Welcome to Spring…Sort of

Happy spring. Officially, in meteorology terms, March 1st is the beginning of spring. We all know in SE Wisconsin that March is still a winter month. If you are curious why meteorologists don’t follow the astronomical calendar, it’s all about record keeping. Because the seasonal calendar does not always land on the same days each year, record keeping would be very difficult. It’s much easier to keep track of seasonal records this way.

Speaking of our winter season, snow lovers should be pretty happy. Here is how much we have received so far.

The season started slowly, but we have certainly made up for that with January and February’s big totals. Now it looks like we will be adding to that. We have three chances over the next week. However, each chance brings forecasting challenges.

The first arrives on Thursday afternoon and evening. This is the least impressive storm. It is mainly being created by warm air advection. That is a push of warmer and more moist air that will be overrunning the cold air that will be in place over Wisconsin. Here is the latest GFS forecast for Thursday night.

The precipitation looks to be pretty light and the better chances will be in our northern counties for snow/sleet/ or possibly freezing rain. There could be an inch or two of snow in our northern counties.

The next storm is much more impressive. This will arrive on Friday night and Saturday. The track is quite uncertain at this time. The computer models have taken this much farther south the last few days. This is similar to Sunday night’s storm that moved just to our south. There will be a fair amount of moisture with this storm so it will have to be watched closely. Here is the Saturday noon forecast from the 18z run of the GFS.

At this point, we are on the northern fringe. Another fun forecast.

Finally, the biggest storm of the next week looks to move in on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. I believe this would coincide with the storm from January 17th of this year if you are following along with the LRC. Here is the GFS model for next Tuesday night. Keep in mind this is a week away and much can change.

It looks like it will be a busy stretch in the Weather Watch 12 Weather Center the next week. Stay tuned.



28 Responses

  1. The weekend storm is interesting.

    The 18z GFS brought the storm much farther south than before. Even the 12z had an impressive amount of moisture hitting the area.

    • I hate playing wait and see.


      • Mark —

        I hate “wait and see” too. I’d much rather play “I know and I’m confident” 🙂


  2. The storm next week doesn’t look too impressive, from that model run at least. With the way the models have been with storms this winter, you should just put a big question mark or display the words “check back Friday” on the Saturday graphic of your 7 day forecast.

    • Daniel,

      Euro run was pretty impressive. I still think next week’s storm will be pretty decent. As for the weekend….

  3. I should also mention (for anyone interested) that the meteorological seasons make much more sense than the astronomical seasons in a sense of balance. Take meteorological winter for example…

    Average high December 1 – 38
    Average high February 28 – 37

    The beginning and end of the season are nicely balanced.


    Astronomical winter…

    Average high December 21 – 31
    Average high March 19 – 44

    Not so balanced, and this is the case for the other three seasons as well.

    • I like that Daniel. Thanks.


    • Daniel G, I have never compared the numbers for each season as you have in this comment. Very interesting, thanks for sharing!

      For what it’s worth here in Oshkosh, according to my “winter season duration” the past five winters haven’t “began” until the second week of Dec, and have ended in mid to late Mar. If you’re interested in the numbers backing this up please see the links below.


      • Very cool, Josh. Well done. I love the graphical representation.


      • As someone who has a hot rod that I wait until the last possible minute to put away, I’ll concur that from 2005-2010 I don’t think I’ve put the car away for winter before Nov 30/Dec 1…

  4. I was thinking the weekend storm matched up better with January 17 th, but I’m just a rookie when it comes to analyzing the LRC

    • Robert,

      You may be right. This weekend could be the 17th and the middle of the week the 21st. I was looking more at 500mb levels.


    • Robert, you and I are in the same boat with this one. Anxious to see how it all breaks down.

  5. Hey, which site do you use to view the ECWMF model?

  6. Mark, I am curious if the storm next week Tuesday is the storm that went south in the previous cycle around Jan 19-20 (hit us the second time through around Dec 3-4). I think that because the storm from Jan 17 looks more like what the models are forecasting for the weekend. Either way, one of the most exciting things about my first year following the LRC is watching it breathe.



    Next Tue

    I understand looking at previous surface analysis isn’t the best method but for any instance of the LRC, but it seems to match up to what is forecast on the surface and the 500mb. This is an active pattern of the cycle and I could be mistaken.

    Just another thought from a rookie.

    • Thanks for attaching the previous storms. I had not thought of doing that before. We have some awesome readers of this blog. I would agree that the next three chances for precip do look similar. I am always nervous about surface features, but let’s go back next week and see how it matched up.


    • Josh, awesome gifs! That’s much appreciated – thanks for sharing that.

      Mark, will you be working in the weather center Friday and Saturday? Could be another tricky one to forecast, eh? Do you think the weekend storm will move back north, or is it anyone’s guess? I got disappointed when I saw the 00z GFS :/

  7. Tuesday, March 1, 2011 9:28 pm

    Hi Mark,

    I understand the nature of your job is looking forward (forecasting), but if you can spare a moment; any thoughts about how last Sunday’s storm played out? Any real significant surprises for you? Seems to me to have been gone pretty close to what you posted Friday the 25th but the next day and a half or so was a real ‘cliffhanger’!
    Hope you had a good weekend and Happy meteorological spring to you!

    Tony (Pl. Prairie)

    • Tony,
      Last Sunday was a fun one. In the middle of the week it looked like a bulls-eye, then wham model flip-flip. The models swayed into the weekend, but you were one of the few areas that got any precip at all. The RPM performs very well within 24 hours of an event. I have to discount it quite a bit for anything beyond that. By Saturday night when it had numerous runs in a row with little or no precipitation for us, I felt confident that we would generally get missed. The advisory was a bit overplayed. Thanks.

      • Mark,

        Thanks for the reply. I assure you I have no complaints with regards to forecasts or information put forth in the blog. I was merely curious, that in retrospect, if you felt that with regards to making the forecast’s for last Sunday’s storm, the models, and in particular, the longer range ones, were less effective than you were counting on, or was the actual weather’s behavior more chaotic than ‘normal’ making for a tough time for both you and the models.
        I’m quite certain the standards you set for yourself exceed any I have for you. It’s very unlikely you’ll ever be faced with criticism from me. Questions yes; criticism (either direct or veiled) no! I have much confidence that you use, very competently, whatever resources you have available. Likewise for the rest of the WW 12 weather group.

        Tony (Pl. Prairie)

    • Tony,

      Even if you have complaints, feel free to share. You have to have thick skin to do what I do. It is stressful, but enjoyable to have system after system right on the rain/snow line. Keeps us all quite busy.


  8. Hi, Mark! Hi, Jeremy!

    Jeremy — Dude — you are tall!!!

    I’m seeking yet more of your wisdom in helping me learn more about the LRC. In the long-rage LRC forecast in the Sunday night blog, it tells us to expect precipitation on the 5TH, “possibly accumulating snow.” But, reading entries in Monday’s blog, I’m getting the idea that {at least at this point}, the storm will most likely hit elsewhere than in south/southeast WI — again. The question I have is this –does the LRC guide us to anticipate weather events in general or in specifics? That is, is LRC meant to warn us to anticipate a storm to occur “someplace in the midwest” {this weekend} or does it warn us more specifically to expect a storm to occur “in southeast Wisconsin” {this weekend}? I’m thinking that if it’s meant to be geographically specific, then it’s messed with us a few times, as when storms didn’t materialize, though forecasted to do so — thus losing some of its’ dependability factor. If meant to be more general –then its seems to me that it retains a “safety” factor in terms of then one can say — “it’s going to be stormy somewhere around this area” rather than ‘going out on the limb’ and saying “definitely stormy in this exact spot.”

    As always I appreciate your teaching me about this and other weather stuff. I hope you don’t get tired of me always “looking over your shoulders” like this.

    Don in Reeseville

    • Don,

      In regards to your question I’m taking specific parts of the overall pattern at the 500mb level, and then translating that to the surface. This time of the year making long range forecasts can be a little easier since the pattern has repeated 3 times.

      For this weekend I believe the past cycles have produced 2 traces and 0.39″ of precip. Each time we were close to the edge. My notes are not in front of me here at home, but I think those numbers are right. So in saying some accumulating snow this weekend…my confidence was that we would be in the colder part of the storm while some precip was left. I will be covering this storm Thursday-Saturday on-air so I will pass along more this weekend.


      • Jeremy —

        So then I should consider LRC to be of help in forecasting weather for a specific area {SE WI} and in specific terms {type of precip}? But yet, there’s a certain amount of “we’ll have to wait and see” involved?

        One thing’s for sure — LRC told you that today is the coldest day of the month so far — and it’s spot on! Our temp here in Reeseville has not gotten above 20 degrees, and being it’s nearly 3 p.m., I don’t think it will get any higher.

        I’ll keep reading, watching, and thus, learning!


  9. The 12z GFS and NAM differ greatly for the potential weekend storm. The NAM still gives us a decently sized storm, but the GFS keeps the storm very far away.

    What do you guys think?

    • At least half of that precip is rain or freezing rain/sleet though on the 12z NAM. Changeover wouldn’t happen until close to midnight and by then about .25 QPF has already fallen. Would still be worth a few inches though overnight.

    • Chris,

      It looks like a rainy night on Friday eventually changing to some snow early Saturday morning. Some accumulation is likely, but likely less than 3″.


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