‘Signature’ Storm Arrives, Records To Fall Again

***Watch WISN 12 News for the latest on the rain and snow!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog!  A large and powerful early Spring storm system will impact the area over the next 2 days.  This ‘signature’ storm in the pattern will once again produce record setting weather over the Midwest.  From heavy rain, to heavy snow, and severe weather – we can expect many weather headlines to surface in the coming days.

Now that the rain has reached southern Wisconsin, the question is how much can we expect, and when will it change to snow?  For a current look at our interactive radar just click below.

Interactive Radar

Let’s start by looking at the surface map from 11am Tuesday morning.  At this time Milwaukee was just reporting cloudy skies with a cold east breeze and a temperature of 36 degrees.  Madison was reporting light rain indicated by the two ‘..’ next to the symbol labeled MSN.  Fond du Lac was reporting light snow at this time, indicated by the two ‘**’ symbols.

Surface Map Tuesday March 22 

The warm air was sitting well to the southwest of Wisconsin, with temperatures in the 70s over parts of Kansas and Missouri.  The mild readings will not make it into our region with this storm system.

So that means a cold rain, a wintry mix, or snow in southeast Wisconsin from this storm.  For Tuesday expect temperatures to remain in the 30s to near 40 degrees, warmest near the WI/IL border.  It will just be tough to see temperatures warm with winds blowing in refrigerated air from Lake Michigan.

The heaviest rains will likely occur late Tuesday afternoon through the early morning hours of Wednesday.  The 12Z GFS(Global Forecast System) model below shows 0.50″ to 0.75″ of rain possible between 7pm and 1am across southeast Wisconsin.  Thunderstorms are also likely during this time, and some could produce small hail.  If we were going to see any flooding issues surface during the rain, it may be during this time window.

Temperatures at the surface and aloft should keep the moisture as rain in Milwaukee during this time, but the ‘Zero’ line indicated by the blue line near Sheboygan would be likely anything from a mix to snow!  The blue line is the 850 mb(1500 meters above the ground) freezing line.  

Below is the 12Z GFS forecast map valid at 1 a.m.Wednesday.

GFS Surface Forecast March 22

The rain/snow line will drift south on Wednesday, and snow is likely in many areas.

Precipitation totals from Tuesday through early Thursday could be very impressive.  Some locations may push 2.00″ of moisture!  A majority of this would be rain in southeast Wisconsin.  Below is the RPM precipitation forecast.  Remember, this is just one forecast from one model that we look at.

Total Precipitation March 22-24

Now how much of this would be snow?  Below is the RPM snowfall forecast.  This puts a wide swath of 12″ of snow in northern Wisconsin.  This would be heavy, wet snow.

RPM Forecast Snowfall March 22-24

Below are the watches, warnings, and advisories that were in place as of Tuesday.  Fond du Lac and Sheboygan counties were included in the Winter Weather Advisory.

Watches and Warnings March 22

Through midday Tuesday most of the models we use for forecasting had surface temperatures about 1-3 degrees too warm.  If the colder trend holds for the entire storm, then the accumulating snow bands would be shifted a bit farther south.  I do think West Bend, Waukesha, and Milwaukee will see some snow stick from this storm.  Just a slight shift of 20-50 miles in the rain/snow line will make a huge difference in the forecast. 

If you follow the blog you know we call this part of the weather pattern the ‘signature’ storm.  It occurred on October 26-27, December 11-12, and February 1-2.  It is now back and will likely set more weather records.  This storm was forecast back on February 3 and again in more detail on February 27 here in the blog.

From February 27 blog entry!

The ‘signature’ storm should return around March 22-24 and I am expecting a classic Spring storm with a severe weather outbreak in the warm sector, and a major winter storm in the cold sector.

Each time through the cycle over a half inch of liquid precipitation has been measured.  This is one of the wettest storms in this year’s pattern.

The big question is what will southeast Wisconsin see?  I would lean to a rain to snow, with gusty winds with this storm.  Behind the storm a push of cold air will settle in to the region.


The first discussion of exact dates for this part of the pattern, and its return, was discussed back on February 3 in the blog!

I would expect this storm to return again, likely somewhere around March 22-25.  Let the anticipation begin!

For the latest on the rain and snow watch WISN 12 News, and make sure to post your thoughts and questions to the comments section of the blog.   

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson


27 Responses

  1. Boy, one step forward, two steps back this Spring. I can’t believe the COLD high temperatures for the end of this week. This is a very frustrating year for those wanting to get out and do some yard work!

  2. Can’t wait! I’m in northern Marinette county, we’re expecting 18″:) I’ll take one more and then hopefully spring sets in.

    • Terry,

      You can keep all the snow up your way! I use to drive through your area when I lived in the U.P. back in 2000-01. Very nice area!


  3. No snow in marinette county yet hope it starts sooooon 🙂

  4. Terry, enjoy the snow.. that’s awesome!!

    Jeremy, great job as always. Incredible long range forecasting 😀

  5. Well done Jeremy, you have the cycle down!

    • I think he had a good teacher. Now, I need to continue my studies.


      • Don’t rush…be patient. Good things come to those that wait. 😉

      • Funny, I just reiterated the NWS forecast to my wife for the rest of week, particular the lows. All single digits for the weekend. She said “argh, what?” and I said, “I’ve been telling you this for months”, and she responds “I know, I know.”

        haha. 🙂

    • Jeremy, I agree with Scott. Job well done! And thanks for being a great teacher on the subject.

      You too, lrcweather. The whole patience thing is coming in handy with my research on past years. So many times I’ve wanted to rush out what I’ve found because it’s so fascinating, but… 🙂

  6. Just got off the phone with Mark he said a foot in Crivitz

  7. Tuesday, March 22, 2011 4:24 pm

    Rainfall report: 0.30 inches (since last night)

    Just a short while ago, I checked the Irad to see how the storm is progressing. Based on the ‘storms’ display, didn’t really seem too big a deal. Out of curiosity, I switched to the cloud (satellite) view. Whoa! Pretty impressive looking!
    Planning to supply an update around 9:30pm or so provided the weather at the time will allow me to do so safely. We’ll see.

    Tony (Pl. Prairie)

    • Thanks, Tony. It is rather impressive. Looks like a few other storms we have had this winter. 🙂


  8. Jeremy- Your signature storm was predicted to the day! Nice work! I am concerned about my girls team volleyball practice in Tosa tomorrow night. Will we get a burst of snow late in the day or evening?

  9. Here in Oshkosh we have received 1.2″ of snow and sleet since the storm began. Currently sleeting with thunder and lightning. Pretty impressive. After looking at the past radar loops of this storm, it is taking a similar look on radar as the October storm… that’s just my two cents. Also, I am glad that this one is making it into DLH as a buddy up there has been missed by the storm since the Oct version. 🙂

    • Thanks, Josh. Look at the satellite comparisons of all the signature storms.


      • I spoke to soon about DLH. Seems the High up north is keeping the precip at bay. Similar to the last two times through the cycle… it’s been a frustrating ‘signature’ storm for them this year… as a matter of fact, many storms this winter as models early on have put snow into the area only to have it all move south. Perhaps in May they’ll get their fun again with snow when this baby returns… and acts more like the Oct version…

        With the projected path of the Low, it resembles the Dec version, to my eyes, but the overall girth of it stands out to me to resemble the Oct version. *shrug*

        Regardless, it’s another doozy. 🙂

      • Josh, I would not give up on Duluth just yet. Lake may kick in and give them plenty of fun tomorrow.


  10. So do you think I should cancel my golf outing in Rhinelander tomorrow?

    • Just use an orange ball and a snowmobile instead of a cart. Jeremy

    • Ha! You should have canceled in Oct. 🙂

  11. Tuesday, March 22, 2011 9:25 pm

    Rainfall (storm) update: total (since last night) = 0.42inches

    Not much in the way of any real storminess around here today (so far). Occasional rain and a bit breezy but little else. From my recent check of the radar, looks like that might not be the case too much longer! If my rain gauge and myself are still in working order tomorrow morning, I’ll post whatever I think you may be interested in hearing about.

    Tony (Pl. Prairie)

    • Keep it coming, Tony. Very helpful for us.


  12. About 1 1/2″ tp 2″ of wet mushy snow so far in the Greenbush area. Hoping for about 3-4″ more. Really like the forecast for the next 5-6 days, nice and COLD to set up the snow on the trails. Even some places that already closed for the season up north are thinking about opening this weekend. Guess old man winter doesn’t want to give up this year.

    Great job on forecasting the weather this winter. The weather team at channel 12 is really, really good and you guys make watching the weather interesting and enjoyable. Keep up the great work.

    • Thank you, Matthew. I think you will get your wish. You should change back to snow later tonight. If you are going up north you will really like the conditions.


  13. Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:12 am

    Rainfall update: additional rain since last update = 0.35 inches. Storm total = 0.77 inches. Present conditions: Heavy overcast, kinda chilly, little or no wind.

    Tony (Pl. Prairie)

    • Tony,

      Thanks for the update. Glad totals stayed below an inch.


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