Blizzard impacts North Dakota and Minnesota

December 8th, 2016 |

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface weather symbols [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface weather symbols [click to play animation]

A major winter storm produced widespread blizzard conditions in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota (as well as far northern South Dakota) as low pressure deepened (3-hourly surface analyses) while moving from South Dakota across Minnesota (and eventually over Ontario and western Quebec) during the 05 December08 December 2016 period. Storm total snowfall amounts included 16.0 inches in Montana, 19.0 inches in North Dakota and 13.9 inches in Minnesota; peak wind gusts were as high as 63 knots (72 mph) in South Dakota, 56 knots (64 mph) in North Dakota and 37 knots (43 mph) in Minnesota (KBIS PNS | KFGF PNS | WPC storm summary). In North Dakota, nearly the entire portion of both Interstates 94 and 29 were closed. The large size of the storm could be seen on GOES-13 (GOES-East) Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images (above).

A closer view using GOES-13 Water Vapor imagery with overlays of hourly reports of surface winds and wind gusts (below) showed that wind speeds remained strong enough to create travel-restricting blowing snow over eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota even into the early hours of 08 December (due to the continuing strong pressure gradient between the large low in Canada and the arctic high that was moving into Montana and Wyoming.

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface winds (yellow) and wind gusts in knots (red) [click to play animation]

GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) images, with hourly surface winds (yellow) and wind gusts in knots (red) [click to play animation]

In the wake of the storm on 09 December, a southeastward flow of cold arctic air (with surface air temperatures in the 0 to -15º F range) over the still-unfrozen water of Lake Sakakawea (which exhibited MODIS Sea Surface Temperature values as warm as 37.9º F) caused lake effect cloud bands to form and extend downwind of the lake — these cloud bands were very evident in a comparison of 250-meter resolution Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (below). In the false-color image, snow/ice appears as shades of cyan, in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds which appear as shades of white. The 1.6 µm snow/ice band used to create the MODIS false-color image will also be available with the ABI instrument on the GOES-R series (beginning with GOES-16).

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS true-color and false-color RGB images [click to enlarge]

With a fresh, deep snow cover and cold arctic air in place, strong nocturnal radiational cooling allowed North Dakota to experience its first -30º F low temperatures of the season on the morning of 10 December. Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature values at 0939 UTC or 3:39 am local time (below) were as cold as -39º F (darker violet color enhancement) near the sites that reported the -30º F low temperatures.

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]