Analyzing Incredible Mid-Spring Snow For Western Plains (credit: COD Meteorology, NWS Dodge City)
DISCUSSION: For the last few days of April, there was a massive area of low pressure that was parked over the Midwest, making plenty of national headlines. While the majority of news stories featured tornado and flooding impacts, this storm was also responsible for dangerous wintry conditions in a swath from northeast New Mexico through southern Nebraska.
According to the National Weather Service Dodge City office, parts of extreme western Kansas received as much as 18 inches of snow. As you can see from their contoured map above, there was a sharp gradient in snow totals from west to east. It should be noted that due to the high winds, it was difficult to get exact snow measurements.
For Dodge City itself, this was a record-breaking storm. The Dodge City Regional Airport measured 2.5 inches of snow, higher than any other snow measured this late in the season (April 30 or later). However, for cities in the “jackpot” zone of snow totals, I would argue that this storm was even more unprecedented. Unfortunately, the cities within the heaviest snow areas are remote, so those periods of record are mostly either unreliable or do not date back far enough. As a result, it is difficult to verify exactly how historical this storm was in many of those areas.
After some digging on the Applied Climate Information System (ACIS - see below), I found data for the town of Elkhart, located farther southwest than any other town in Kansas. In this case, records dating back to 1900 were available. Before this year, the most snow they had received after April 28 was 4.3 inches. By 10:20 AM local time on April 30, 2017, Elkhart had reported 14 inches of snow with drifts up to eight feet! Considering Elkhart had received more than a trace of snow only four other times in its history during this period, 14 inches is extraordinary.
When traveling in any kind of snowy conditions, it is important to follow winter weather tips such as winterizing your vehicle and packing an emergency supply kit.
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© 2017 Meteorologist Jake Spivey
April Snow Showers Bring May Sunshine to New Mexico? (Photo Credit: Unisys Weather)
A recent changeover from April to May brought a variety of different weather phenomena- from snow and almost freezing temperatures to sunshine and 80 degrees. A low brought some low-level moisture across the Four Corners region Friday night 29 April 2017. Snow flurries began early Saturday morning with little to no accumulation reported across the city. Higher elevations received up to 12” of snow along the eastern slopes and high northeast. By Sunday afternoon, there was no sign of the previous day’s snowfall and temperatures returned to 65°F.
On the other hand, the first weekend in May consisted of above normal temperatures (in the 82-87°F range), some strong wind gusts, and partly cloudy skies. Although the two GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) infrared (IR) images shown here look similar, one is characteristic of high- or mid-level clouds (left) and one of low-level cumulus clouds (right).
IR imagery can be thought of cloud top temperature/height. In other words, if temperature decreases with height in the atmosphere, clouds with cold cloud-top temperatures can be equated to mid- and high-altitude cloud tops (i.e. cirrus, cumulonimbus, nimbostratus). Having a feathery appearance, these clouds do not appear as “bright” on IR images. Convective clouds that do not have a large vertical extent (like the one shown on the right) contain a lot of cloud droplets, appear brighter, and can have a rugged appearance when sunlight hits the cloud at an angle. These clouds are commonly associated with fair weather.
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© 2017 Meteorologist Sharon Sullivan