The world didn’t end yesterday, contrary to the Mayan calendar, but we did see an event occur early on Friday morning across the United States. The Winter Solstice happened, marking the beginning of the winter season, as well as the day with the shortest amount of sunlight in the northern hemisphere. Nome, AK, up on the western tip of Alaskan, WAY up at the 64th latitude (Seattle, WA is at the 47th latitude) only saw 4 hours of sunlight yesterday. The further away, higher up, you are from the tropics, the less sunlight you see at this time of year. And in Nome, the sun was up only for a little while; it was like it was just peaking over the horizon to say “HI,” and then went back down.
Whats On The Ground?
As we look at the national snow depth map, there are several places that have signs that winter has come through. There is a fresh coating of snow across the midwest from the storm that brought blizzard conditions from the Central Plains to the Great Lakes. The mountains out it the west, such as the Tetons, Sierras, Cascades and American Rockies are covered with about 6″ to 48″ or more, especially in western Wyoming and northwest Washington.
Check out these images from Glacial National Park. Wow it looks straight from a postcard. Whitefish Mountain, near by, has about 2 feet of snow, at minimum, on most areas. On average, Glacial National Park can see about 76.6″ of snow in the winter season (Jan/Feb/March) which is about 6 and third feet! There were some elk out early on this morning, walking across the snowy field beneath the mountains.
In Iowa City, IA, 4-6″ of snow came down on the campus grounds of the University of Iowa. Its a good thing school is out for the semester, so that way the students weren’t impacted trying to go to class.
Over in Madison, WI, a lot more snow came down. About nearly a foot and a half came into the area. Cars were stranded, traffic crawled, and winds blown around the campus ground of the University of Wisconsin at 41 MPH. The snow got blown on to the camera lens and then froze there. Yesterday, the camera wasn’t useable but today, we can see a little sliver below the icy layer.
Check out the map below showing the snow from the recent blizzard in the midwest. Bands of a foot of snow piled up across a narrow sliver of land, from Des Moines, IA to Madison, WI.
So now that Winter is fully here, what will that mean for the season? Well we can, of course, expect the coldest temperatures of the year to occur as well as seeing snow storms move in from time to time. But how much different from normal will we be, and what is the likelihood of seeing more snow than average? Well we turn to the 3 month outlook from the Climate Prediction Center for a handy, one-snap, view of the season of what will be below and above average.
Temperatures will be trending above average across the southern tier of the nation, from eastern California to the Carolinas, with the biggest amount of warmth coming to western Texas. On the other hand, North Dakota and Montana, as well as, southern Alaska, will be seeing temps running below normal from January through March.
Now that we know what the temperatures will trend across the country, we can see where the precipitation might come down more as snow, and less as rain. Across Montana where the temps were to run below normal, an abundance of precipitation would mean more snow is likely, especially in western portions of state, say near Glacial National Park. By contrast, the southwest and into the southern plains will see below normal precipitation, while also experiencing warmer than normal temps. It looks like storms that would come through there would produce mainly rain, except for the higher elevations in New Mexico. But also the storms that would come through, may not produce that much precipitation since there will be drier than normal conditions.
Take care, enjoy the weekend, and enjoy the holidays! I’ll see you all in 2013!
~~~~ Meteorologist Addison Green ~~~~
~~ Twitter, @agreenWNTV ~~