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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Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


that would be a scary sight...


Thanks, VA. Thought you were one of the nice guys.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting atmoaggie:
Humm. I had figured that with your age you'd have to have been one of those things that aren't allowed out during daylight...
I supposed I guessed wrong.


Watching too many "Twilight" shows, are we? HA
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting Ossqss:


What? It rains here often in the summer :)



I really didn't think my comment needed a sarcasm flag. Read it again.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting Grothar:


Contrary to common belief, Florida is not that humid in the summer. There are places with much higher humidity in the summer. It is rare that our humidity levels go over 95% in the summer.


What? It rains here often in the summer :)

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting Grothar:


I wouldn't know. I am not allowed out at night.
Humm. I had figured that with your age you'd have to have been one of those things that aren't allowed out during daylight...
I supposed I guessed wrong.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting MTWX:
It's nice see some of you back!! How you been Flood, Levi, and Miami??
Doing great. Thanks for asking. How have you been doing?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting Grothar:


I wouldn't know. I am not allowed out at night.


that would be a scary sight...
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Not even at night?


I wouldn't know. I am not allowed out at night.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting Grothar:


Contrary to common belief, Florida is not that humid in the summer. There are places with much higher humidity in the summer. It is rare that our humidity levels go over 95% in the summer.
Not even at night?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting atmoaggie:
Sure, like Florida in September, of course.

Just pointing out that the atmospheric moisture isn't of the 300% over normal for the season, and more, variety.


Contrary to common belief, Florida is not that humid in the summer. There are places with much higher humidity in the summer. It is rare that our humidity levels go over 95% in the summer.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting Floodman:


No, no...it's "pumping the ridge" which I initially thought was a euphemism for something, er, else...


ROFLMAO...
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Quoting hydrus:


Yes it is.......It is super moist. Its even moister than the ocean..Its the moistest air that has ever EVER existed in the Universe..lol..Good evening Atmo..:)
















Link please.... LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26871
Quoting hydrus:
They have had a few cyclones in that area. That may have put a dent in what would be considered normal amounts of moisture for this time of year.
Sure, like Florida in September, of course.

Just pointing out that the atmospheric moisture isn't of the 300% over normal for the season, and more, variety.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting MTWX:
Snow isn't all that bad for the area in question... The problem is going to be the large area they are talking about up to 1" of ice accumulation!! I would gladly take a couple feet of snow over an inch of ice any day!!

Yeah, that ice forecast is very bad.
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Standing by on Beacon tower One fer dat too
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Quoting Patrap:
Raises Eyebrow and chuckles Like a Bad Vulcan


Area forecast discussion...updated
National Weather Service New Orleans la
548 PM CST Monday Jan 31 2011


Long term...
have introduced a chance of a wintry mix of sleet and freezing
rain across southwest Mississippi and portions of adjacent east
central Louisiana...north of Baton Rouge for late Thursday night
into Friday morning. There is quite a bit of model spread with
regards to the timing...placement...and strength of a potent
shortwave trough and associated surface low that is expected to
move across the Southern Plains...lower Mississippi Valley...and
northern Gulf of Mexico Thursday night through Saturday morning.
Even with the low confidence in any given solution...there is
sufficient agreement that there will be cold enough air in place
to support freezing or frozen precipitation Thursday night into
Friday morning across the far northwest portion of the area with
all rain to the southeast. The European model (ecmwf) is slowest with the deeper
upper system that it moves across the lower Mississippi Valley
late Friday night and Saturday morning...yielding precipitation
into Friday night. Have opted to only include liquid precipitation early
Friday night...but that may change later if the European model (ecmwf) solution
becomes consistent and favored.
I saw that comin...

Waiting for the 0 Z NAM, atm.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
356. MTWX
Snow isn't all that bad for the area in question... The problem is going to be the large area they are talking about up to 1" of ice accumulation!! I would gladly take a couple feet of snow over an inch of ice any day!!
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Temps. went up since yesterday's West Palm Beach forecast:

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Quoting muddertracker:
Would that be "pumping" or not? I'm still confused about last season's "pumping" definition.

You can't tell from a satellite picture.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Raises Eyebrow and chuckles Like a Bad Vulcan


Area forecast discussion...updated
National Weather Service New Orleans la
548 PM CST Monday Jan 31 2011


Long term...
have introduced a chance of a wintry mix of sleet and freezing
rain across southwest Mississippi and portions of adjacent east
central Louisiana...north of Baton Rouge for late Thursday night
into Friday morning. There is quite a bit of model spread with
regards to the timing...placement...and strength of a potent
shortwave trough and associated surface low that is expected to
move across the Southern Plains...lower Mississippi Valley...and
northern Gulf of Mexico Thursday night through Saturday morning.
Even with the low confidence in any given solution...there is
sufficient agreement that there will be cold enough air in place
to support freezing or frozen precipitation Thursday night into
Friday morning across the far northwest portion of the area with
all rain to the southeast. The European model (ecmwf) is slowest with the deeper
upper system that it moves across the lower Mississippi Valley
late Friday night and Saturday morning...yielding precipitation
into Friday night. Have opted to only include liquid precipitation early
Friday night...but that may change later if the European model (ecmwf) solution
becomes consistent and favored.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
351. MTWX
It's nice see some of you back!! How you been Flood, Levi, and Miami??
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Uhh, greetings.
They have had a few cyclones in that area. That may have put a dent in what would be considered normal amounts of moisture for this time of year.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
251:

The louisiana accumulation is FICTION.

It's 65 degrees outside right now, with a wet ground. In order for snow to accumulate temps need to like plumet way cold right now, else ground temps and water temps will simply cause the snow to melt on contact.

1 to 6 inches between the lake and the mississippi border is ridiculous forecast, given current temps.

If that happens, I'll eat it. I'll even get someone to take pics....

We'll have to set this prediction aside for verification. Just one question: how do you verify a ridiculous absence of snow?

I'm looking forward to snow on Friday myself. Last I heard Houston was given a 30% chance and models varied from a trace to inches.

It's SNOW wunderbloggies!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
348. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Brisbane
Tropical Cyclone Advice #5
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE YASI (14U)
11:00 AM EST February 1 2011
=========================================

At 10:00 AM EST, Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category Three (960 hPa) located 14.0S 156.7E, or 1220 km east northeast of Cairns and 1200 km east northeast of Townsville has 10 minute sustained winds of 85 knots with gusts of 120 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west at 18 knots.

Hurricane Force Winds
======================
30 NM from the center

Storm Force Winds
=================
70 NM from the center in southern quadrant
50 NM from the center in northern quadrant

Gale Force Winds
===============
200 NM from the center in southern quadrant
140 NM from the center in northeastern quadrant
110 NM from the center in northwestern quadrant

Dvorak Intensity: T5.0/5.0/D1.5/24HRS

The cyclone is expected to continue intensifying as it moves west over the Coral Sea.

SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE YASI, CATEGORY 3, with gusts up to 220 km/h is currently moving in a westerly direction at 35km/hr but is expected to turn on a more west-southwesterly direction in the next 12 hours.

DAMAGING winds with gusts to 100km/hr are expected to develop on the islands during Wednesday morning and extend onto the coast during the day and extend inland across southern Cape York Peninsula and north of Charters Towers overnight Wednesday.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
==================================
A Cyclone WARNING has been declared for coastal areas from Cooktown to Sarina.

A Cyclone WATCH has been declared for coastal areas from Lockhart River to Cooktown and Sarina to Yeppoon and for southern Cape York Peninsula and inland areas north of Charters Towers.

Forecast and Intensity
=====================
12 HRS: 14.6S 153.0E - 90 knots (CAT 4)
24 HRS: 15.8S 149.6E - 100 knots (CAT 4)
48 HRS: 18.0S 142.7E - 45 knots (CAT 2)
72 HRS: 20.5S 137.4E - 25 knots (TROPICAL LOW)

Additional Information
=======================

Yasi continues to develop assisted by a environment of low shear, good upper level outflow and high ocean heat content [SST]. Dvorak based on ongoing embedded centre in white to give DT 5.0 although adjusted MET and visibile analysis indicates 4.5. FT/CI maintained at 5.0. Mean winds estimated at 85 knots [top end 5.0] supported by SATCON [95 knots 1min mean] as CIMMS AMSU estimates are higher than ADT.

Further intensification can be expected with low shear, upper outflow environment persisting until landfall. SSTs are slightly lower on the forecast track to about 28C but this may not be a sufficient to inhibit intensification.

Forecast motion is steady to the west with a persisting mid-level ridge to the south. Models are quite consistent with the forecast motion which may become a little more WSW in 12-18 hours possibly assisted by some beta affect.

The combined factors of being intense, large, and motion at 18 knots are conducive for greater wave/swell generation to the south of of the forecast track.

With the expectation of being a large and intense system, cyclone intensity may be maintained further inland than normal.

The next tropical cyclone advice on Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi will be issued at 3:00 AM UTC..
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46163

Bantha-Fodder ?

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Quoting hydrus:


Yes it is.......It is super moist. Its even moister than the ocean..Its the moistest air that has ever EVER existed in the Universe..lol..Good evening Atmo..:)
Uhh, greetings.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
The BOM forecast track delivers Yasi just to the north of Cairns, the worst-case scenario for them as it would put them on the onshore side of the eye wall where the storm surge is worst.

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Ouch. 12z ECMWF 48 hours out:

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Shinmoedake erupts. Cool pics at 11.
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Yes it is.......It is super moist. Its even moister than the ocean..Its the moistest air that has ever EVER existed in the Universe..lol..Good evening Atmo..:)














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JAXA GsMAP Rainfall/IR depiction of Yasi 4 hours ago:

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Easy Chewie,,..




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Quoting Patrap:
..That's no Moon,..


Thats a Large and Powerful Cyclone...


rwrwrgugagugagugagugagu!
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting Levi32:
Amazing how Yasi is literally pushing the upper low east of Australia out of the way and expanding his outflow to the southwest.


Reminds me of a few storms from the ATL 2010 season.
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..That's no Moon,..


Thats a Large and Powerful Cyclone...


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Quoting aquak9:
Absolutely huge amounts of moisture headed towards an area that has already had huge amounts of moisture. I pray it is not a massive catastrophe the the previous event.Bad break for these folks.

wonder what kinda earthquakes we're gonna see in this region over the next three months.

Hydrus, you're my witness.
Actually, for this time of year, it isn't spectacularly moist, relative to normal.

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
0z CIMSS update shows outflow still restricted to the southwest, but beautiful elsewhere:

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The difference from yesterday is clearly noticeable. On AMSU microwave passes through the core, the average diameter of the 1.0C isotherm is only about 70% of what it was 24 hours ago. The warm anomalies also extend much higher into the atmosphere today. This indicates a much tighter, more focused core with stronger upward motion.

24 hours ago:



Latest Pass:

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Quoting aquak9:
Absolutely huge amounts of moisture headed towards an area that has already had huge amounts of moisture. I pray it is not a massive catastrophe the the previous event.Bad break for these folks.

wonder what kinda earthquakes we're gonna see in this region over the next three months.

Hydrus, you're my witness.
They just had a pretty big one not that long ago...April 2010......................Hundreds of schoolchildren and miners were evacuated when the biggest earthquake in 50 years hit Australia%u2019s Goldfields earlier today, causing damage to buildings in two towns. So far, only two people have been reported as being treated for minor injuries.

The shallow, 5.0 magnitude quake struck about 8.20am local time (23.20GMT), 10km (six miles) north-east of the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie and the neighbouring town of Boulder in Western Australia.

Tremors were felt up to 200km (124 miles) away from the epicentre of the quake, which struck at a depth of 10km and caused structural damage to many buildings, including local pubs.

Locals in Kalgoorlie, including some who initially thought the quake was one of the regular blasts from the nearby mines, said it lasted about 20 seconds.
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Quoting Levi32:


That "pumping" issue is still up for debate among meteorologists. It's a hard thing to prove or disprove.

It's different here with Yasi. The "pumping" we hear about has to do with strengthening the mid-level ridge that is steering the storm. Here, Yasi is simply sending a huge amount of heat outwards away from him in the upper atmosphere, and sometimes when the heat output is strong enough it can actually push upper lows (pockets of cold upper air) away from the storm as the warmer air expands outwards.

Oh, now I remember the whole ridge thing..thanks for the explaination, Levi.
Silly Flood...hehehe
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The good news, if any, is that the upper divergence field is still very offset to the northeast of the storm center, with upper confluence still impinging upon the SW quadrant due to that upper low.

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@Floodman - (#302)

I disagree; you have plenty of time for bull$#!#...since you're in the Houston area I'm wondering how much you really are worried about this winter storm

What? Three or four days of hard freezes, 15 hours below freezing and down to 25 every night and snow in the forecast for a city that has as many homeless as anywhere else, and plenty of poor and elderly living in houses that aren't equipped for this kind of weather?

Yeh, we worry.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54858
Quoting muddertracker:
Would that be "pumping" or not? I'm still confused about last season's "pumping" definition.


That "pumping" issue is still up for debate among meteorologists. It's a hard thing to prove or disprove.

It's different here with Yasi. The "pumping" we hear about has to do with strengthening the mid-level ridge that is steering the storm. Here, Yasi is simply sending a huge amount of heat outwards away from him in the upper atmosphere, and sometimes when the heat output is strong enough it can actually push upper lows (pockets of cold upper air) away from the storm as the warmer air expands outwards.
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324. Skyepony (Mod)
YASI on MIMIC. For high speed users only..
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Quoting muddertracker:
Would that be "pumping" or not? I'm still confused about last season's "pumping" definition.


No, no...it's "pumping the ridge" which I initially thought was a euphemism for something, er, else...
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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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