KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Temperatures play a big role in precipitation type on upcoming winter storm

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Some of us have already seen snow throughout the KSN Viewing Area but our next winter storm looks to bring a more impressive and widespread chance to the region. By late Saturday, an area of low pressure will move southeastward toward the Central High Plains.

Ahead of this low, temps will be warmer, climbing into the 50s. Behind this disturbance, the northerly flow will take over bringing much colder air with highs in the 20s and 30s. This front will bring our first Arctic Blast of the Fall Season with highs plummeting Sunday into Monday.

There will be a fine line though in terms of who sees all snow, who sees a wintry mix, and who will see mainly rain. The track of this storm system is really key. The reason why is because winds at both the surface and in the upper levels of the atmosphere play a key role in what time of precipitation type we see.

If temps are warmer than freezing above the surface we can see sleet, freezing rain, and just plain rain. We need to have most of the layers above the ground to be below freezing to see all snow.

What makes the difference is how long those droplets or ice crystals travel through the above or below 32° air. The longer time the particles stay above freezing, the better chance we will have of seeing rain. On the flip side, if temps closer to the ground remain cold, but higher up in the sky are above freezing, then we can see ice. The next factor of this system is that there are two different parts. There are the surface low and the trailing upper-level energy. This part of this system usually combines with colder air because it has already filtered in behind the main cold front. In this storm, temps will be colder throughout the duration of the event in Northwest Kansas. This will give us pretty much all snow there.

We don’t get that nose of warm air just a little higher up in the sky that will contribute to any change to a wintry mix or rain. In Central Kansas, warmer air aloft and at the surface will stream in through most of Sunday, keeping the primary form of precipitation rain.

Sunday night into Monday is when we start to see those winds turn back around from the north/northeast. That flow will drag in much colder air. This occurs at the surface in Central Kansas but not higher up in the sky. Near 10,000 feet in the sky, winds will be coming in from the southwest which keeps warmer air nosing into our central communities. This will keep the precip. more in the form of a wintry mix compared to the all snow out in northwestern neighborhoods. That set-up looks to continue into Tuesday with drier conditions to the northwest.

If this low were to take a more southerly track into portions of Oklahoma and Texas, we could tap into colder air sooner and keep the moisture all snow throughout the viewing area. It does not seem like that will be the case with this low but we will keep you updated. Accumulations are looking more likely, so make sure you stay tuned!

Have a great night!

-Meteorologist T.J. Springer

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