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Cold, Dry Weekend Behind Us; Rain Chances To Come?

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If you were out and about over the weekend, especially at night, it was obvious that a cold front had recently passed through. We went from seeing highs in the 80s on Wednesday to seeing highs in the 50s on Thursday and Friday. Later in the week, another reinforcing shot of colder air moved through the region dropping temperatures even more.

Friday night seemed a bit extreme if you were out at any of our area’s high school football games. If you didn’t wear a jacket outside, you probably didn’t last long! Clear skies across much of the region sent temperatures plummeting into the lower 20s in most places with the warmest temperatures in the northeast where a little extra cloud cover kept temperatures in the upper 20s and lower 30s. Huron was the first location to officially dip into the teens, but that was just a taste of the cold we were about to experience on Saturday night.


Saturday, temperatures struggled to get out of the 40s, which gave us a head start once the sun went down. Skies were clear as we went into the overnight and winds went calm, allowing more than one location to dip into the teens. In fact, Spencer dropped all the way to the lower teens—13 degrees! Aberdeen made it down to 14, breaking a second record in a row.


Sunday and Monday were noticeably cooler, each day warming up about 10 degrees warmer than the day before. Don’t expect that trend to continue, though! A cold front is moving through the region tonight, but this time; temperatures won’t be dropping quite as drastically. For starters, temperatures never had the chance to warm nearly as much ahead of the front as they did the last one. Plus, there’s a little extra moisture to work with this time, allowing for extra cloud cover and a chance of showers. In fact, even as I type this blog post; light scattered showers are developing.

Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing much rainfall, as we will quickly clear out by mid-day on Tuesday. High pressure will quickly build into the region Tuesday evening leaving us with clear skies and calm winds, once again sending temperatures plummeting into the 20s and possibly even lower in some isolated spots. As you can already tell, these “warming trends” are not lasting nearly as long as they were just a few weeks ago!

However, an interesting feature will be moving in our direction over the next few days—possibly giving us a fairly good shot at some rainfall! It’s still several days out there, but we’re already monitoring the system as it moves ashore on the west coast.

As we forecast this system, there are several models we look at and each has its strong points and weak points. Each model leads us to believe that this system will be capable of drawing in a fair amount of moisture. However, the timing and track of the system will be a challenge.

Here’s a look at where models have the system as of late Thursday night depicted by the GFS model and the NAM model.

NAM Friday Morning

GFS Friday Morning

At this point, the NAM cannot look any farther out into time; so as we get a little bit closer to the weekend, we will have a better idea at how the NAM is handling the system’s track. Notice, however, how both models agree with the placement of the system in the upper levels at this time over California and Nevada. At this point, there are two things about this system that make it a challenge to forecast. First of all, it is cut off from the jet stream. Notice that the actual low over California is a along way from the river of air that helps navigate the system. Second of all, it has a mountain range to cross over before it gets to us, which models sometimes have a difficult time resolving.

Looking ahead, however; the GFS moves the low over the mountains rather quickly, placing the low over the Nebraska panhandle by Saturday morning. Assuming the GFS has a good handle on this system at this point, let’s look at how much precipitation the system would be able to produce.

GFS Saturday Morning

As the system crosses to the east side of the Rocky Mountains, strong southeasterly flow from the Gulf of Mexico feeds a good bit of moisture into the system, wrapping around the system on the north side—making rain chances look pretty good for this coming weekend! By Sunday morning, the GFS has the low rapidly tracking to the northeast toward the Great Lakes region.

GFS Quantitative Precipitation Outlook--Saturday Morning

GFS Quantitative Precipitation Outlook--Sunday Morning

It’s important, however, that we don’t get too hyped up over this. There’s still a good bit of time between now and then, creating a lot of room for error. Suppose the GFS is tracking the low across the Rockies too quickly. In that case, we may not see the system move through our region until later in the weekend. Also, how well are the models handling the intensity of the low once it has crossed over the mountains? Will it still be capable of drawing in as much moisture? Will it track a little farther south leaving South Dakota high and dry?

There are still many questions that must be addressed when forecasting this system, and as we have seen too many times this summer; some of the best rain chances can sometimes prove to just dry up by the time they get here.

One good thing about this system, however, is that it is coming to us from the southwest rather than the northeast. This makes it much easier for the system to draw in moisture from the Gulf.

Will this system bring much cooler air? Well, obviously it’s still too soon to tell. However, since it is coming from our southwest; it isn’t as likely to draw in the cold Arctic air from the north.

GFS 850 mb. Temperatures--Saturday Morning

GFS 850 mb. Temperatures--Sunday Morning

Of course, there are other models we turn to in order to get a second opinion. One of these models is the European. As you can see in the images below, which show the low’s positioning as of Saturday and Sunday morning; it is currently in agreement with the GFS, placing the low in NW Nebraska on Saturday morning and tracking it to the northeast toward the Great Lakes.

European Model--Saturday Morning

European Model--Sunday Morning

Finally, in these last two images we turn to the Canadian model, which seems to slow things down just a bit. In the first image, the Canadian places the low in the same general vicinity as the Euro and GFS on Saturday morning; but it doesn’t develop it as quickly on the eastern side of the Rockies. Also, in the second image, you can see that the Canadian model slows the system down a bit—holding it back in NW Iowa or NE Nebraska rather than quickly moving it toward the Great Lakes.

Canadian Model--Saturday Morning

Canadian Model--Sunday Morning

Of course, rather than taking one of these models literally; we often take smaller elements of each one as hints that another model may be leaning in a certain direction. One thing is for certain, though. There is a system that will be tracking somewhere near our region that may possibly give us a better shot of rain than we’ve seen in a while. Be sure to stay tuned to KDLT and KDLT.com as this weekend draws closer and closer to see where things stand.
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