Well, it wasn't much, but it did snow in Texas during the overnight hours on Sunday into Monday. Amounts were light-from a dusting to about an inch.
One of the more common places for snow in Texas is in the panhandle. Some of this occurs with a little enhancement from terrain. Eons and eons of alluvial deposits washed down from the Rocky Mountain created a vast, elevated tableland across the western panhandle concurrent with eons and eons of erosion along its eastern edge.
Sometimes called the Llano Estacado
or Caprock Escarpment
. The term "escarpment" refers to the abrupt change in elevation between higher terrain from the lower rolling hills to the east.There can be as much as 150-300 meters of elevation difference along the escarpment.
The origin and meaning of the spanish "Llano Estacado" or "Staked" or "Palisaded" Plains is open to debate. There is some anecdotal evidence to support the theory that the area was named after the practice of early spanish and later, american explorers, to drive wooden posts along traverses across this barren landscape to serve as route markers.
"Palisade" is rooted in the Latin word "palus" for "stake".
Another popular opinion-and the one I favor suggests that the escarpment edge as viewed from the lowlands was similar in appearance to the defensive structure of wooden posts driven in the ground side-by-side around the perimeter of outposts, forts, or settlements. The escarpment would certainly have provided some impediment to travel.Fig. 1
One of the better supporting arguments for the spanish "Palisades" origin was found in a clipping from an online blog entry by Mark Haslet hosted by the Amarillo Globe News
from July 17, 2011, entitled "Echoes of Castile on the Llano Estacado". A convincing presentation that ties the latin root word to the Castillian Spanish language, landscape, and people:..."The name is attributed to Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who crossed the present-day Texas Panhandle on his fruitless expedition to Quivira.
Traditionally, the phrase was translated from Spanish as "Staked Plain." This translation inspired theories that Spanish explorers got the name from the stake-like yuccas that dot parts of the region. Another story has the Spanish driving stakes into the ground to help with their navigation of the sea-like expanse of nearly featureless land.
Contemporary scholars tell us that "Palisaded Plain" is a more accurate translation. Coronado reportedly thought the Caprock Escarpment, at the edge of the plateau, resembled a palisade, or tall fence made of wooden stakes.
The arrival of Spanish-speakers on the Llano Estacado was a moment where geography and history combined to make a great, if subtle, symmetry.
The Spanish language refers to itself as both español and also castellano, or Castilian. The tongue comes from the Castilian dialect of the Latin-derived vernacular spoken by the medieval peoples of the Iberian Peninsula. Castile, a region in the center of Spain, established itself as dominant during the nation’s political unification.
Those Spanish of Castilian stock who found their way to the Llano Estacado must have noticed the strange country’s similarity to their own.
Mountains ring the coasts and borders of Spain, but the plateau of Castile sprawls across the Spanish heartland. It’s a dry realm, blustery, blasted by the sun. Even today, much of Castile is empty, marked by small villages where buildings, trees and people cluster against the ferocity and loneliness of the plain. The summers broil and the winter wind comes like a sword. Sound familiar?
What irony for those first Spanish who lumbered up the escarpment, only to find a cousin of the Castilian llano.
"We could have stayed at home," perhaps someone said..."Fig. 2
Caprock Escarpment-Garza County, Texas
Oh yeah, the snow...
Dry air and moist air cool at slightly different rates with elevation but it is safe to say that one might expect to see a 1-3°C drop in temperature solely on the terrain elevation change. It is also worth a mention that any south or southeasterly warm air advection (WAA) that rises up and over the cold surface air also gets to take advantage of this 150-300 meter "bump up". The entire column is lifted. Sometimes the meager moisture in this WAA scenario is able to saturate and cool with the extra lift and squeeze out a few snow crystals that ultimately reach the surface.Fig. 3
Shaded relief map of the west Texas panhandle showing the ragged eastern edge of the Caprock Escarpment. Note the particular shape of the escarpment circled in red northeast of Lubbock.Fig. 4
Visible satellite photo valid at 10AM local time-Monday, December 10, 2012.
Snowcover is evident over a portion of the central and west central panhandle. Another band of snow oriented southwest to northeast straddling the Red River in north central Texas/south central Oklahoma.
The circled area roughly corresponds to the same area in the relief map above (Fig. 3). The escarpment edge also marks the eastern edge of the "heavier" snow totals extending back to the west over this higher terrain.Fig. 5
700mb heights, winds, temps-Valid at 6AM CST Monday, December 10, 2012 capturing a shortwave trough exiting the panhandle area. This feature probably provided colder temps aloft (-11°C) as well as aided forced ascent (lift) to produce some snow over the panhandle and north central Texas along the leading edge and center of the 700mb low.
And as confirmation:Fig. 6
Snowfall totals reported to the National Weather Service in Lubbock (Lubbock County is near the center of the frame)."A strong cold front swept through the South Plains regions early Sunday, bringing much colder temperatures and blustery northerly winds. Then, Sunday evening, an upper-level storm system moved out of the southern Rockies and across eastern New Mexico and West Texas. Despite very dry air moving in following the cold front, a thin band of snow developed and moved quickly across the area overnight, bringing a brief shot of moderate to heavy snow. Many locations on the Caprock received between a tenth of an inch to one inch of snow in less than an hour, with lighter amounts in the Rolling Plains. In addition to the snow, temperatures were very cold. When combined with the brisk winds, the wind chill readings were between 5 below to 5 above across much of the far southern Texas Panhandle and northern South Plains early Monday morning."Fig. 7
Lubbock radar which show the thin snow band moving across the area between about 10:50 pm and 1 am.Fig. 8
Taken from the National Weather Service office at the Science Spectrum in south Lubbock.
Snow totals, radar loop, and picture courtesy of NWS Lubbock, TXFig. 9
Image credit: NWS Norman, OK
With clear skies and full sun on Monday, the snow melted almost as fast as it arrived.
Comments will take a few seconds to appear.