Las Vegas Snow, Southern Plains Winter Storm and Cold

This isn’t my typical article, but I decided to post on the site since this update will be too lengthy for Facebook. We have a lot going on with the weather, and January is going to bring a lot of active weather across the United States. I’ll be breaking this down further in a future article, but I want to hit a few high points. I’m currently working on my January forecast, so I will be digging much deeper into what is going on and will be sharing my research with you soon.

On a side note, for anyone claiming that they have this winter figured out, they most likely don’t. I’ve seen some posting about how this winter isn’t coming, and then I’ve seen others posting about how we all just need to wait a few more days for the cold to get here. . . You get the point. Model guidance has been of little help this winter, which I’ll be explaining why that has been the case in my next article.

Because the model guidance will likely continue to be of little help beyond a few days out, that’s why it’s very important to take all of the pieces of the “puzzle” and put them together so we all can have a clearer picture of what is going to take place in January. It won’t be perfect, but it surely will be better than blindly following forecast models. I will openly admit that I have my uncertainties about January and February, but that’s what Firsthand Weather is for. . .to hash through all of this and figure out what is going on.

Temperatures will be getting much colder by New Year's.

Temperatures will be getting much colder for New Year’s.

Las Vegas Snow Potential and the Southern Plains Ice Storm/Snow Storm Potential:

A strong piece of energy is going to be diving south into the Southwestern U.S. while a upper-level ridge builds to the north. At the surface, a very cold high pressure system is going to move in and begin pulling in Arctic cold from the north and wrapping it around into the Southwest. This is the perfect setup for wintry weather for these regions including southern California, southern Nevada including Las Vegas, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. It’s not necessarily unheard of for the desert regions to get snow, but this could actually be a big deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if Las Vegas gets a decent snowstorm out of this, similar to what occurred in 2008.

The upper-level feature will then move into the Southern Plains, and this has the potential to be a very big deal for that region. We’re talking a potential ice storm for parts of Texas into Oklahoma, and then this system should shoot northeast. Since it’s so late, I’ll post more details tomorrow, but this is something to watch closely.

Don’t Think That Winter Is Over:

I know that most of you are about to get a strong taste of winter, but the East Coast and particularly the Southeast are wondering if winter will actually come. I strongly feel that it will. Right now, there are some ridging issues across the Southeastern U.S. and this will continue, but we have no true blocking to help suppress that ridge further to the South. A lot of meteorologists focus primarily on the Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation, but it is one of many factors. We may have another situation like last winter where it won’t matter later in January/February what the AO/NAO is doing due to what’s going on in the Pacific and over Alaska.

In early January, the overall pattern may not favor Deep South and East Coast storms, but we have ridging setting up over Alaska and a polar vortex that is about to weaken very quickly. All of that cold has been bottling up, but when it really breaks lose, it could really be severe. On top of that, I expect the storm track to shift further south towards middle January. So for those saying winter is over, I’m here to tell you that it hasn’t even started yet.

Again, I have my uncertainties. We have a very strong Pacific jet stream that has been messing with the overall pattern, and it wouldn’t hurt for that to weaken. Everything should start to shift colder further to the east later in the month, but it’s just a matter of when. If I’m wrong, I’ll openly admit that on this site, but I’ve got a strong feeling that those who have already changed their forecasts warmer are going to regret it. We shall see. As you’ve heard me saying many times, it only takes one variable to throw off an entire forecast.

I’ll keep you all updated. Be sure to keep following Firsthand Weather on Facebook.

The Month Everyone Thought Winter Wasn’t Coming

I’m currently working on my January forecast, and I’ve about decided that I’m going to break it down into two parts: one focused on the first half of January and the other focused on the second half of January. This winter has been a tough one to forecast, and I’ve got a strong feeling that it’s going to continue to be a tough one to fully grasp. Regardless, it’s a great learning experience, and I learn new things every year.

I plan to explain why I still think that January and February are looking cold but will explain why the colder air will have a difficult time getting to the East Coast and particularly the Southeast at first. Mid to late January going into February looks particularly cold, but as you have likely learned by now, one variable can throw the entire forecast off. If everything seems a bit unclear to you right now, I’ll explain everything in detail in my next couple articles.

In this article, I want to do a little bit of a comparison between two months. One of those months was very warm across the eastern United States, and then a record-breaking Arctic blast hit the next month. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about the January 1985 Arctic blast that shattered records, costing the U.S. billions of dollars in today’s dollars. Most people who were alive back then probably at least vaguely remember that historic Arctic outbreak, but I bet very few remember the unusually warm December that occurred across the eastern half of the nation right before.

There are many examples of winters (maybe not as extreme as January 1985) that started out warm and ended up cold later in January and February. I was wrong about the second half of December turning colder, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are several hints pointing towards things shifting much colder in January and February. If you look at what caused the January 1985 outbreak, it was the combination of a piece of the polar vortex breaking off and pushing into the northern United States and a cold high pressure pushing south bringing very cold air from the Arctic.

Here are the temperature departures from average for December 1984 vs. January 1985:

December 1984 Vs. January 1985 Temperature Departures From Average

December 1984 Vs. January 1985 Temperature Departures From Average

This is a surface map on January 20th, 1985 showing the strong 1048 mb high pressure over southern Canada, pulling in that cold, Arctic air into the United States.

Surface Map on January 20th, 1985

Surface Map on January 20th, 1985

Higher up in the atmosphere at the 500 mb level, notice a piece of the polar vortex down over the Great Lakes on January 20th, 1985. That’s very similar to how things looked last winter.

500 mb Map on January 20th, 1985

500 mb Map on January 20th, 1985

Let’s fast-forward to right now. This is at the 30 mb level (which is the stratosphere) on December 27th, 2014. Notice how strong and well-placed the polar vortex is. This is currently bottling up a lot of the cold, Arctic air.

30 mb Map for December 27th, 2014

30 mb Map for December 27th, 2014

By New Year’s, enough warming has occurred to begin displacing the polar vortex and elongating it.

30 mb Map for January 1st, 2015

30 mb Map for January 1st, 2015

By January 6th, you have two distinct vortices with the strongest piece located near the Hudson Bay.

30 mb Map for January 6th, 2015

30 mb Map for January 6th, 2015

What does all of this mean? If things play out just right, things could get quite cold later in January going into February. As always, I’ll keep everyone updated. Be sure to follow Firsthand Weather on Facebook.

Future Plans For Firsthand Weather In 2015

I announced earlier today that Firsthand Weather is going to stop relying on Facebook’s services as heavily in 2015 as we have in the last four and a half years. Facebook has been a great way for Firsthand Weather to get its articles and updates out to its many viewers in the past, but over the last year, Facebook has continued to limit a Facebook page’s outreach unless a certain amount of money is paid per post. Due to new policy changes that will be implemented in January 2015 by Facebook, I have decided that it is best to start moving away from Facebook by taking small steps to ensure that the Firsthand Weather viewers get the same experience that they have gotten in the past from this site.

I have never been opposed to paying Facebook money to promote the Firsthand Weather articles and updates, but paying thousands of dollars each month is just not a viable option for the site. I feel that we can use any money that is made through Firsthand Weather or donated to the site to offer additional services that we have not developed yet. Right now, the majority of Firsthand Weather’s traffic is driven by Facebook, but my goal in 2015 is to start taking steps to give the Firsthand Weather viewers other services (for free) that are created by Firsthand Weather and not Facebook.

Plans For The Short-Term: 

Over the next few months, I continue to plan posting updates to Facebook and to use that as a way to promote the Firsthand Weather articles and updates. The most immediate change that you will begin to notice is that a lot of the shorter updates that I have been posting on Facebook will now be posted on the site, although I’ll share the link to the site from Facebook every time I add new updates. In other words, you’ll have to use the Firsthand Weather website more often to get the updates.

With that said, Facebook is still an important tool, and it is important that you continue to visit our Facebook page on a daily basis as you have been doing. In the immediate future, Facebook will continue to be a way for me to announce upcoming articles and updates. Again, the biggest and only difference you’ll notice is that more updates will be posted on the site but announced through Facebook.

The best way to continue to get my updates through Facebook is to hover your mouse over the liked button on the Facebook page and make sure that the “Get Notifications” button has a checkmark by it. Every time an update is posted on Facebook by Firsthand Weather, you’ll get a notification.

It is still VERY important that you continue to share the Firsthand Weather articles on Facebook as you have been doing. That is still a great way to get people onto the site. Your friends are likely to see our articles when you share them.

Signup For The Newsletter:

I can’t stress how important it is that you sign up for the Firsthand Weather newsletter. I haven’t sent out a newsletter since early this year, so if you haven’t been getting them, then that’s the reason. There are multiple reasons to sign up for the newsletter.

Once a week, I’ll be sending out a newsletter that will detail what to expect for the upcoming week. That will be something that will only be available to my subscribers and will not be posted on the site. I’ve decided to open up 10,000 slots and nearly 7,000 of those are already taken. I will continue to make new slots available, but it gets quite expensive per month the more subscribers that are signed up.

Another big reason to sign up for the newsletter is that you will have exclusive access to early versions of the mobile app and new applications that will be made available on the Firsthand Weather website. If you don’t have a smartphone, you will still be able to test out our cool websites products that will be coming out in 2015. A lot of these new features will replace Facebook, and you will be given new ways to interact with each other on the site and get the Firsthand Weather updates.

I can assure you that your email address is not sold to ANYONE, and that I don’t spam you with a bunch of newsletters a week. The biggest reason to sign up for the newsletter is to make sure you’re always connected to Firsthand Weather. What if Facebook decided to randomly shut down our Facebook page? Then you would have a way to get direct updates without needing Facebook.

To sign up for the newsletter, please click HERE. You will get a confirmation email, and be sure to check your spam box if it isn’t in your main inbox.

Plans For The Long-Term:

The ultimate goal is to only use Facebook as a tool, and not to rely on it as heavily as we have in the past. My intentions are not to abandon Facebook completely, especially since it continues to be the number one way Firsthand Weather gets traffic to the site (by far).

Firsthand Weather is in the process of building a mobile app and also website applications that will be ways for me to get updates out to the public. The site still has A LOT of money to raise and work to get this mobile app launched. I’ll have more details on that regarding some neat fundraisers that we’re going to try to do to get this project built and launched. By the way, the app will be completely free for you to use. 🙂

Completing these huge projects will be ways for you to hugely benefit from the services and forecasts that Firsthand Weather has provided in the past. This is also going to allow us to expand our coverage in 2015 and beyond. You will really begin to notice this in 2015.

What YOU Can Do:

Please continue to manually go to the Firsthand Weather Facebook page to check for the updates. More importantly, get into the habit of checking the Firsthand Weather website on a daily basis. Most likely, I will announce the times for future articles on the Facebook page and the site. That will give you a great way of knowing when to come onto the site. Be sure to like and follow Firsthand Weather on Instagram and Twitter as those are additional ways to get quick and easy updates.

I want to thank each and every one of you that continues to support Firsthand Weather and tell everyone about the site. I truly mean it when I say that it’s because of you that this site has grown so much. If you weren’t telling people about Firsthand Weather, then there is no way that we could have grown in 2014 like we have. I will continue to make sure that Firsthand Weather continues to grow and offer additional services in the future that you can greatly benefit from.