Record May snowfall in Duluth, Minnesota

May 9th, 2019 |


GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images (above) showed the cloudiness associated with a midlatitude cyclone (surface analyses) that moved across the Upper Midwest on 08 May09 May 2019.  The system produced accumulating snowfall from extreme eastern South Dakota to central/northeastern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan — storm total accumulations were as high as 10.6 inches at Duluth, Minnesota (observations), 10.4 inches at Poplar, Wisconsin, 5.0 inches at Atlantic Mine, Michigan and 3.0 inches at Astoria, South Dakota (NOHRSC maps of snowfall/snowdepth). Note that the NW-SE oriented band of snowfall straddling the South Dakota/Minnesota border may have been enhanced by upslope flow as northeasterly surface winds encountered rising terrain of the Coteau des Prairies.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images (below) showed the formation of a SW-NE oriented deformation zone across Minnesota — forcing for ascent was further aided by a stretched lobe of 500 hPa vorticity and 310 K potential vorticity that moved northeastward across the region during this period, along with a favorably-coupled 250 hPa jet streak configuration. Cloud features within the deformation zone across eastern South Dakota into southern/central Minnesota had an appearance resembling convective elements/bands in both the Visible and Water Vapor imagery.

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to play animation | MP4]

Although lightning was not widespread — and thunder was not explicitly reported in any first-order station observations — there were isolated small clusters of GOES-16 GLM Groups detected, first over northeastern, then central and finally over southwestern Minnesota between 2256 and 0036 UTC (below), indicating the presence of thundersnow.

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Mid-level Water Vapor (6.9 µm) images, with plots of surface weather type (yellow) and GLM Groups (red) [click to enlarge]




Through occasional breaks in the clouds later in the day on 09 May, GOES-16 Day Cloud Phase Distinction Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images (below) revealed the stationary signature of fresh snow cover (darker green) across central to northeastern Minnesota and far northwestern Wisconsin (glaciating cloud tops also appear as shades of green).

GOES-16 Day Cloud Phase Distinction RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

===== 10 May Update =====

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Visible images (above) showed two swaths of snow cover remaining across northeastern Minnesota (where reported snow depths were 1-2 inches) and northwestern Wisconsin (where reported snow depths were 4-5 inches) on the morning of 10 May.

Comparisons of GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature (LST) and Visible images at 1401 UTC and 1501 UTC (below) indicated that LST values were as much as 10ºF colder within the areas of snow cover (brighter shades of cyan) compared to adjacent bare ground.

GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature and “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images at 1401 UTC [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 Land Surface Temperature and “Red” Visible (0.64 µm) images at 1501 UTC [click to enlarge]