Potentially historic winter storm poised to impact 100 million Americans

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:16 PM GMT on January 31, 2011

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A huge and potentially historic winter storm is taking shape over the Southern Plains today. By the time the storm exits New England on Wednesday night, as many as 50 million Americans may see heavy snows of at least 6 inches or dangerous ice accumulations of 1/4" or more from the massive storm, and 100 million will be affected by the storm. A potent jet stream with strong winds will dive southwards over the central U.S. today, allowing a cold Arctic airmass to spill southwards out of Canada. In front of this cold air, a flow of very warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico will surge northwards, providing copious moisture to fuel snowfall amounts that will likely approach two feet across portions of Iowa and Illinois on Tuesday. The storm could be Chicago's biggest blizzard since January 1999, when a storm dumped 21.6" of snow. Accompanying the heavy snow on Tuesday will be strong winds gusting to 40 mph in Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, and a blizzard watch is posted for Chicago. Strong winds in Chicago are expected to generate 14 - 18 feet waves on Lake Michigan, with occasional waves up to 25 feet. A significant coastal flooding event is possible for Chicago, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive. Many major cities will likely receive over 8 inches of snow from the storm, including Kansas City, St. Louis, and Detroit. Perhaps of greater concern is the potential for a major ice storm along a swath from Northwest Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Widespread freezing rain is expected to bring over 1/4" of ice to many major cities, including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Some regions could see up to an inch of ice, and widespread power outages due to toppled power lines are likely for millions of people. Damages exceeding $1 billions are possible from this ice storm. In addition, the storm's powerful cold front will bring the potential for severe thunderstorms to the deep South. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center is giving Louisiana and surrounding states a "slight risk" of severe weather on Tuesday, and severe thunderstorms with damaging winds are likely Tuesday afternoon in this region.


Figure 1. Probability of receiving at least 1/4" of ice for the 24 hours ending at 7am EST on Wed Feb 2, 2011. Image credit: NOAA.

Very dangerous Tropical Cyclone Yasi headed for Australia's flooded Queensland
With February nearly upon us, the traditional peak of the Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone season is here, and the waters surrounding Australia have been exceptionally active over the past week. We had the year's first two Category 4 tropical cyclones last week, Tropical Cyclone Wilma and Tropical Cyclone Bianca. Wilma passed over American Samoa as a strong tropical storm, and hit Tonga as a Category 3 storm, causing substantial damage to the islands, but no deaths or injuries. Wilma brushed New Zealand, bringing flooding and landslides to the North Island, and was the strongest tropical cyclone to affect that country in fourteen years, according to weatherwatch.co.nz. Tropical Cyclone Bianca skirted the west coast of Australia and dissipated before making landfall. Tropical Cyclone Anthony hit flood-ravaged Queensland, Australia, over the weekend, as a weak tropical storm with 40 - 50 mph winds. Fortunately, Anthony dropped only modest amounts of rain, and no new flooding disaster occurred in Queensland, which is struggling to recover from record floods. As reported in the latest Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate statement and flood summary, the past four months (September - December) have been the rainiest such period in Queensland's history, and the resulting flooding disaster has been Australia's most expensive natural disaster in history.

Queensland is in serious danger of renewed extreme flooding this week from Tropical Cyclone Yasi. Yasi has intensified to a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds, and is undergoing a period of rapid intensification that is expected to take it to Category 4 strength. Yasi is expected to hit Queensland on Wednesday, probably as a major Category 3 or stronger storm. In addition the storm's damaging winds and storm surge, Yasi will bring torrential rains. The GFS model is predicting that Yasi will dump 5 - 10 inches of rain over a large swath of Queensland, which would likely cause destructive flooding.

One positive note: the European Center model was remarkably accurate predicting the formation of Yasi over a week in advance, so Queensland has had plenty of time to prepare for the arrival of the storm.


Figure 3. Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 23:20 GMT on January 30, 2011. At the time, Yasi was a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Patrap:

Simulated global temperature in experiments that include human influences (pink line), and model experiments that included only natural factors (blue line). The black line is observed temperature change.


Global climate models clearly show the effect of human-induced changes on global temperatures. The blue band shows how global temperatures would have changed due to natural forces only (without human influence). The pink band shows model projections of the effects of human and natural forces combined. The black line shows actual observed global average temperatures. The close match between the black line and the pink band indicates that observed warming over the last half-century cannot be explained by natural factors alone, and is instead caused primarily by human factors.


Patrap...I'm not doubting your opinion....But just "Whom" is so sure that the "blue line" would have actually happened..? Kinda like my favorite quote when someone says to me "they said".Whom is exactly THEY
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72. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting RecordSeason:



Yah...

Greenland was named after Eric the Red, and there were never farmers and shepherders inhabiting greenland during the medieval periods.

Oh, wait a minute...


This was some really neat archaeological finds about the vikings, medieval ages & Greenland. Turns out grapes weren't grown there but imported, like their clothing fashions. Fascinating how they held on to their farming & eating livestock ways even as the worst of environments came on as the climate cooled. They housed with the cows for warmth. Layering waste instead of using local resources to dress warm enough to venture out in winter. They were even eating fresh births to make it to spring in the end. Filth & indoor farming instead of embracing the environment & living off it.. like ice fishing to survive like the Inuit. Hope it's not a clue as to how people behave in a changing climate.
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Well this should be the most documented winter storm ever then, since everyone and their mother has a cell phone, ipod, iphone, camera and its supposed to affect 100 million people!
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
68.

Perhaps you could extend that graph to include the 2000-2010 period, which is the interval of interest?
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As we say good bye to January tomorrow, we will not say good bye to Winter. We could see highs 70+ both Monday & Tuesday before a strong cold front brings back the heavy weather gear for the rest of this week. The cold surge will keep highs in the 40s Wed-Friday and, with the upper flow remaining from the SW, there is the outside possibility of seeing a Gulf wave throw up moisture into the cold air Thursday & Friday. Could it be cold enough to see some snow? Perhaps close by, especially across the North Shore but it all depends how deep into the cold air we get. Below zero temps already have plunged into the northern plains and much of the eastern U.S. will have some kind of winter weather(Ice/snow) during the next 3-5 days. Stay tuned

by bob
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Simulated global temperature in experiments that include human influences (pink line), and model experiments that included only natural factors (blue line). The black line is observed temperature change.


Global climate models clearly show the effect of human-induced changes on global temperatures. The blue band shows how global temperatures would have changed due to natural forces only (without human influence). The pink band shows model projections of the effects of human and natural forces combined. The black line shows actual observed global average temperatures. The close match between the black line and the pink band indicates that observed warming over the last half-century cannot be explained by natural factors alone, and is instead caused primarily by human factors.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128284
Quoting Patrap:
Dat Alaska Math is amazing..sometimes.

LOL


Prove me wrong instead of hiding behind insults.
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Dat Alaska Math is amazing..sometimes.

LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128284
Quoting RecordSeason:



Yah...

Greenland was named after Eric the Red, and there were never farmers and shepherders inhabiting greenland during the medieval periods.

Oh, wait a minute...


If Greenland was named after Eric the Red, why isn't it called Redland?
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26th Jan. 2011 - Storyful - Jeddah City Saudi Arabia Floods Rain Cars Damage





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128284
The last tropical cyclone to make landfall in the Australian state of Queensland as a category 5 (Australian scale) was Cyclone Larry in 2006. It was described as the strongest to hit Queensland in a century.



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Quoting Neapolitan:

With which part do you disagree? That solar activity is at a minimum? That the planet isn't warming? That solar radiative forcing plays only a bit part in overall warming? All of the above are scientific fact, as has been pointed out here with great frequency--probably too great for some people. ;-) And as has been done many times before , there are numerous graphs and charts that can be posted to show that temps continue to climb, whether from a far-too-short baseline of 2002 to now, or one from 2000, or 1990, or 1980, or 1970...


You stated:

Quoting Neapolitan:
even now the planet is still warming despite the sun's relative lack of activity.


The sun has only started decreasing its activity (it has been at a modern maximum since 1950) since 2007-2008 when solar cycle #24 started doing weird things. Your statement is untrue because the globe is in fact not warming or cooling for the last 10 years or so. Again, nobody jump on me about long-term trends. I don't care. For this post, I'm responding to Nea's claim that the globe is warming despite lower solar activity, which is not true at this time.

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amy- this is from dec 13, 2010, along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago

Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25927
Quoting Levi32:


This is actually untrue. Since 2002, the global temperature trend has been essentially flat in most data sets. Furthermore, it takes a little more than one solar cycle minimum (which occurs every 11 years) to make a very noticeable effect on the long-term trend. If we were to actually go into a Maunder-like minimum, we would then notice the effects, and it would be interesting to see how significant they are.

With which part do you disagree? That solar activity is at a minimum? That the planet isn't warming? That solar radiative forcing plays only a bit part in overall warming? All of the above are scientific fact, as has been pointed out here with great frequency--probably too great for some people. ;-) And as has been done many times before , there are numerous graphs and charts that can be posted to show that temps continue to climb, whether from a far-too-short baseline of 2002 to now, or one from 2000, or 1990, or 1980, or 1970...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13531
Quoting Levi32:


..... -.-

I was refuting his claim that global temp was rising despite the recent drop in solar activity (since 2008...).

The trend since 2002 against the long-term means nothing yet unless it continues through this decade.


But global temperatures are still rising. The long term trend has not changed even with 2002-2010 data added to the set. The solar factor has been stable if not decreasing for longer than 2 years, more like 25-35 years. Then we had the warmest year on record at a solar minimum not seen for at least 100 years.

The natural cycles are weighing towards colder, the solar activity is weighing towards colder, yet the trend remains upward.
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38. NRAamy 5:29 PM GMT on January 31, 2011
A significant coastal flooding event is possible for Chicago, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive


what, no levees?


No levees in Chicago and most of the lakefront is landfill. I have seen gigantic waves breaking over Lake Shore Drive, and it is definitely scary. Glad I live in FL now.


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Global Climate Change Indicators
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center

Many lines of scientific evidence show the Earth's climate is changing. This page presents the latest information from several independent measures of observed climate change that illustrate an overwhelmingly compelling story of a planet that is undergoing global warming. It is worth noting that increasing global temperature is only one element of observed global climate change. Precipitation patterns are also changing; storms and other extremes are changing as well.
How do we know the Earth's climate is warming?

Thousands of land and ocean temperature measurements are recorded each day around the globe. This includes measurements from climate reference stations, weather stations, ships, buoys and autonomous gliders in the oceans. These surface measurements are also supplemented with satellite measurements. These measurements are processed, examined for random and systematic errors, and then finally combined to produce a time series of global average temperature change. A number of agencies around the world have produced datasets of global-scale changes in surface temperature using different techniques to process the data and remove measurement errors that could lead to false interpretations of temperature trends. The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.


The warming trend that is apparent in all of the independent methods of calculating global temperature change is also confirmed by other independent observations, such as the melting of mountain glaciers on every continent, reductions in the extent of snow cover, earlier blooming of plants in spring, a shorter ice season on lakes and rivers, ocean heat content, reduced arctic sea ice, and rising sea levels.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128284
Global Climate Change Indicators
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Climatic Data Center



The amount of solar energy received at the top of our atmosphere has followed its natural 11-year cycle of small ups and downs, but with no net increase. Over the same period, global temperature has risen markedly. This indicates that it is extremely unlikely that solar influence has been a significant driver of global temperature change over several decades.


Global surface temperature (top, blue) and the Sun's energy received at the top of Earth's atmosphere (red, bottom). Solar energy has been measured by satellites since 1978.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128284
Quoting ScottLincoln:


Starting off your sentence about a climate trend with "Since 2002" immediately makes it drop to near the bottom of the pile in regards to actual value. It would take a very strong trend to create statistical significance at that short a duration. There is a reason why climate normals are based on 30-year periods.


..... -.-

I was refuting his claim that global temp was rising despite the recent drop in solar activity (since 2008...).

The trend since 2002 against the long-term means nothing yet unless it continues through this decade.
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Quoting Levi32:


This is actually untrue. Since 2002, the global temperature trend has been essentially flat in most data sets.


Starting off your sentence about a climate trend with "Since 2002" immediately makes it drop to near the bottom of the pile in regards to actual value. It would take a very strong trend to create statistical significance at that short a duration. There is a reason why climate normals are based on 30-year periods.
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Dallas could pick up a decent amount of snow from this one.

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oh, I forgot......

SQUAWK!!!!!!!!!
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


I'm skimming threw some NASA data...good stuff! Still looking for the correlation between temperature variations here on earth with the max/min sun spot cycle. What would it be 1-2 degree Celsius?


More along the lines of 0.1C. It takes prolonged fluctuations in solar activity to significantly affect global temperature.
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
What would it be 1-2 degree Celsius?


Using:
dF = 0.7 * d(TSI)/4 and
dT = λ*dF

and some quick rough calculations, you get:
1.5 W/m2 solar output change yielding roughly 0.14-0.31C change in global average temperature.
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Not sure why it's occurring; the most that can be said is that the sun does what the sun does. Predictions as to what it will do and when are based only on past statistics; there's no modelling or physics involved. It's not much more accurate than predicting that since the last five green cars that passed your house were doing at least 50 mph, the next one will, too.

At any rate, as Scott said in comment #35, the warming from current CO2 levels far outweighs any possible cooling effect from solar activity. Even if the sun were to go back to Maunder Minimum levels, the atmosphere and oceans would continue to warm--as evidenced by the fact that even now the planet is still warming despite the sun's relative lack of activity.


This is actually untrue. Since 2002, the global temperature trend has been essentially flat in most data sets. Furthermore, it takes a little more than one solar cycle minimum (which occurs every 11 years) to make a very noticeable effect on the long-term trend. If we were to actually go into a Maunder-like minimum, we would then notice the effects, and it would be interesting to see how significant they are.



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NAM snow depth for Thursday evening:



GFS snow depth for Friday afternoon (beyond NAM's forecast time):

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why no levees? I mean, I understand the ones we have are crap..... but no defenses at all seems a bit.... um...... reckless.....
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Snow for Houston, too?

GFS precip type for Friday morning:

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Quoting ILwthrfan:


Any theories to behind why this is occurring?

Not sure why it's occurring; the most that can be said is that the sun does what the sun does. Predictions as to what it will do and when are based only on past statistics; there's no modelling or physics involved. It's not much more accurate than predicting that since the last five green cars that passed your house were doing at least 50 mph, the next one will, too.

At any rate, as Scott said in comment #35, the warming from current CO2 levels far outweighs any possible cooling effect from solar activity. Even if the sun were to go back to Maunder Minimum levels, the atmosphere and oceans would continue to warm--as evidenced by the fact that even now the planet is still warming despite the sun's relative lack of activity.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13531
We are going to have broken water mains, thousands of busted pipes, accidents because businesses are not turning off their sprinkler systems.

bord- emplyers need to tell their employees, to STAY HOME

shouldn't there already be a notice of school closing?

and how's the weather right now, bord?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25927
Quoting NRAamy:
A significant coastal flooding event is possible for Chicago, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive


what, no levees?

Psst, no levees!!
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Gonna get crazy this week

NO, things WILL be crazy. Correction, very crazy :O)!!
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A significant coastal flooding event is possible for Chicago, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive


what, no levees?
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City of Toronto
Winter storm watch for
City of Toronto issued

..Major winter snowstorm Tuesday night and Wednesday..

This is an alert to the potential development of dangerous winter weather conditions in these regions. Monitor weather conditions..Listen for updated statements.

A major winter storm is developing over Texas and will track towards Southern Ontario Tuesday. The low is expected to track just south of the lower lakes Wednesday.

Light snow will begin in advance of this system tonight and Tuesday. However the heavier snow is forecast to begin Tuesday night and continue Wednesday morning. Potential widespread snowfall amounts of 20 to 30 cm are likely before the snow tapers off Wednesday afternoon.

In addition strong and gusty east winds will develop with the snow. This will cause local whiteout conditions in blowing snow. The east winds will also generate local snow squalls off Lake Ontario in advance of the main snow area which will give enhanced snow amounts to regions near the west end of Lake Ontario.

This will be the first Major winter storm of the season for the Toronto area, and the most significant storm of the season for many regions outside the traditional snow belts. The heavy snowfall and blowing snow will cause whiteout conditions making for extremely hazardous driving conditions. The public should be prepared to change plans accordingly to avoid travel during the storm. This storm has the potential to create near-paralyzing conditions.

Environment Canada continues to monitor this dangerous winter storm and will issue further watches and warnings as necessary.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53838
Quoting aquak9:
bordonaro- hi- I am worried about ya'll who are not familiar with these conditions

We are going to have broken water mains, thousands of busted pipes, accidents because businesses are not turning off their sprinkler systems.

My concern is Tuesday. Events like this storm happens once every 20 yrs. So at the most, the NWS super-computers only have about 7 events like this in their data base.

The NWS Ft Worth, TX mets are going to have to forecast this event, the old fashioned way, which is VERY difficult. Snow/sleet/freezing rain events on this possible scale or magnitude occur very seldom.
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


Any theories to behind why this is occurring?


I know that things like this happen somewhat "often" (in geologic terms) and are not necessarily a huge deal - especially considering how the altered greenhouse effect has changed the radiative balance by more than the solar cycle does.

Unfortunately studying how solar cycles work is much more difficult than studying something here on planet earth. We can't exactly send tons of probes into it, nor can we see everything that is going on. The most impressive thing really is that with our recent solar cycle oddities, the long term trend has seen minimal change.
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Quoting Levi32:


I'm not very educated on solar dynamics. I do know that grand minima are not predictable with our current knowledge. NASA had this solar cycle ramped up to 140 max smoothed sunspot number before this cycle began, and now they have had to cut all the way down to 58, and possibly even lower. Whether this is the beginning of a grand minimum or not remains to be seen, but something is definitely going on.


I'm skimming threw some NASA data...good stuff! Still looking for the correlation between temperature variations here on earth with the max/min sun spot cycle. What would it be 1-2 degree Celsius?
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Quoting greentortuloni:
All the scientists missed that fact. Makes me wonder why we pay scientists anything at all.


Scientists missed what fact, exactly?
And what scientists are you referring to?
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Quoting ILwthrfan:


Any theories to behind why this is occurring?


I'm not very educated on solar dynamics. I do know that grand minima are not predictable with our current knowledge. NASA had this solar cycle ramped up to 140 max smoothed sunspot number before this cycle began, and now they have had to cut all the way down to 58, and possibly even lower. Whether this is the beginning of a grand minimum or not remains to be seen, but something is definitely going on.
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MEGLABLIZZADOOM!!!!
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Quoting Levi32:
Solar Cycle #24 continues to fall extremely behind the last cycle, and most observed cycles since the Dalton and Maunder Minimums.



Any theories to behind why this is occurring?
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Solar Cycle #24 continues to fall extremely behind the last cycle, and most observed cycles since the Dalton and Maunder Minimums.

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Quote "Yah...

Greenland was named after Eric the Red, and there were never farmers and shepherders inhabiting greenland during the medieval periods.

Oh, wait a minute..."

Too true, mate. All the scientists missed that fact. Makes me wonder why we pay scientists anything at all.
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Too true, mate. All the scientists missed that fact. Makes me wonder why we pay scientists anything at all.
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Gonna get crazy this week
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
bordonaro- hi- I am worried about ya'll who are not familiar with these conditions
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 165 Comments: 25927
Yep... Wednesday night, 15 degrees in South Central Texas (Austin) BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
That forecast is from Northern Texas... in the Panhandle


Wow, I almost guessed Minnesota!
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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