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  • Tim McGill

Warm Up Coming But Bitter Cold Tonight & Snow Sunday

Nasty Three Weeks Of Winter


We should all get t-shirts that say "I survived three of Chicago's worst weeks of winter". The three weeks from January 26th through February 15th this year saw a total of 34.1" of snow. That is the most snow in a three week period since 1979. Snow combined with cold the past few weeks of February have made for a brutal stretch of winter weather. Today will be the 15th straight day with below average temperatures. So far February is running just under 13° below average.


We have another night of bitter cold coming followed by more sticking snow on Sunday but there is light at the end of this forecast tunnel. 40° is within reach by the middle of next week. Need more good news? Meteorological spring is just nine ten days away. The sun will begin setting after 5:30 pm this weekend. We have picked up just over an hour and a half of daylight since December 19th, or three months ago.


The past few weeks of nasty winter weather has left its mark across much of the country. The snow cover has more than doubled since the end of January. 72.6% of the contiguous United States is covered with snow (lower left image). The average depth of that snow is a bit more than half a foot. As of yesterday, Florida was the only state without any snow cover. At the same time last year just 32.9% of the country was reporting snow cover (lower right image).


The cold has contributed to a rapid rise in ice cover on the Great Lakes. Just two weeks ago a little over 8% of the lakes had ice cover. The ice has expanded in coverage five times over to 40.1% as of Thursday (lower left image). That is more than double the amount of ice compared to this time last year (lower right image).





Another Frigid February Day & Night


Average highs for this point in February are around 36°. Even with plenty of sunshine today we will only manage to make it into the lower 20s this afternoon.


We have everything in place for another bitterly cold night. Mainly clear skies tonight combined with our heavy snow cover means outlying areas will plummet to subzero lows for the start of Saturday. Lows in the city will be in the high single digits but further west of the city lows will dip to as cold as -4°.



Lows tonight will be around 20° to 25° below average but we will rapidly recover over the next few days (lower left image). Temperatures by Wednesday morning will be nearly 10° above average (lower right image). The temperature anomaly forecast for Saturday morning has most of the country feeling the blues. The blue shades corresponding to colder than average temperatures. The blues give way to orange and brown by Wednesday. Those shades mark where milder than average temperatures are expected. It will feel nearly 50° warmer by Tuesday afternoon compared to Saturday morning.






The hourly temperature meteogram for O'Hare shows our temperatures bouncing back from well below average early tomorrow to well above by the middle of next week. We should be flirting with 40° by at least Tuesday.







Sunday Snow


The latest GFS model's meteogram shows to shots at snow over the next ten days. The more significant snow arrives mainly late Sunday. A few inches is possible with this system. Another round of lighter snow comes next Thursday.



The accumulated snowfall meteogram for O'Hare shows the range of snowfall predictions from several models. Most models squeeze out about a half inch to just over 2.5" of new snow for Sunday. By the end of the weekend our winter snowfall will be approaching 50". So far we have seen 45.1" of snow this winter which is nearly 20" above average.



The GFS model total snowfall accumulation through Monday morning spits out around 1.5" to just over 3" of snow. The heavier end of that range is for our far northern and northwestern suburbs. The model suggests about 1.5" to 2" for the city of Chicago.



The European model suggests a more uniform snowfall with most of us picking up another 3" of new snow.






Milder Pattern Coming


The longer range temperature probability forecasts suggest a milder pattern for the end of this month and the start of the next. The latest 6-10 day temperature probability forecast has the Chicago area outlooked for above average temperatures overall from February 24th through February 28th. The longer range 8-14 day forecast continues to keep us outlooked for above average temperatures overall from February 26th through March 4th. The probabilities are a bit higher in the first forecast compared to the second.





The even longer range Subseasonal Experiment (SubX) forecast seems to suggest a turn back to a colder than average pattern by the middle of March. The forecasts for both the weeks ending March 5th and March 12th have us at least a bit below average.






Active Pattern To Continue?


The long range precipitation probability forecasts seem to suggest an active pattern for the end of February through the start of March. The 6-10 day forecast favors us above average precipitation overall from February 24th through February 28th. The longer range 8-14 day forecast has us outlooked for above average precipitation overall from February 26th through March 4th too. If the longer range temperature probability forecasts verify, at least some of this precipitation would be in the form of rain.







Here is my 7 day forecast:


Today: Partly to mostly sunny High: 22


Saturday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: -1 High: 24


Sunday: Cloudy, light to moderate snow mainly late, breezy Low: 16 High: 32


Monday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: 27 High: 38


Tuesday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 30 High: 42

Wednesday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: 31 High: 40


Thursday: Mostly cloudy, light snow possible Low: 27 High: 34


#ilwx

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