Is the “Dream” Alive?

“…where the treetops glisten, and children listen…to hear sleigh bells in the snow…”

So here we are, just two weeks away from Christmas Day.  It’s that time some of you may start wondering, “is there ANY shot for a White Christmas in South-Central KY this year?”  History tells us that chance is very small, but we can never say never!

In order for a Christmas to be “white”, a couple of pieces of criteria must be met:  1.) At least 1″ of snow observed on the ground on Christmas morning, or 2.)  At least 1″ of new snow falling on Christmas Day.  Sounds simple, but if you’ve lived here long enough, you know meeting that criteria is easier said than done.

Here’s a list of “official” White Christmases for Bowling Green dating back to the 1800s (data courtesy of Louisville’s National Weather Service):

1880:  4″*

1899: 1.2″

1909: 4″

1912: 2″*

1914: 3″*

1935: 4.5″

1962: 2″*

1963: 6″* (most snow observed in BG on Christmas)

1966: 3″*

1969: 3.4″

1989: 1″*

1992: 3.5″

1993: 1″

2010: 1.1″ (4″ on ground)

*observed snow depth

When you count them up, you find that an “official” White Christmas has only happened 14 times in the last 134 years for Bowling Green.  Not very good odds for “snow birds”, that’s for sure.  BUT…I think it’s worth noting that when we do see White Christmases here, they tend to come in “bunches”.  Note there were three between 1909-1914, four in the 1960s, and three between 1989-1993.  Our most recent, and it was a quite memorable, happened just three years ago.  That’s when nearly 4″ of the white stuff fell on Bowling Green on Christmas Eve with an additional inch falling from snow showers on Christmas Day.

Speaking of the odds, here they are for the nation as a whole based on climatology (courtesy of NOAA): 

Image

 For a sure bet of seeing 1″ of snow on the ground on Christmas Day, one usually has to go north – sometimes WAY up north – to see a mantle of white covering the ground.  Every year is different, though. 

So what about this year?  Well, it’s still far too soon to say with great confidence whether or not Bowling Green will experience a White Christmas.  But the long range models do offer some clues as to what may transpire between now and the 25th. 

Of course, this is NOT a forecast and the details are fuzzy this far in advance, but a couple of models are converging on a strong storm system affecting the Ohio/Tennessee Valley region toward the end of the next week (around the 20th/21st). 

Image

This could be a heavy rain or even thunderstorm producer for us before a blast of VERY cold air arrives in its wake late next weekend and early the following week (22nd and after).  Below is one model’s projection for temperatures relative to averages for Christmas week.

Image

It looks mighty chilly for much of the country!

If that cold air verifies, the question turns to moisture and the availability of it.  Does the system potentially affecting us on the 20th-22nd deliver a shot of at least some snow as it departs?  Or will there be another weathermaker in its wake closer to Christmas itself?  It is simply too soon to answer those questions right now.  But the moral of the story…our chance for a White Christmas is NOT at zero yet!

Shane

Shane’s 2013-2014 Winter Weather Outlook for South-Central KY

             Leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder.  Yes indeed, winter is just around the corner.  With that in mind, it is time for me to make my annual stab at a forecast for the upcoming season.  I know winter has been on the minds of many even since late summer.  That’s understandable, especially since our summer was a wet and relatively cool one.  I’ve had MANY a person ask me, “Does this cool summer mean we’re going to have a harsh winter?”  My answer to that: “Not necessarily”.  While it’s true the winter that followed our last really cool summer (2009) was quite cold and snowy, the winter that followed 2004 (another cool summer) was quite mild, especially after Christmas.  I think mid-autumn patterns (October/early November) have more bearing on how the upcoming winter plays out.  That’s a big reason why I never bite on these forecasts until November.

              I should remind everyone there is SO MUCH to consider when comprising these forecasts.  Having them verify when all is said and done is even more difficult.  In fact, that part is out of my hands completely!  One thing that makes the challenge enormous is that no two winters in South-Central KY are exactly the same.  Remember, it was just a few years back when Bowling  Green experienced back-to-back double digit snowfall seasons (2009-’10: 15” and 2010-’11: 21”).  On the other hand, the last two seasons have been duds for “snow hounds”.  The average annual snowfall for BG is 9” (based on 1981-2010 data). 

              I think it’s also important to keep average monthly temperatures in perspective.  January is typically our coldest month, with an average temp of 35.7° (that’s all the highs/lows combined).  It’s closely followed by December (38.6°) and February (39.8°).  Although the onset of Spring falls in March, not to mention the month is excluded from what is known as “meteorological winter”, it can be chilly (March 2013 was!), with 48.4° being the month’s average reading.

              Now, let’s discuss the factors or atmospheric “players” that I took in consideration for this forecast.  The language gets a little “weatherese”, so bear with me.

1   *El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO):  In a nutshell, this refers to the warming or cooling of the Pacific Ocean waters just north of the equator.  If abnormal cooling is taking place, then we have “La Nina”.  If warming is happening, it’s “El Nino”.  So what about this year?  Well, it appears neither condition is likely to be present since water temperatures in the Central Pacific are forecast to remain close to normal.  That’s what we call an “ENSO Neutral” condition.  There’s some suggestion we could see a weak El Nino try to develop late this winter.  That could throw a monkey wrench in my outlook down the road.  For now, though, I am of the belief that ENSO will NOT be a big player this season.                            

* NAO/AO (North Atlantic Oscillation/Arctic Oscillation):   These two are the wild cards, especially the NAO.  The North Atlantic Oscillation refers to a blocking pattern that exists in the North Atlantic Ocean.  A “positive” NAO happens when an upper low situates itself between Greenland and Iceland while a strong upper high is parked near the Azores off the coast of Spain and Portugal.  When that low in the North Atlantic breaks down and higher pressure builds there, blocking of the polar jet stream can occur (aka a “negative” NAO). This can send the jet plunging deep into the eastern United States, bringing colder air our way.  This is especially true if the AO works in tandem with it.  Basically, a “positive” AO means pressures over the Arctic Circle are low, which tends to cause cold air to sit and “well up” near the North Pole.  A “negative” AO, on the other hand, means pressures are rising in the arctic, often forcing cold air southward. 

Image

 Image           

 

         In the last several winters, these AO and NAO have arguably been the biggest players in terms of the overall pattern.  But trying to predict how these two will interact and behave over the course of a three month period is darn-near impossible!  That’s because there is very little skill when it comes to computer model projections with these indices beyond two weeks out.  These are highly variable pressure patterns, unlike El Nino or La Nina, which are driven by sea surface temperatures that change more slowly with time.  My gut feeling is that we probably won’t see a blocking pattern establish itself over the North Atlantic for too long a period this winter, which leads me to believe this could be a “see-saw season” for us.

3.  *Pacific-North American Pattern (PNA):  The PNA deals with the relationship between the circulation pattern over the northern Pacific Ocean and the existing pattern over North America. A “positive” phase of the PNA results when high pressure sits close to Hawaii and over the western part of the lower 48, while low pressure resides just south of Alaska and over the southeastern part of the lower 48.  When combined with a negative NAO/AO, it can make for very chilly temperatures in the Blue Grass state, sometimes setting us up for big snows IF an active subtropical jet is present.

Image

4.  *Snow Cover/Arctic Sea Ice:  Not much has been said about it, but there’s actually been an uptick in the amount of real estate near the North Pole covered by sea ice vs. this time last year.  In theory, cold begets cold, and the more ice there is over the arctic, the more cold air can develop and sustain itself.  It remains to be seen whether or not this increase in sea ice can extend for another couple of years or if the overall decline in it over the long haul continues.  I do think it has some bearing on how cold our temperatures get when arctic outbreaks occur, though.  

Image

 5.   *Other Factors (Sunspots, AMO):  It’s worth noting the increasing sunspot activity over the past three years.  Exactly what impacts these sunspots have on Earth’s overall global temperature is very much up for debate.  It is interesting, though, that some of our coldest, snowiest winters coincide with downticks in solar activity (i.e. 1917-1918 and the late 1970s). 

Image

            On a different yet somewhat related subject, the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation), MAY be one reason – along with sunspot cycles – so many recent winters have been fairly mild.  The AMO deals with sea surface temperature trends over the North Atlantic Ocean.  The chart below shows how these temperatures have fluctuated over the past 150 years or so.  Note the areas in blue (1900-1920s with another in the late 1960s-early 1980s).  These coincide with some of the most brutal winters Kentucky has ever seen.  Right now, however, we are in a “warm” cycle of the AMO.  But the AMO has trended a bit cooler since the mid 2000s. 

Will this trend continue?  I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer to that question.  Some believe the AMO could go into a “cold” cycle within the next decade or so.  Should that happen, it may increase the chances for us to experience more of the kind of harsh winters we had back in the 1960s and ‘70s. 

Image

ANALOG YEARS:  Listed below are winters that had atmospheric patterns and ENSO conditions closest to those expected for this season.  These are what we call “analog years”.  Total snowfall amounts for those seasons are listed in parentheses.

1980-’81 (9”)

1989-’90 (7”)

2001-’02 (3”)

2003-’04 (5”)

Month-to-Month Outlook

              If you’ve reached this far without your head spinning too much, kudos to you!  Now that I have discussed the “players” I took into account when making this forecast, let’s dive into the forecast itself.  I will focus on the three months that make up “meteorological winter” (December, January, and February), though I would not be surprised if measurable snow takes place in March once again, as it did this past season.

              First, allow me to get the obligatory annual disclaimer out of the way:  This is NOT an official First Alert Storm Team forecast!!  It is simply my take on how I think the season plays out.

DECEMBER:  This is a month that could prove to be a microcosm for how the rest of winter shakes out.  There’s a lot of indication in the long range models that November could end very cold with the chill lingering into the first week to ten days of December.  We’ve been spoiled with mild days on our first rounds of Christmas parades these past couple of years.  It could be a different story this time, though.  It does not appear as if the cold will persist through the entire month, though.  There are indications that a large ridge of high pressure may anchor itself over the Southeast during the month.  If so, a flip to a milder pattern will take place, one that could hold even through Christmas.  Our last White Christmas was in 2010.  Since history tells us White Christmases seem to come closely together for Bowling Green, the chance at seeing one can’t be ruled completely out.  But with the way I see the month unfolding, the late Bing Crosby would probably cry rather than croon.  Maybe more of a Jimmy Buffett “Christmas in the Carribean” (you may have known I would go there).

Forecast average temperature:  (39°-41°, one to three degrees above normal)

Forecast precip:  Slightly below normal

Forecast snowfall: Trace to ½” (Below normal)

JANUARY:  In most years, this month is the coldest of the bunch.  This one could start fairly mild, however, especially if the Southeast high pressure ridge holds its own.  There is some indication that much colder air could return by the second half of the month.  This could make for a volatile setup at some point.  Kentucky will often be right in the battle zone between frigid air just north and warm, moist air to the south.  We had to deal with severe weather during the early morning of January 30th last season, and it would not surprise me if a similar scenario unfolds again this January (always be prepared!).  If you’re a fan of the white stuff, some patience may be in order.  I don’t think we’ll be shut out completely in the snowfall department in January, but our best chances at a decent snowfall may wait until later in the season.

Forecast temperature: (35°-37°, near to slightly above normal)

Forecast precip: Near normal

Forecast snowfall: 1-2” (below normal)

FEBRUARY:  I believe it’s here where winter may finally show its hand.  If the Southeast ridge breaks down and more blocking develops over the North Atlantic, then there could be more opportunity for colder air to dive southward into Kentucky.  Also, IF a very weak El Nino tries to get going toward season’s end, it could result in a slightly more active subtropical jet.  This increases the chances for a wetter pattern, and if colder air is present, some snow.  One word of caution:  ENSO Neutral winters are infamous for ice storms in South-Central KY.  Remember the short-lived but nasty one we had in late January?  I think it’s highly likely we could see another significant icing episode this season.

Forecast temperature:  (36°-38°, one to three degrees below normal)

Forecast precip:  Slightly Above normal

Forecast snowfall:  5-7” (above normal)

OTHER NOTES/PREDICTIONS:

Chances for seeing at least one or two significant severe weather outbreaks and/or flooding events:  60% with best chance coming during the first half of winter

Chances for seeing at least one icing event of a quarter inch or more:  40%

Chances for seeing a 4” snowfall from one system: 40%

Chances for seeing a 6” snowfall from one system: 10%

Total snowfall for the season: 7-10” (near to slightly below normal)

Chances for seeing a White Christmas: (historically 10%, this year, I give it 5%)

Coldest temperature:  Between 5° and 10°, most likely in February

So there you have it.  I think in the end, Winter 2013-2014 does not go down as ranking among our coldest or snowiest of all-time, but I do like our chances of seeing at least a little more snow than in the past two seasons.  I think most of the wintry weather comes from two or three systems, with many bringing just plain old rain or a mixed bag of precip quickly changing to rain.  There’s a CHANCE for one really decent snowfall (the kind that brings us at least 4”).  Otherwise, look for a “see-saw season” with no real dominant pattern.  It would not shock me if we hit 70° and 7° within the same week; that’s the kind of season I think it will be.  I hope you’ve had your flu shots and have cold medications stocked up and ready!

Remember, as with any forecast, there is ALWAYS bust potential!  For example, if the Southeast high pressure ridge builds more strongly than anticipated, then winter could wind up warmer with even less snow.  By the same token, if blocking patterns develop and the subtropical jet is active when/if they do, then we could wind up with a little more snow than I think.  I’m just calling it as I see it right now.

Thanks for reading! Let the games begin!

Shane’s 2013-2014 Winter Weather Outlook for South-Central KY

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              Leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder.  Yes indeed, winter is just around the corner.  With that in mind, it is time for me to make my annual stab at a forecast for the upcoming season.  I know winter has been on the minds of many even since late summer.  That’s understandable, especially since our summer was a wet and relatively cool one.  I’ve had MANY a person ask me, “Does this cool summer mean we’re going to have a harsh winter?”  My answer to that: “Not necessarily”.  While it’s true the winter that followed our last really cool summer (2009) was quite cold and snowy, the winter that followed 2004 (another cool summer) was quite mild, especially after Christmas.  I think mid-autumn patterns (October/early November) have more bearing on how the upcoming winter plays out.  That’s a big reason why I never bite on these forecasts until November.

              I should remind everyone there is SO MUCH to consider when comprising these forecasts.  Having them verify when all is said and done is even more difficult.  In fact, that part is out of my hands completely!  One thing that makes the challenge enormous is that no two winters in South-Central KY are exactly the same.  Remember, it was just a few years back when Bowling  Green experienced back-to-back double digit snowfall seasons (2009-’10: 15” and 2010-’11: 21”).  On the other hand, the last two seasons have been duds for “snow hounds”.  The average annual snowfall for BG is 9” (based on 1981-2010 data). 

              I think it’s also important to keep average monthly temperatures in perspective.  January is typically our coldest month, with an average temp of 35.7° (that’s all the highs/lows combined).  It’s closely followed by December (38.6°) and February (39.8°).  Although the onset of Spring falls in March, not to mention the month is excluded from what is known as “meteorological winter”, it can be chilly (March 2013 was!), with 48.4° being the month’s average reading.

              Now, let’s discuss the factors or atmospheric “players” that I took in consideration for this forecast.  The language gets a little “weatherese”, so bear with me.

1   *El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO):  In a nutshell, this refers to the warming or cooling of the Pacific Ocean waters just north of the equator.  If abnormal cooling is taking place, then we have “La Nina”.  If warming is happening, it’s “El Nino”.  So what about this year?  Well, it appears neither condition is likely to be present since water temperatures in the Central Pacific are forecast to remain close to normal.  That’s what we call an “ENSO Neutral” condition.  There’s some suggestion we could see a weak El Nino try to develop late this winter.  That could throw a monkey wrench in my outlook down the road.  For now, though, I am of the belief that ENSO will NOT be a big player this season.                            

* NAO/AO (North Atlantic Oscillation/Arctic Oscillation):   These two are the wild cards, especially the NAO.  The North Atlantic Oscillation refers to a blocking pattern that exists in the North Atlantic Ocean.  A “positive” NAO happens when an upper low situates itself between Greenland and Iceland while a strong upper high is parked near the Azores off the coast of Spain and Portugal.  When that low in the North Atlantic breaks down and higher pressure builds there, blocking of the polar jet stream can occur (aka a “negative” NAO). This can send the jet plunging deep into the eastern United States, bringing colder air our way.  This is especially true if the AO works in tandem with it.  Basically, a “positive” AO means pressures over the Arctic Circle are low, which tends to cause cold air to sit and “well up” near the North Pole.  A “negative” AO, on the other hand, means pressures are rising in the arctic, often forcing cold air southward. 

Image

 Image           

 

         In the last several winters, these AO and NAO have arguably been the biggest players in terms of the overall pattern.  But trying to predict how these two will interact and behave over the course of a three month period is darn-near impossible!  That’s because there is very little skill when it comes to computer model projections with these indices beyond two weeks out.  These are highly variable pressure patterns, unlike El Nino or La Nina, which are driven by sea surface temperatures that change more slowly with time.  My gut feeling is that we probably won’t see a blocking pattern establish itself over the North Atlantic for too long a period this winter, which leads me to believe this could be a “see-saw season” for us.

3.  *Pacific-North American Pattern (PNA):  The PNA deals with the relationship between the circulation pattern over the northern Pacific Ocean and the existing pattern over North America. A “positive” phase of the PNA results when high pressure sits close to Hawaii and over the western part of the lower 48, while low pressure resides just south of Alaska and over the southeastern part of the lower 48.  When combined with a negative NAO/AO, it can make for very chilly temperatures in the Blue Grass state, sometimes setting us up for big snows IF an active subtropical jet is present.

Image

4.  *Snow Cover/Arctic Sea Ice:  Not much has been said about it, but there’s actually been an uptick in the amount of real estate near the North Pole covered by sea ice vs. this time last year.  In theory, cold begets cold, and the more ice there is over the arctic, the more cold air can develop and sustain itself.  It remains to be seen whether or not this increase in sea ice can extend for another couple of years or if the overall decline in it over the long haul continues.  I do think it has some bearing on how cold our temperatures get when arctic outbreaks occur, though.  

Image

 5.   *Other Factors (Sunspots, AMO):  It’s worth noting the increasing sunspot activity over the past three years.  Exactly what impacts these sunspots have on Earth’s overall global temperature is very much up for debate.  It is interesting, though, that some of our coldest, snowiest winters coincide with downticks in solar activity (i.e. 1917-1918 and the late 1970s). 

Image

            On a different yet somewhat related subject, the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation), MAY be one reason – along with sunspot cycles – so many recent winters have been fairly mild.  The AMO deals with sea surface temperature trends over the North Atlantic Ocean.  The chart below shows how these temperatures have fluctuated over the past 150 years or so.  Note the areas in blue (1900-1920s with another in the late 1960s-early 1980s).  These coincide with some of the most brutal winters Kentucky has ever seen.  Right now, however, we are in a “warm” cycle of the AMO.  But the AMO has trended a bit cooler since the mid 2000s. 

Will this trend continue?  I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer to that question.  Some believe the AMO could go into a “cold” cycle within the next decade or so.  Should that happen, it may increase the chances for us to experience more of the kind of harsh winters we had back in the 1960s and ‘70s. 

Image

ANALOG YEARS:  Listed below are winters that had atmospheric patterns and ENSO conditions closest to those expected for this season.  These are what we call “analog years”.  Total snowfall amounts for those seasons are listed in parentheses.

1980-’81 (9”)

1989-’90 (7”)

2001-’02 (3”)

2003-’04 (5”)

Month-to-Month Outlook

              If you’ve reached this far without your head spinning too much, kudos to you!  Now that I have discussed the “players” I took into account when making this forecast, let’s dive into the forecast itself.  I will focus on the three months that make up “meteorological winter” (December, January, and February), though I would not be surprised if measurable snow takes place in March once again, as it did this past season.

              First, allow me to get the obligatory annual disclaimer out of the way:  This is NOT an official First Alert Storm Team forecast!!  It is simply my take on how I think the season plays out.

DECEMBER:  This is a month that could prove to be a microcosm for how the rest of winter shakes out.  There’s a lot of indication in the long range models that November could end very cold with the chill lingering into the first week to ten days of December.  We’ve been spoiled with mild days on our first rounds of Christmas parades these past couple of years.  It could be a different story this time, though.  It does not appear as if the cold will persist through the entire month, though.  There are indications that a large ridge of high pressure may anchor itself over the Southeast during the month.  If so, a flip to a milder pattern will take place, one that could hold even through Christmas.  Our last White Christmas was in 2010.  Since history tells us White Christmases seem to come closely together for Bowling Green, the chance at seeing one can’t be ruled completely out.  But with the way I see the month unfolding, the late Bing Crosby would probably cry rather than croon.  Maybe more of a Jimmy Buffett “Christmas in the Carribean” (you may have known I would go there).

Forecast average temperature:  (39°-41°, one to three degrees above normal)

Forecast precip:  Slightly below normal

Forecast snowfall: Trace to ½” (Below normal)

JANUARY:  In most years, this month is the coldest of the bunch.  This one could start fairly mild, however, especially if the Southeast high pressure ridge holds its own.  There is some indication that much colder air could return by the second half of the month.  This could make for a volatile setup at some point.  Kentucky will often be right in the battle zone between frigid air just north and warm, moist air to the south.  We had to deal with severe weather during the early morning of January 30th last season, and it would not surprise me if a similar scenario unfolds again this January (always be prepared!).  If you’re a fan of the white stuff, some patience may be in order.  I don’t think we’ll be shut out completely in the snowfall department in January, but our best chances at a decent snowfall may wait until later in the season.

Forecast temperature: (35°-37°, near to slightly above normal)

Forecast precip: Near normal

Forecast snowfall: 1-2” (below normal)

FEBRUARY:  I believe it’s here where winter may finally show its hand.  If the Southeast ridge breaks down and more blocking develops over the North Atlantic, then there could be more opportunity for colder air to dive southward into Kentucky.  Also, IF a very weak El Nino tries to get going toward season’s end, it could result in a slightly more active subtropical jet.  This increases the chances for a wetter pattern, and if colder air is present, some snow.  One word of caution:  ENSO Neutral winters are infamous for ice storms in South-Central KY.  Remember the short-lived but nasty one we had in late January?  I think it’s highly likely we could see another significant icing episode this season.

Forecast temperature:  (36°-38°, one to three degrees below normal)

Forecast precip:  Slightly Above normal

Forecast snowfall:  5-7” (above normal)

OTHER NOTES/PREDICTIONS:

Chances for seeing at least one or two significant severe weather outbreaks and/or flooding events:  60% with best chance coming during the first half of winter

Chances for seeing at least one icing event of a quarter inch or more:  40%

Chances for seeing a 4” snowfall from one system: 40%

Chances for seeing a 6” snowfall from one system: 10%

Total snowfall for the season: 7-10” (near to slightly below normal)

Chances for seeing a White Christmas: (historically 10%, this year, I give it 5%)

Coldest temperature:  Between 5° and 10°, most likely in February

So there you have it.  I think in the end, Winter 2013-2014 does not go down as ranking among our coldest or snowiest of all-time, but I do like our chances of seeing at least a little more snow than in the past two seasons.  I think most of the wintry weather comes from two or three systems, with many bringing just plain old rain or a mixed bag of precip quickly changing to rain.  There’s a CHANCE for one really decent snowfall (the kind that brings us at least 4”).  Otherwise, look for a “see-saw season” with no real dominant pattern.  It would not shock me if we hit 70° and 7° within the same week; that’s the kind of season I think it will be.  I hope you’ve had your flu shots and have cold medications stocked up and ready!

Remember, as with any forecast, there is ALWAYS bust potential!  For example, if the Southeast high pressure ridge builds more strongly than anticipated, then winter could wind up warmer with even less snow.  By the same token, if blocking patterns develop and the subtropical jet is active when/if they do, then we could wind up with a little more snow than I think.  I’m just calling it as I see it right now.

Thanks for reading! Let the games begin!

Stranger Things Have Happened

Image

Snow sculpture from March 2008

Legendary sports figure Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  The same holds true with Winter in South-Central Kentucky.  And sometimes even when it’s over, it’s still not over!  We’ve had measurable snowfall as late as the final day of April in Bowling Green.

I was browsing through some of the biggest/most infamous late season snowfalls in Bowling Green.  Here are a few, some of which you might recall:

March 1, 1980:  5″

March 8, 2008:  5″ (Up to 10″ in parts of the WBKO viewing area)

March 30-31, 1987:  8″

March 22, 1968:  11″

March 13, 1993:  1″ (up to 6″ in eastern sections near Lake Cumberland, this from “SuperStorm ’93”)

March 19-20, 1996:  7″ (up to a foot in some parts of the WBKO viewing area)

April 1, 1996 (less than two weeks after the snowstorm listed above):  1.5″

April 18, 1983:  2.1″

And the granddaddy of all snowstorms for Bowling Green:  23.7″ on March 8-9, 1960!!

Do I think we’ll see a repeat of that blockbuster winter storm our area experienced more than a half century ago?  Probably not.  But as we close out the winter season, we often have more moisture available for storm systems even through the depth of cold air in March or April is typically not all that great.  Of course, accumulating snow has been almost non-existent this winter (shades of last year), and many of us probably lose the mood for seeing flakes fly once the calendar rolls over into the third month of the year.  But don’t be surprised if we see a sneaky kind of system (one that models don’t often latch onto until almost the last minute) give us one more round of the white stuff before we can finally bid Winter farewell.

This could be one of those seasons where a Yogi-ism applies.

Shane

ImageLegendary

Snow sculpture from March 2008

Legendary sports figure Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.”  The same holds true with Winter in South-Central Kentucky.  And sometimes even when it’s over, it’s still not over!  We’ve had measurable snowfall as late as the final day of April in Bowling Green.

I was browsing through some of the biggest/most infamous late season snowfalls in Bowling Green.  Here are a few, some of which you might recall:

March 1, 1980:  5″

March 8, 2008:  5″ (Up to 10″ in parts of the WBKO viewing area)

March 30-31, 1987:  8″

March 22, 1968:  11″

March 13, 1993:  1″ (up to 6″ in eastern sections near Lake Cumberland, this from “SuperStorm ’93”)

March 19-20, 1996:  7″ (up to a foot in some parts of the WBKO viewing area)

April 1, 1996 (less than two weeks after the snowstorm listed above):  1.5″

April 18, 1983:  2.1″

And the granddaddy of all snowstorms for Bowling Green:  23.7″ on March 8-9, 1960!! 

Do I think we’ll see a repeat of that blockbuster winter storm our area experienced more than a half century ago?  Highly unlikely!  But as we close out the winter season, we often have more moisture available for storm systems even through the depth of cold air in March or April is typically not all that great.  Of course, accumulating snow has been almost non-existent this winter (shades of last year), and many of us probably lose the mood for seeing flakes fly once the calendar rolls over into the third month of the year.  But don’t be surprised if we see a sneaky kind of system (one that models don’t often latch onto until almost the last minute) give us one more round of the white stuff before we can finally bid Winter farewell.

This could be one of those seasons where a Yogi-ism applies.

Shane

The Great Arctic Outbreak of 1963 Remembered

“In Winter 1963 it felt like the world would freeze

with John F. Kennedy and the Beatles”

That song lyric, taken from the 1980s hit song “Life in a Northern Town” by the Dream Academy, hits it right on the money with the kind of numbing cold so much of the country felt 50 years ago this week.  The cold air currently gripping the area does not even hold a candle to the unbelievably frigid air mass that overtook South-Central KY on January 23, 1963.  The numbers from that day – along with the days that followed – are absolutely staggering! 

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Our area had a preview of sorts with this arctic outbreak before it struck.  In mid-December 1962, Bowling Green residents awoke to three straight mornings of record low temperatures at or below 0°.  After a White Christmas, Old Man Winter relaxed his grip somewhat.  Fast-forward to the morning of January 23, 1963.  The day started mild, with temperatures in Bowling Green running in the mid 40s during the wee hours of the morning.  But just before daybreak, a sharp arctic front swept through the region, sending temperatures tumbling some 30-40 degrees within just three hours.  Some 3-5″ of snow accompanied the front’s passage across the area.  However, it was the bitter cold that would become the major issue.  By late that night, the mercury in Bowling Green had plummeted to -21°, the second coldest reading all-time for the city (and coldest since 1886).  The next day’s high was a mere 9°, still the lowest high temperature ever recorded for the 1/24.  That day’s record low would match that of the previous day (-21°).  The week that followed didn’t feature much of a warmup.  Just when it looked as if the Siberian Express had been derailed with a touch of moderation by the 26th, 2″ of snow fell which was followed by yet another shot of brutally cold air.  Record lows of -9° and -18° were registered in Bowling Green on the 27th and 28th respectively.  Now THAT is cold!  Finally as the calendar rolled over into February, a welcome thaw arrived, with a high of 55° on Feb. 1st. 

Recently, I asked folks that were around 50 years ago what they recall about that winter’s chill.  Here are some of the responses: 

“I remember that winter very well.  We lived in an old house without indoor plumbing.  The kitchen was so cold that my sisters would turn on the oven and all four burners and still be able to see their breath!  We had a fireplace in the living room and a coal stove in my parents’ bedroom.  They would put our water bucket on top of the coal stove to keep it from freezing” – Janelle JbFinn McGee

“My dad says one winter the pipes froze at their school (Rochester) and they were out a whole month.  Not sure but this was probably the year” – Shanina Belle Hammers

“I remember those days, hard times.  I used to push a wheel with a stick down a dirt road.  That dirt road is now in Tompkinsville, KY.  That was before the Great Blizzard of 78, when the family and I had to hunker down for three weeks straight due to the extreme cold and 30 feet of snow that covered our log cabin” – Joshua Cosgrove

“I had graduated from Spencerian College in Louisville and was working at Louisville Area Mental Health Center.  I absolutely had to go back home to Burkesville every weekend!  My mom and dad told me, “no way…do not drive home in this”!  Well, I had chains but had no idea how to put them on.  The man at the first toll booth on I-65 put them on for me.  I made it home! – Brenda McCoy Harvey

Great stories! 

If you were around in January 1963, what do YOU remember about it?

Shane

Dream On?

    We are just two weeks away from Christmas Day, and the return of colder air may have some of you wondering, “Will we see a White Christmas in South-Central KY?”  That’s certainly a valid question.  The thing is, getting a White Christmas in this part of the world is almost as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. 

     By the National Weather Service’s definition, it takes at least 1” of snow observed on the ground OR at least 1” of snow falling on December 25th to “officially” make a Christmas “white”.  In 140 years of reliable record-keeping in Bowling Green, that’s only happened 14 times.  So history says the odds are against it.  But it’s not impossible.  Remember what happened two years ago?  Perhaps this picture will remind you:  

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      That’s from Christmas Eve 2010, when nearly 4” of snow fell in Bowling Green.  An additional 1.1” the next day made for our whitest Christmas since 1963!  That year, our city had its deepest snow cover ever measured on Christmas morning (6”).  Here’s a complete list of White Christmases for Bowling Green (data courtesy of Louisville’s National Weather Service):

1880:  4” on ground

1899:  1.2” falling on Christmas Day

1909: 4” falling on Christmas Day

1912:  2” on ground

1914:  3” falling on Christmas Day

1935:  4.5” falling on Christmas Day

1962:  2” on ground

1963:  6” on ground

1966:  3” on ground

1969:  3.4” falling on Christmas Day

1989:  1” on ground

1992:  3.5” falling on Christmas Day

1993:  1” falling on Christmas Day

2010:  1.1” falling on Christmas Day, 4” on ground

    As I look at that list, a couple of things jump out at me.  One, there was NO White Christmas in the 1970s despite some brutal winters in the latter part of that decade.  Flurries fell on Christmas Day 1977, but nothing more.  That amazes me, especially when you consider that over 34” of snow fell here in Winter 1977-’78.  I also find it interesting that when we do see White Christmases, they tend to be bunched together.  Notice there were three of them in a six year span way back when from 1909-1914, four in the 1960s, and three between 1989 and 1993.  Things that make you go “hmmm”.  Well, they make me go “hmmm”, anyway.  I guess what I’m getting at here is that even though the pattern has been mild to warm overall lately, do NOT count us out for seeing a White Christmas just yet! 

    Of course, to make it snow, three things are a must:  Cold air (the most obvious), moisture, and lift (usually provided by a storm system).  Will the stars align to allow for all three to come together on or close to Christmas Day like they did two years ago?  Well, a lot can change two weeks out, but one model suggests some blocking in the upper atmosphere taking place over SE Canada next week and in the days leading up to the 25th.  This COULD (I stress could) lead to a wintry scenario playing out here around the middle of next week. 

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     Such blocking would force storm systems to take a more southerly track across the United States, pulling far less warm air northward into the Ohio Valley and bettering our chances for seeing the white stuff.  Most of our significant snows come from systems that track across the Dixie states that send moisture northward into cold, arctic air over the region.  That’s exactly how it happened in 2010, a month in which over 8” of snow fell in Bowling Green.  Could something like that happen again?  It could, but history says it’s not likely.  White Christmases are a rare treat here, indeed. 

    Of course, if you like Christmas mild, you probably felt vindicated last year.  Under glorious sunshine, we warmed to a high of 56° on December 25, 2011.  Our warmest Christmas (in case you were wondering) was 1982, when the high reached 70°.  Just a year later came our coldest Christmas, with a high of just 10° coming after a bitterly cold morning low of -7°.  That’s quite a contrast! 

    It will be fun to watch how things unfold as the big day draws near.  But no matter what the weather, I hope you and yours have a joyous Christmas!

Shane