Winter Wheat Belt Rainfall

Here is what this past week’s rainfall across the winter wheat belt looked like. Given the much warmer than average weather the last two weeks, the wheat is way ahead of schedule. This makes it much more vulnerable to a late-season hard freeze. That said, the wheat around Wichita looks great. 

Wheat Belt Precipitation Update

Moisture conditions generally continue to improve in the winter wheat belt, but in most areas west of U.S. 81 quite a bit more rain is needed to catch up after the deficits of 2011.

Here is a map of precipitation the last 90 days:

90-Day Precipitation from the NWS

And, here is a percent of normal map:

The precipitation outlook the next two weeks is relatively good for the region.

Precipitation Followup

Yesterday, after looking at the precipitation in the winter wheat belt.

I’d said we’d take a look at the moisture from the northern part of the storm because the snow was still falling. Here is the storm total moisture for Nebraska and immediately surrounding areas.

National Weather Service map, click to enlarge.

Regional Precipitation summary using radar and rain gauges.
National Weather Service map, click to enlarge.
Scale same as above map. 
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Winter Wheat Rainfall

Click to enlarge. National Weather Service map. 

Above is a map of rain gauge-adjusted radar estimates of rainfall (more on that topic on the blog tomorrow) across the winter wheat belt through 7am CST. The rain was desperately needed in most areas. The Smith House (northeast Wichita) had a storm total of 2.52 inches from this storm.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has been officially removed from the “drought” category.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the precipitation farther north (it is still snowing hard in a number of areas).

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Midnight Update

AccuWeather Regional Radar at 11:44pm CST shows the heavy snow continuing over Colorado. The town of Callan has received 14.6″ with snow still falling.

The large area of thunderstorms from Kansas to between Amarillo and Lubbock is moving northeast as new thundershowers develop between Enid and Wichita Falls. All of this is badly needed rain, with some hail.

Precipitation amounts should be substantial in the central Plains before this is all over.

Speaking of hail, there is a storm with hail just WSW of Wichita that has a history of producing large hail at 11:50pm. It will be moving into western Sedgwick Co. after midnight.

I’ve been watching this storm on dual-polarization radar and I’ll have more about that on the blog Sunday.

Still looks like very heavy snow will fall in Nebraska. See posting below.

Blizzard Warning and Tornado Threat

Orange = blizzard warning. Lime green = blizzard watch. Pink = winter storm warning. Dark blue = winter  storm watch.

Here is AccuWeather’s snowfall forecast. Many roads will become impassible in these areas. Note: It will continue so snow near the Mississippi River past the time of this map.

Finally, there is a small area with a significant tornado threat late this afternoon and tonight:

NWS Storm Prediction Center Forecast. 5% is considered significant. 

While any tornadoes are certainly unwelcome, the moisture from this system in the winter wheat belt will be welcome indeed. This is the 5-day precipitation amount forecast from the NWS.

Winter Storm, But Where?

I often comment about how meteorology has made tremendous strides at forecasting and storm warnings out to about 72 hours. Well, there is a winter storm developing in about 60 hours but I still do not have a good idea as to its evolution. But, because it may be so major, it is time to give a “heads up” even though my confidence is not high.

Here is the National Weather Service’s 48-hour forecast, created by multiple forecast models, of the probability of 4″ or more of snow ending 6pm Friday. Note: Snow will likely be continuing beyond this time.


The forecast shows >90% probabilities along I-70 and I-76 in Colorado and >80% probability along I-80 in far western Nebraska. Given the strong winds that are likely, this could cause major highway, Amtrak, and airport problems at DEN and CYS.

Since the snow will likely last beyond 6pm Friday evening, what might the totals look like? It is too soon to say, but some areas of the High Plains may well have more than 15″.

There is some really good news and that is of substantial moisture amounts in the winter wheat belt.

It would not surprise me if some parts of Kansas received three inches or more.

2011: A Year of Precipitation in Map Form

Here is how much precipitation (rain and the melted moisture in snow) has fallen since 6am CST on January 1, 2011 until 6am this morning. Click to enlarge, scale at right.

While the eye is certainly drawn to the purples (more than 70″!) from the Missouri Bootheel to southern New York, those are not the largest departures from normal. Those can be seen in the map below:

The greatest deviation from normal on the plus side is in eastern Montana. This very heavy spring rainfall is what put the Missouri River above flood stage so many days this spring and summer.

The driest area is about the same longitude, the southern Rockies down to the Texas Big Bend where rainfall was less than 20% of normal.

How is that Drought Relief Coming?

Sunday, I wrote a posting, “Dagger in the Drought?” where I predicted that significant drought relief would occur along and south of I-44 in Oklahoma and Texas by Thanksgiving.

How is the forecast coming? Here is how much rain has fallen since the forecast was made:

NWS graphic, click to enlarge

One inch or more of run was widespread from Laredo and Del Rio, TX into Arkansas with very heavy rains from southeast Oklahoma through the northern half of Arkansas. So far, so good with round 1 of the rain.

Here is a forecast for rainfall from now through midnight Thanksgiving evening:

NWS GFS model from data ending 6pm Friday

The orange areas within the red are forecast amounts between 4 and 5 inches. If you add up the amount of rain that has already fallen with what is forecast, Sunday’s original forecast still looks quite good.

But, if we add another 18 hours to the above total rainfall forecast (from now through 6pm Friday), you see even heavier rains in the drought area:

The bright orange area from just north of Dallas to the Ozarks is more than 5 inches!  If this forecast is correct, it would — when combined with the rains that have already fallen — be quite significant.

Finally, there is another — large — storm system behind the one for late next week. Take a look at the total rainfall forecast from 6pm, Friday, November 25 to 6pm December 5th:

That is an additional 3 inches or more over the east halves of Texas and Oklahoma, with some areas forecast to receive 10″+ over the next 16 days.

The southern High Plains’ extremely severe drought would not be affected. Elsewhere, it would certainly improve the situation along, south and southeast of I-44 with some lesser easing over the rest of Oklahoma (except the Panhandle) and the southeast third of Kansas.

This would be a tremendous boost for the winter wheat and for pastures throughout the region.

Dagger in the Drought?

Update: 11:32pm Sunday. Just got a new look at the U.S. model through the end of the Thanksgiving weekend and the weather pattern looks very active Thanksgiving week. So, as to the possibility of major drought relief by Thanksgiving in the areas indicated below looks (keeping in mind this is 11 days out) good.

Suggestion: If you are going to be traveling in the central or western U.S. from the weekend before Thanksgiving through the weekend after, keep up on the weather for your route and destination.

Original Posting: The European Model’s 10-day Rainfall Forecast via AccuWeather.Com’s Professional Site.

The large area of forecast 5″+ rainfall from south central Texas to the southern Ozarks, if it occurs as forecast, will not end the drought. However, these heavy forecast rains — combined with recent rainfalls — will have significantly eased the drought by Thanksgiving in areas to the southeast of I-44. Here is the actual rainfall for the past 60 days:

click to enlarge, from NWS

Another Crack in the Drought?

The weather pattern is again becoming more favorable for rain in the southern Plains. Here is the ECMRF model’s rainfall forecast for the next ten days. Data via AccuWeather’s PRO site.

click to enlarge

Addition: Winter storm watch as far southeast as western Kansas. Winter storm warning (pink)
in much of southern Wyoming.


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How Did the Plains Rain Storm Turn Out?

Rainfall totals since Thursday:

If you would like to compare what actually happened to what was forecast, you can do so.

Here is what I posted ten days before the rains began.

Seven days out.

Five days before the rain began.

Just over three days before the rain started.

And, finally, two days out.

I created all of these links because I want to give our readers the opportunity to compare weather forecasts to what actually occurs so that they can get a feel for the level of accuracy that is reasonable to expect. This situation was more “forecastable” than most. For reasons atmospheric science does not understand, there are times when the weather is easier to predict than others.

How Is the Rain Storm Coming?

Here is the radar at 9:10am CDT. More than four inches of rain have fallen so far in west central Kansas. That is snow around Colorado Springs.

Below is an experimental radar forecast valid at 6pm this evening.  If you are going to football games in the region, prepare accordingly. In addition, there could be some lightning delays.

The Rain Begins in the Plains

While this may seem underwhelming at first glance, these thunderstorms signal the start of the major — and much needed — rain event in the Plains, especially the winter wheat belt. As you know, severe drought has plagued the region since winter.

AccuWeather regional radar at 3pm CDT

You can keep track of the storm for yourself, just click here.

Here is the forecast rainfall amounts from 7pm this evening through 7pm Monday. Yes, that is a forecast of more than 9″ near Wichita Falls.  

Let the rains begin!

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The Storm So Far

Unusually heavy rain has fallen from the Rockies west with the early season storm.

Actual rainfall past 7 days. National Weather Service.

The heavy rain event will begin in the Plains tomorrow.  Five day forecast rains:

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Let the Rains Begin!

The very first of the rain in the Great Plains began yesterday evening and continue this morning. Here is the AccuWeather regional radar as of 7:15am CDT:

The National Weather Service has upped its rainfall amount forecast so we are now in substantial agreement as to amounts and locations of this most welcome storm:

Now, all we need is for Mother Nature to cooperate! Let the rains begin!

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