2015-1-30 to 2015-2-2 Coast-to-coast storm

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Kind of surprised there is not a thread for this system yet as it is rather interesting and unusual in several regards. One is the very widespread precipitation that it is producing/will produce. The wide areal coverage is in part due to the rather disorganized nature of this storm, as it has split into several pieces and as a result is producing a variety of precipitation types over a very wide area of the country. As shown in the NAM 48-hour precipitation total forecast below, pretty much the eastern 2/3 of the country will get significant precipitation from this system:



Here in the southwest, most of the precipitation has already fallen, and this has been another in a series of recent storms that are gradually whittling away at the long-term drought in NM, TX, and nearby areas. Mountain locations in NM have received 12-18 inches of snow with this system, with several inches also in Santa Fe and parts of the Albuquerque area. Other areas farther south and at lower elevations have received substantial amounts of rain. For January, this has been a relatively warm and wet storm, which can be tied to its origin as a tropical system in the waters off Baja California. I did not look at any soundings yesterday, but I can say that the temperature gradient from valley to mountain in NM was much less than usual - essentially no difference between Santa Fe (elevation 7,000 feet) and the mountains above the city at elevations of 11-12,000 feet. I noticed this on my car thermometer as I drove from Santa Fe up the Santa Fe Ski Area - no difference in temperature all the way from the city to the ski area. Typically, there is a big difference, often 10-15 degrees. But nothing yesterday.

Yesterday was only the second time I have ever observed freezing rain in New Mexico. And what is interesting about that is that, when I left home in the morning to go skiing, it was snowing in Albuquerque at elevations barely above 5,000 feet, but by early afternoon the p-type at 11,000 feet at the ski area was a mixture of graupel and freezing rain. Again, this was due to the very wet nature of the storm (precipitable water 200% of normal for NM) and the lack of any real temperature gradient between about 5,000 feet and 11,000 feet - both very unusual for NM in January. Part of the reason for the lack of cooling with height was that a back-door cold front from the northeast undercut the warm storm system as it moved in from the southwest. This also contributed to the dynamics that produced very heavy snow in the mountains. Eventually the p-type in the mountains did change back to snow, and the ski area's snow total rose from 6" of new snow at the end of the ski day yesterday to 14" by late this afternoon. Other places got even more.

This system looks to be a big snow producer from around Chicago eastward to Detroit and Toledo, and possibly on east to Boston, though again the warm nature of the storm could change the precipitation over to rain, at least for a time, even as far north as Boston.


Heavy snow falling at Ski Santa Fe, around the 11,700 foot level. By an hour later, the p-type had changed to a mixture of graupel and freezing rain, and fog rolled in as the cloud base lowered from around 12,000 feet to about 9,000 feet.


Snow in the beard means a powder day! Terrific ski conditions, until the p-type changeover occurred. And one thing I also like about skiing is the chance to observe the dramatic winter weather that occurs in the mountains!
 
The forecast for the Chicago area verified nicely, with widespread reports of 12-18 inches. Also blizzard conditions in some areas, with 25-40 mph winds. Also many reports of a foot or more of snow along and south of I-94 in Michigan.

Edit: 5th highest all-time snow in Chicago, 19.3 inches. And third-highest in Detroit, better than 16 inches. (I was in Ann Arbor at the time of the second highest snow in nearby Detroit, December 1-2, 1974. Remember it well.)
 
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Measured 13.0" for a storm total near Granville, IL, about halfway between Chicago and the Quad Cities. Heaviest snowfall since Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011, exactly 4 years ago! Had lots of blowing and drifting as well.
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Something that also got my attention was the snowfall gradient. Ten miles to my north had 15-17", meanwhile 10 miles to my south there were reports of only 5-6". Probably had a lot to do with the rain to snow changeover, some drier air, and snow ratios.