Snovember in Buffalo

Lake-effect in Buffalo

Over the past couple of days, Buffalo, NY and northwestern New York have been experiencing lake effect snow of epic proportions. As the band rolls through (as seen above), people have been stuck on roadways and stranded in their homes for hours to even a day and counting now as seen below.

Roadway Snowed Over

With a couple of snow totals coming in, places are ranging from 5 to 5.5 feet of snow around the Buffalo area. Areas south of Buffalo have yet to report snow totals, but the National Weather Service is saying that they could approach the record of 6 feet 4 inches of snow, which is the all-time record for the United States at any place, at any time.

Snow Caving In House

All this snow can be fun, but also destructive. Above is a picture of a house that’s doors could not quite hold all that snow and caved in. Tragedy has also hit a couple of families as the death toll has reached 7 from the snow itself. Police officers took calls, but could only respond by foot, and ambulances could not get down a majority of the roads.

Ralph Wilson Stadium

Not everyone is cancelling their future plans in Buffalo, as the Buffalo Bills still plan to play the New York Jets on Sunday at their stadium, which is pictured above. They are currently offering people $10 and tickets to the game for their help in clearing the snow by Sunday.

Snow Forecast

The northern Erie area will continue seeing more snow, as it is not going to end in the near future. Snow totals will continue to climb with more than 2+ feet of snow being dropped in some locations. So while we can still see the top of the grass here in North Dakota, people in Buffalo, NY may not see that for months.

– Tyler Reis

“So someday, I’ll see you on TV?”

This is a question I get asked all the time when I tell people that I am going to school for meteorology. Everyone assumes that if you are studying weather, then you must be going to be doing the news. While I can understand that that is the only aspect of weather that they see, there are much more options out there. I could go into the National Weather Service, the private sector, operational, research, education, forensic meteorology, or even risk management. There are many more options that I haven’t named yet, but I want to focus on that last one on the list: risk management.

So what is risk management? It is what it says it is; managing risks. When it comes to weather risk management, there are few aspects of the field. One aspect is trading commodities. These commodities range from energy to crops and everything in between. You would be surprised as to how much of our economy and businesses depend on weather. For example, I could trade natural gas commodities. Knowing that people use more energy when it is hot or cold out, I can buy and sell these commodities based on the weather. Natural gas is an energy source. So during a summer heatwave, the price of natural gas goes up. This is the time to sell your commodities and wait to buy when the weather goes back to average for that time of year. Then when they are cheap, you buy again and sell when the next heatwave comes.

Another aspect is analyzing risks. This can be for a number of things. For example, a city has a levee that can withstand flood heights up to 60 feet. What would happen if a flood occurred that would go over the levee? People calculate the economic impacts and amount of damage that would occur if something like this did occur. Researchers can used models to build storms that never happened before to see what would happen if the unthinkable did occur.

There are a few other aspects of if weather risk management, but I don’t know much about those. I hope you now know that there are other meteorologists out there besides the one you see on TV.

Why is my skin so dry?

Whenever the winter rolls around, people all around the country will begin talking about how dry their skin feels. Dry skin can affect anyone, young or old, men and women. When old man winter comes around, the dryer air during the season can only exacerbate the issue. Today I will be speaking about the causes of your dry skin in the winter.

During the summer, the air is warmer and therefore more humid, because warm air holds more moisture than cold air and you can feel the sweat buildup on your skin because not all of the moisture can get absorbed by the air. So, in the winter, the cold air wants to take moisture away from your skin, and because the air is so dry, it takes away the majority. The more moist the area, the more moisture taken away, and the drier it gets.

So, when winter is coming, prepare yourself with lots of lotion and aloe vera, because you are going to need it! If you suffer from nosebleeds, and they increase during the winter, follow the tips I posted in the link above, and stay warm!

~ Sam Umhoefer

First big snowfall

Today most of the upper Midwest is receiving its first large snowfall of the season. This storm system, named Astro, has developed over South Dakota and is dumping lots of snow across much of North and South Dakota and Minnesota. For some folks they are wondering how and why this storm front has taken so long to get here, for some the timing can’t be worse. As always one can expect to see flights delayed at airports and the usual mix of drivers who forget how to drive in snow, and the opposite the overly cautious. St. Cloud which at the time of this writing has received 11 inches of snowfall. Which matches its highest snowfall in a single day. Likewise Places like Bismarck, North Dakota have received only 3.2 inches of snow, which is the 2 weeks later than average. What makes this storm significant is how it has developed. It is a relatively narrow band of snowfall that only stretches across one state, but combined with the jet stream that has been affected by typhoon Nuri colder temperatures have crept south from Canada and helped freeze moisture that has been present over much of the Midwest. But as with most severe events more than one thing will affect people. The one two knockout will be followed up by gustier winds and that brutal cold from Canada. Current forecasts show temperatures remaining colder but winds to be anywhere from 20-30 mph which will just cause the fresh snow to drift and the wind chills to go down. What’s worse is that temperatures will continue to drop and that the next couple of days will be colder than today, the plus side? The next real chance to snow is Saturday. Finally just try to be safe, remember to wear hats and gloves, along with your heavier winter jackets and snow boots.

-Clint Leeper


As many of you may have noticed, yesterday was the first accumulating snowfall for much of the Red River Valley region. Grand Forks officially had 0.6”, with Fargo coming in at 0.2”. While the snow did not last long before melting, one thing every North Dakotan (or Midwesterner, for that matter) knows is that more snow will be on the way as we approach the winter season. With the start of our snow season, this is a prime time to discuss a few snow climate statistics for the region!

First Date of Measurable Snowfall:
Did it seem like the first measurable snowfall this season came a little later than usual? If you said “yes”, you were right! If you look at the map provided by the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC), you can see that the average first date of measurable snowfall for Grand Forks is between October 21st and October 31st, so we were about a week later than the median. Fargo, on the other hand, usually sees its first measurable snowfall between November 1st and November 10th, so they were right on schedule this year. Curious as to what the latest and earliest dates of measurable snowfall for the region have been in the recent past? The MRCC also has maps of that for the time period 1981-2010, which I’ve posted below!

Earliest Snow 1981-2010

Latest First Snow 1981-2010

Source: Midwestern Regional Climate Center

Average Annual Snowfall:
So the snow is here. Then what? How much will fall this winter? Well, while meteorologists don’t currently have the capability to accurately predict exact snowfall totals for the winter, they do know what the average amount of snow that falls each year is for the region. For North Dakota, the normal yearly snowfall seems to range between 20 and 60 inches. According to the National Weather Service Grand Forks climate data, Grand Forks itself averages 47.1 inches of snow. Needless to say, there should be a lot more snow on the way!

Average Annual Snow

Source:High Plains Regional Climate Center

And if you’re a big snow-lover or skier and 20-60 inches of snow is not enough for you, you can always head over toward the Great Lakes region, where lake-effect snow drives totals up north of 100 inches! On the other hand, if snow’s not really your thing, take heart that North Dakota doesn’t have the highest annual snowfall in the Midwest, and remember that every day we get closer to winter, we also get closer to spring!
-Logan Lee

Annual Midwest Snow

Source: Midwestern Regional Climate Center

Winter is fast approaching. When air temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, we can use an index to qualify what the combination of wind and temperature feels like on our skin. This index is “Windchill”. It is a famous phrase that we often hear in the dead of winter. The National Weather Service released a graphic that illustrates Windchill. It is a index that is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by wind and cold temperatures. This temperature is a “feels like” temperature, which only affects humans and animals.

The NWS Windchill Chart index calculates wind speed at an average height of 5 feet, the typical height of a human face. The index is based on a human face model, and takes into account the heat transfer theory which deals with heat loss from the body to the surroundings. Calm winds are assumed to be 3 mph or less. There is also no impact from the sun taken into account in this index. The chart pictured above also depicts frostbite times. Frostbite most commonly affects fingers, toes, ears and the nose. Frostbite symptoms include that extremity turning pale and medical attention is needed if frostbite starts to occur.

Always be cautious on cold and windy days. Be prepared and wear warm clothes in layers, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. When the windchill index is less than around -20 degrees fahrenheit, frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes.

-Brianna Kump

What is an Alberta Clipper?

An “Alberta Clipper” is a low pressure system that originates in the Canadian providence of Alberta. Most clippers occur between December and February but can also occur in November. These systems are often very fast moving and quite dry. Clippers bring drastic temperature changes (often times a fifteen degree temperature drop in less than twelve hours). Alberta Clippers are not huge snow producers, they normally have a relative lack of moisture due to the dry, cold air in Canada. The snow totals for Alberta Clippers are not usually very impressive. However, the snow totals combined with the high winds and cold temperatures can make for dangerous wind chills and blow snow threats.

The Alberta Clipper starts in Alberta, Canada and comes our way!

Warning! Warning! Warning! There is an Alberta Clipper alert for the Grand Forks Area. A Clipper is headed our way in the next 24 hours. Temperatures are expected to fall into the mid 30s to upper 20s. There is a chance for the first accumulating snow of the year with this system. Light rain will turn into light snow throughout the night and into tomorrow. Snow accumulation from half an inch to a full inch is possible.

Alberta Clippers are very common in the Northern Plains of the United States. This system will not bring bone chilling temperatures or feet of snow. Although, a system much like this in December or January could lead to dangerous driving conditions from blowing snow. Clippers can be dangerous but they don’t have to be. Stay Smart, Stay Safe, Stay Alive.

The More You Know.

-Joe Heiden

Why Isn’t The Weather Changing?

You look outside and for the fifth day, the weather hasn’t appeared to change. That same drab gray sky remains in place, making getting out of bed in the morning even more challenging and perhaps requiring an extra cup of coffee to create enough momentum for anything to actually get done. It just seems like Mother Nature has it out for you and your townsfolk specifically, trying to prevent the sun from bringing a single ray of joy upon life.
Contrary to what one may try to believe while the sip on their third coffee of the morning, this isn’t a conspiracy set forward by Folgers, rather it is the simple product of a weather pattern being influenced by a single set of features.


Not those kind of waves.

Not the kind one desires to surf on though; rather these are waves of atmospheric pressure that dictate the flow of weather around us each and every day. They do this by either moving warm air northward or cold air southward. But how does simply moving air northward or southward keep one region locked in terms of weather for a period of time? As it turns out, it isn’t the action that atmospheric long waves are executing that creates long term weather patterns. It is instead how many of them are doing it. Atmospheric long waves are somewhat like an odd social club.

The oddest social club you’ll never be a part of.

They want five members and will either find new prospects to join them if they fall below, or hire a reality show board of judges to get rid of those who aren’t welcome, thus keeping the number as close to five as possible. Now, under most normal conditions these waves move west to east, as they move with the wind. However, if they fall short a member or two and drop to only be a club of three, they stop moving. When the stall in this such fashion, they will continue to pull warm or cold air from the same source on repeat until the club reestablishes membership quota and starts moving again.

Take a look at Grand Forks, ND. Follow the lines northbound. Its pulling cold air down, making you wear an extra jacket!

This is how repeated weather patterns can get established over a period of several days. Once the upper air waves stop moving, the atmosphere slows down and not much can happen. It isn’t all doom and gloom though – sometimes these waves will setup to keep nasty weather out of an area and prolong pleasurable weather, but most of the time we don’t notice how many sunny days there are. Instead we count how many days snow kept our car from getting out of the driveway in the morning.

Brendan Farmer

What’s That Graphic?

Have you ever been watching the TV weather broadcast and wondered what the picture behind the broadcaster is? Perhaps you’ve wondered why they chose to display it in a certain way? Well today is your lucky day because I will be giving a brief overview of the history of weather graphics.

When television weather took off in the 1950’s, weather graphics were mostly hand drawn on a chalkboard or clear Plexiglass, similar to the image below.

This style of broadcasting was used throughout the 50s and into the 60s before it was replaced by the advent of radar and color television. Radar was used during a broadcast interspersed with hand-made maps that displayed highs and lows such as the one below for hurricane Ethel in 1960.

By the mid 1970s GOES-1 became the first Geostationary weather satellite (geostationary referring to the fact that it is always in orbit over a fixed spot on the Earth’s surface.) This allowed the weather casters to make more accurate forecasts than ever before about cloud cover and possible precipitation and severe weather.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s several companies began making their own software to make graphics for television that specifically showed certain features, such as daily highs and lows or a weekly outlook.

Finally these culminated in the myriad of programs that are used by TV networks around the country, such as Baron or WSI. These are top of the line programs used to generate the graphics you see on TV today. Overall the evolution of weather graphics has created the graphics we know and love (or hate0 today/ Many of the ones used on TV today are just digital versions of the earliest ones used by weather-casters over 30 years ago! TV stations are always open to your opinions on their material, so if you have any suggestions or complaints, be sure to let them know!

~ Sam Umhoefer

Super Supercell

Supercells are the most intense thunderstorms in the Earth’s atmosphere. A supercell thunderstorm always rotates and produce most cases of tornadoes, large hail, and damaging straight-line winds.

There are four key ingredients for supercell thunderstorms to form.
1) An environment that is conditionally unstable.
2) Very moist air in the lower troposphere.
3) moderate to strong vertical wind shear.
4) A trigger mechanism – lifting along a boundary.


Once developed, a supercell would look like the the schematic above. The first thing to look at is the color shaded regions on the inside. From blue to red, this is the approximate strength of rain fall in the supercell. The area shaded in red, is the area most likely to have hail. The forward-flank downdraft also has to do with the high reflectivity due to its origin being right in that area. Air gets sucked into the storm via inflow right into the updraft. The updraft lifts air into the atmosphere, it is one reason that hail is seen just upstream from it. The rear-flank downdraft is seen in the back. As the rear-flank updraft wraps itself around the updraft, a hook forms at the tail of the storm. This hook is commonly associated with tornadic weather, as it gains lots of rotation, and then a tornado forms.


Supercells are extremely dangerous, but can be warned of ahead of time once properly identified. With strong winds, large hail, and tornadic activity, a supercell can be storm chasers dream, but an unlucky persons nightmare.

– Tyler Reis