White Christmas for three of Oklahoma’s counties…



No lights on the house... but we did put a lot into our front yard tree.
No lights on the house… but we did put a lot into our front yard tree.

Portions of Cimarron, Texas and Beaver Counties of the panhandle are the only places in Oklahoma which will see a white Christmas this year – due to left-over snow from the blizzard which occurred on the 19th and 20th.  It looks like there will be another couple of days before the snow melts completely away.

Meanwhile, an upper-level low pressure area spinning near the New Mexico/Texas border will produce precipitation in portions of western Oklahoma on Christmas.  It will likely be cold enough aloft for some of the precipitation to fall in the form of snow.  The best chances will be along the Texas/Oklahoma border.  It should be a light rain/snow mix which won’t be sticking to the ground… but at least a few lucky folks in the state will get to see flurries on Christmas day.
We hope it’s a nice, safe holiday season for everyone and wish the best of luck in upcoming 2012!




Winter storm possible Monday and Tuesday

Well, over the last few weeks I’ve made some long reaching stabs at low possibility events such as snow in November and a minor tornado threat in December. Neither one of these “unofficial” predictions panned out. However, it now appears that we may have a winter event taking aim on the state that we can grab a hold of.

An early Winter Storm Watch has been issued for the Oklahoma panhandle and five northwest Oklahoma Counties. The watch extends into Kansas and the Texas panhandle. Model trends over the last 24 to 36 hours indicate that the threat of accumulating snowfall may edge southeast of this area.

The system we are watching is currently centered about 100 to 200 miles southwest of San Diego. Model runs over the past several days have been taking this system generally east northeastward across southern New Mexico – before ejecting it northeast toward southwest Kansas. Most recent data indicates that the system may very well take a track much farther south – driving the compact / but strong / system into northwest Texas before turning northeast toward central and northern Oklahoma. The path of this system will be critical in forecasting areas which may see heavy snow.

It appears that this will be a very wet system. Widespread precipitation will begin in southwest Oklahoma during the early morning hours on Monday /19th/ – with much heavier rain and thunderstorms spreading northeast across the state during the afternoon and evening. Where the air mass is sufficiently cold – rain will change to snow in the northwest and panhandle. A very heavy, wet snow is likely to last through most of the daylight hours on Tuesday /20th/. While amounts will be lighter… snow could last until the evening hours in central and northern Oklahoma.

The surface reflection of this storm will be a tight low pressure area which will track along or just north of the Red River. The pressure gradient behind the low will be tight enough to generate gusty north winds of at least 20 to 30 MPH. While this is well short of a technical “blizzard” – driving conditions may come close to impossible in areas that see the heaviest snow.

Given the forecast track uncertainties – will not get too aggressive in bringing heavy snow accumulations into central Oklahoma. However, it does appear that a good chunk of northwest Oklahoma and the panhandle will see enough snow to cause considerable problems.


2011 Geminids – not a washout

The 2011 Geminid meteor shower didn’t disappoint despite a bright waning gibbous moon which was up most of the nighttime hours. The problem for the peak period (night of Dec. 13/morning of Dec. 14) in Okarche was extensive cloudiness and light precipitation.

The following day, I read where observers around the world were quite impressed with the show despite the moon brightness. Given the mostly clear skies in Okarche – I gave it a shot the following night hoping for some post-peak action. The moon was still quite bright and there were a few high clouds around, but I managed to capture several Geminids. I also had a bit of a time with dew forming on the lens which created some funky streaks in some of the images, but overall I was happy with my results.

It was nice to end with a few bright Geminids given the lackluster performance of the 2011 meteor season. Clouds or moon interference on peak nights, or in the case of the Leonids – just a poor show, meant very little entertainment this season.

Hopefully 2012 will be better. The bigger shows (Perseids, Leonids, and Geminids) will all have far less moon interference than what we experienced this year.

A few Geminids from the night of December 15th:




December Tornado Possibility?

I just went outside… I didn’t need a coat and there was a light rain falling on me with a brisk south wind.

Believe it or not, temperatures are approaching 60 degrees in central Oklahoma, and dew points are approaching 60 degrees in southern Oklahoma.

A strong storm system will be moving out of the southwest U.S. into the central/southern plains overnight and during the morning/afternoon hours on Wednesday.  There will continue to be a steady influx of low level moisture overnight as the final bits of residing cold air are eroded.

What does all this mean?  Well, dew point temperatures in the 60′s in Oklahoma – in December – are somewhat rare.  While instability is not exactly what we expect to see during the spring months… it will be sufficient for the chance of thunderstorms.

Given the strength of the wind fields, rotating thunderstorms are not out of the question.  While we are unlikely to see the typical – isolated – supercell thunderstorm with this setup… rotation in line segments is a definite possibility.  Given the strength of the wind fields, low level CAPE, and low LCL’s – I would not be surprised to see a tornado in Oklahoma on Wednesday.

So – where and when?  Using some of the latest short-term guidance, it appears that the best chance would be with storms that first form near sunrise in southwest Oklahoma.  This threat would quickly advance to the northeast becoming an afternoon threat in far eastern Oklahoma.

It should be made clear – tornadoes with this kind of setup are not likely to be numerous/long-lived/or strong.  Yet, there may still be tornadoes which could cause damage.

The latest model guidance would suggest the greatest threat areas: