Sunday Story for March 8

Today’s blog is brief and only contains the Sunday Story and 7-day outlook. Today is my grandfather’s funeral. Keep us close to your hearts and, if you pray, say a special prayer.

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Sunday Story

An odd snowstorm struck the state of Kansas on February 25th. A winter storm produced heavy snowfall in a path that was only 10-15 miles wide. Within that path, more than a foot of snow fell. On either side of that path, only flurries fell. 

The forecast originally called for about one to two inches of snow.

In meteorology school whole courses are designed around mesoscale meteorology, or localized meteorology. The atmosphere above initiates our weather, but surface features further influence the type of weather you see in your neighborhood.

Here on the plateau, terrain is often the main localized influence. Those of you in higher elevations see much different weather than those at lower elevations. 

Other surface features include boundaries that are left behind by previous weather events. In the spring and summer, thunderstorms may leave behind boundaries between the rain-cooled air left behind by the storm and the warm and humid air surrounding that. Those boundaries can act as initiation points for more development, or enhance existing storms that move over the boundaries.  

During a winter weather event, I always add “localized higher amounts are possible” with any snow forecast I make. It’s just not possible to know what the higher terrain will do to snow amounts, or what localized snow bands may drop in one community or another. These small-scale, localized events are quite the challenge!

During rain events, it’s really no big deal if one end of the county gets three or four tenths of an inch more rain than the other. If that’s snow falling, that would be as much as three or four more inches of snow. That’s a big deal! 

Yes, winter weather forecasting has its challenges. As Kansas showed us recently, those challenges reach far beyond our own plateau and even happen in areas with less challenging terrain.

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