Ag Weather Forum
Tuesday, January 18, 2022 5:30PM CST
Ag Weather Forum 01/18 17:29
All Aboard the Alberta Clipper Train
A ridge of high pressure near the West Coast and an upper-level low over
Hudson Bay will set up a series of clipper systems to move through the United
States and Canada for the next 10 days or so. Some light to moderate
precipitation and a few rounds of cold air can be expected.
Most of North America enjoyed a warmer stretch of weather last week as we
said goodbye to the cold, arctic air for at least a little while. But it is
still winter, so when will our next cold shot come through and will it be a
Again, we look to the upper levels to see what is headed our way in North
America for the next 10 days. What we are going to see is a relatively stable
setup. The ridge of high pressure that brought in the warmer weather last week
has shifted off to the West Coast and up into Alaska. Meanwhile, an upper-level
low is forming over Hudson Bay. Those features are not going to change much
through almost the end of January and will set up a storm track perfect for
creating Alberta clipper systems.
Clippers have a tendency to develop around Alberta, Saskatchewan, or
sometimes the Northern U.S. Plains and move through the U.S. Corn Belt around
the base of the trough in Hudson Bay. Usually, we see some potent low-pressure
centers which create some briefly strong winds and pull down some cold, arctic
air from northern Canada or sometimes around the North Pole. They are usually
associated with light precipitation because the systems move quickly and are
coming from Canada, not a huge source of moisture. But their intensity
sometimes causes a band of moderate to heavy snow on the northern side of its
track, especially if it can pick up a little bit of moisture from the Gulf of
Mexico as it works across the Midwest.
Not all clippers are the same. They vary in intensity, track, duration, and
speed and cause sometimes wildly different outcomes even though the setup is
very similar. The series of clippers set to move through North America in the
coming days will be no different.
One has already started moving across the U.S. Canada border since Jan. 17
and will continue in that fashion through Jan. 19 before moving into the
Canadian Maritimes. The heaviest snowfall has been and will be on the Canada
side of the border, but as the front to the system moves south of the Ohio
River, it will pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and produce more
moderate to heavy rain as the front sags through the rest of the U.S. If the
front can hang up near the Gulf Coast instead of spreading through it, then we
could see another round of wintry precipitation for the Southeast and
Mid-Atlantic U.S. on Friday and Saturday.
Colder air follows behind the front, putting an end to our warmer pattern.
Each clipper that moves through will do something similar, bringing down colder
air for a short period. The cold will be more focused across central Canada
into the Midwest, away from the Rockies. The cold will be briefer and more
muted in that area. Some snowfall events will be stronger than others.
Impacts from clipper systems are notorious for being poorly handled by
models until roughly 48 hours before the event. So, it is hard to really
forecast if these systems will have bands of moderate snow or where they will
occur. The track is usually the hardest to pick out. And that is what causes a
lot of folks to become angry at weather forecasters. When you look at a
forecast and see 6-inch (15-centimeter) totals for your area, but receive next
to nothing because the track shifted 50 miles (80 kilometers), it is perfectly
reasonable to question the forecaster's ability. I know these sorts of systems
give me anxiety when I forecast them for that same reason.
And there will be several that track from the Canadian Prairies through the
Corn Belt during the next 10 days. One in particular looks more potent than the
rest. That one will move through the Canadian Prairies Jan. 23 and through the
Corn Belt Jan 24. Models are intent on putting down a band of moderate snow
with it. But again, I have a hard time describing the areas most likely to see
it due to the track of the system being questionable this far out.
What is most likely though, is as these fronts from the systems move through
the Central and Southern U.S. Plains, that they will have very little moisture
with them. Drought that has been increasing for winter wheat areas will
continue to grow. Every time that models indicate a chance for precipitation
for the region, the results have been light precipitation or nothing. That does
not bode well for the 2022 winter wheat season to continue building drought.
But if there is any time to build drought, it is during the winter when plants
are not actively growing.
That places a larger importance on spring precipitation. If the spring rains
are lacking as well, then the wheat crop is not going to do so well.
Unfortunately, long-range forecasts continue to call for below-normal
precipitation in the Central and Southern Plains through the spring and perhaps
this summer as well.
To find more regional weather conditions and your local forecast from DTN,
head over to https://www.dtnpf.com/agriculture/web/ag/weather/interactive-map
John Baranick can be reached at email@example.com
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