer, we’ll see where things trend. But with the low so far north it doesn’t look too good. Our snow total for the month in Milwaukee is at almost 15″ now. If we get a little more snow this week the month will end above average. The little snows add up, but aren’t as much fun for snow lovers as a couple of ‘big’ snows.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      • Jeremy —

        Where do lows need to track so that we do get big snows? Growing up in Chicago area, I remember Tom Skilling always talking about the Ohio River Valley as being prime for big snows to accumulate in Chi-town. What about for our area?

        Also, I get confused when “Southeast Wisconsin” is referred to in the forcasts. Where does Dodge County fall in that? Are we SE WI, or more South Central WI?

        Thanks for continuing to chat with me!

        Don in Reeseville

      • Don,

        Prime track is usually heading in a northeast direction and going through central Illinois towards north central or northwest Indiana. I think the big factor in the lesser snow amounts in the storms this year is that the systems are heading in a southeast direction. Gulf moisture is pulled up much better when heading in a northeast direction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: