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• Overview
Tools for forecasting winter weather
Regime Recognition – that cause winter
Example Skew-T’s

References –
AFWA 98/002 Met Techniques
AFWA 98/001 Freezing Precipitation
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Winter Precip

Freezing level often lowers 500-1000 ft in first 1½ hrs after
precipitation begins (depends on how dry the atmosphere
is )
Evaporative Cooling – process where the precipitation
falling into the atmosphere cools the lower levels of
the atmosphere close to the dew point.
After a couple of hours of precipitation the temperature
will begin to rise, most likely by WAA. You must
consider this if your surface temperature is close to the
freezing level and you air mass is dry.

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Freezing/Frozen Precipitation Types

Freezing Rain
- Rain that falls in liquid form but freezes upon impact
to form a coating or glaze upon the ground and exposed
- It is necessary that the liquid drops be supercooled before
striking the ground
Freezing Drizzle – same as above
Ice Pellets

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Single freezing level – fairly easy for the forecaster to make

a decision, liquid, freezing or frozen
If freezing level closest to surface > 1,200 ft AGL,
forecast liquid precipitation (snowflake melts)
Freezing Level

1200 ft or greater LIQUID



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Single Freezing Level

If freezing level closest to surface < 600 ft AGL, forecast
solid precipitation (does not have time to melt, wet

Freezing Level

600 ft or less SOLID



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Single freezing level

If freezing level closest to surface between 600 ft and
1,200 AGL, forecast mixed precipitation (has time to
melt into mixed rain and snow)

Freezing Level


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Multiple Freezing Levels

Creates problems for the forecaster:

-Very common in Southeastern United States.

-When there are multiple freezing levels, warm layers

exist where the temperature are above freezing.

- The thickness of the warm and cold layers affects

the precipitation type at the surface

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Multiple Freezing Levels

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Multiple Freezing Levels
• Melting (warm) layer maximum temperature – whether
complete melting will occur in a warm layer or not
depends on many variables (crystal size, depth of
warm layer, temperature within the warm layer)

-Most snowflakes melt completely with max temp in

the warm between 1C and 4C
-If the max temp in a warm layer is between these
specified temp, forecast freezing rain, if not, forecast
ice pellets or snow

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Multiple Freezing Levels
•- If the warm layer is greater than 1,200 feet thick and
the cold layer (temperatures below freezing) closest to
the surface is less than or equal to 1,500 feet thick,
forecast freezing rain.
Temperature below 0oC/32oF
2500 ft
Temperature above 0oC/32oF.
1500 ft Solid precipitation melts to super cooled
water droplets.
1000 ft Temperature below 0oC/32oF.
Droplets do NOT refreeze.
Precipitation will freeze on
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- Warm layer 1-3C and 5000 ft thick
- Cold Layer near surface from 1000mb (312 ft)
to• 875mb (3000ft). Greater than 1500 ft thick.
- What would you forecast? Cold layer 3000 ft

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Tabular Skew-T in Leads, For previous slide, Notice the temp col.
Most snow flakes melt entirely in warm layer between 1C and 3C
Ice Pellets

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Skew T
Multiple Freezing Levels

-If the warm layer is between 600 and 1200 feet thick, forecast
ice pellets regardless of the height of the lower freezing level.
(does not melt completely, ice core remains)

Temperature below 0oC/32oF

2000 Temperature above 0oC/32oF. Solid precipitation
1000 ft partially melts to super cooled water droplets.
An ice core remains.
1000 ft
Temperature below 0oC/32oF.
Droplets refreeze into ice pellets..

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Multiple Freezing Levels

If the warm layer is greater than 1,200 feet
thick and the cold layer closest to the surface is
greater than or equal to 1,500 feet thick, forecast
ice pellets. (depends on how warm the warm layer is)

Temperature below 0oC/32oF

Temperature above 0oC/32oF. Solid precipitation
partially melts to super cooled water droplets.

1600 ft Temperature below 0oC/32oF. Droplets

DO refreeze , cold layer is deep enough
1600 ft
to refreeze droplet.
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Multiple freezing levels

•If cold layer closest to surface is less than 1500 ft,
forecast freezing rain
Temperature below 0oC/32oF
2400 ft
Temperature above 0oC/32oF.
Solid precipitation melts to super cooled
water droplets.
1000 ft Temperature below 0oC/32oF. Droplets do
1000 ft NOT refreeze , cold layer is not deep
enough to refreeze droplet. Precipitation
will freeze on contact with the ground.

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Multiple freezing levels

If warm layer is less than 600 ft thick, forecast snow

Temperature below 0oC/32oF

2500 ft
Temperature above 0oC/32oF.
500 ft Solid precipitation does NOT have time
to melts.
2000 ft Temperature below 0oC/32oF..
Precipitation will remain frozen.

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Checklist for Snow vs. Freezing Drizzle.

• -There are two types of atmospheric situations where freezing

precipitation occurs. The most common case occurs when ice
crystals melt as they fall through a sufficiently deep warm layer
(temperature greater than 0°C).
-The water droplets hit a cold surface that has a temperature at or
below freezing, and freeze on contact.
-The other technique is effective when the forecast decision
involves the choice between snow vs. freezing drizzle.
-This technique is based on the precipitation nucleation process.
-It applies to the continental United States, Europe, and the
Pacific regions. However, freezing precipitation is relatively rare
in Korea.
-The checklist below assumes the atmosphere is below freezing
through its entire depth, and the water droplets remain
I n t e until
g r i tsurface
y - S econtact.
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Forecaster Checklist for Freezing Drizzle Vs Snow
Note: this checklist is only applicable when the entire column is
below freezing.
d.• Is a low level moist layer (below 700mb) between 0C and -15c?
If yes than freezing drizzle possible Yes or No
b. Is a mid-level dry layer (800-500mb) present or forecast?
If yes, freezing drizzle or a mixture of snow and freezing drizzle
possible Yes or No
c. Is the mid-level dry layer deeper than 5000 ft and have a dewpoint
depression of 10C or greater? If yes, the precip may completely
change to freezing drizzle or a prolonged period of mixed snow and
freezing drizzle. Yes or No
i. Is the mid level moisture increasing? If yes, and freezing drizzle is
occurring, the precip may change to all snow. Yes or No
j. Is convection occurring or forecasted? If yes, the mid-level dry layer
may erode causing snow to fall instead of freezing drizzle.
Yes or No
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• Freezing Drizzle
-Problems Noted
-Most likely associated with temperatures near freezing and
a warm layer aloft, but can happen with cold layers throughout the
-Usually sets up in NC, SC with a strong high located over
the northeast. Overrunning sets up and the cold air banks up
against the Appalachian Mountain. (cold air damming)
-Very difficult to forecast, surface temps will hover near
-Most likely the drizzle will not be supercooled enough to
freeze on contact, but will freeze 15-20 minutes later. The
depth of the stratus layer very important (needs to be 2000
ft thick at least)
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Skew-T (initialize model)

Thickness values
Models Guidance
General ROT’s

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Precipitation Type Using Thickness

Layer Flurries Snow Threshold Rain

850-500 mb 4,050 m

850-700 mb 1,520 m 1,540 m 1,555 m

1000-500 mb 5,240 m 5,360 m 5,400 m 5,490 m

1000-700 mb 2,800 m 2,840 m 2,870 m

1000-850 mb 1,275 m 1,300 m 1,325 m

No need to figure out the thickness values manually,

our Skew-T have them located upper right corner
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5400 line on thickness chart – indicated by bold dashed
red line (one of the first indicator)


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Forecasting the amount of Snow
• Task
Numericalc models tend to do a decent job with forecasting the
“snowfall aduration” portion of the equation, but they still do
not do a good
s job with the “snowfall amount” portion.
Bottom Line
Look for sounding that are nearly saturated through a deep
layer portion of the atmosphere, consisting of saturated
conditions from nearly O C at the surface to colder than -22C
The deeper the saturated near-freezing conditions near the
surface, the larger the snowflake will be due to “stickiness”
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Numerical Models
• NGM or ETA model bulletins to assist in forecasting
precipitation type, longevity and amount

Initialize and verify model to make needed adjustments

Use PTT in “TTPTTR1R2R3” group for precipitation
PTT is 6-hr cumulative amount from period not including
period start amount

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ETA/MM5/GFS Guidance

10 to 1 Ratio (average)

Precipitation total (PTT) •SZL// 42 37 12 00005 271613 31939290

•06000 56 43 20 00303 231719 34969391
of .47 for snow event forecast •12000 63 51 27 00702 211723 35979491
•18000 68 62 39 00802 171733 36989491
Typical 1:10 ratio would •24000 73 77 62 00901 131626 35989491

yield 4.7 inches of snow •30010 82 83 75 01001 081327 35989390

•36023 94 92 83 01100 040723 34979289

This is not exact, based •42014 98 97 91 01399 010228 34949289

•48000 89 86 71 -0904 133423 31938985
on how wet/dry the snow

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POZP – If precipitating, conditional probability of
freezing rain or ice pellets
POSN - If precipitating, conditional probability of
SNOW – Categories for snow depth.
0 no snow or a trace expected1
1 = > a trace to < 2 inches
2 = 2 to < 4 inches
4 = 4 to < 6 inches
6 = 6 to < 8 inches
8 = > 8 inches
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TAF Worksheet

Snow Vs Rain block (yes or no)

-850MB Temperatures
-Freezing Level
-Warm Layers
-Freezing Drizzle Vs Snow (Mind Joggers)
-Fill out correctly as best you can, the hyperlinks come
straight out of the 98-002

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- Look upstream LAWC, initialize models
- Usually the first indicator will be your model
- Back-up what your doing
- Sometimes forecasters get so caught up in the
surface temps. THAT IS ONLY A SMALL
- It can snow at 40F and we can get freezing
rain at 26F.
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Coastal Stations – major maritime influence
-With the wind directions coming off of the
ocean, air temp will moderate along coastal bases.
-All bases along the coast will be effected, FRN
will help to identify the parameters needed for
snow, freezing rain or ice pellets.
-Models have a difficult time solving the
maritime influence.
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General Temperature ROTs
• Temperature Rain Mixed Snow

Surface Temperature >40° F (5° C) 35 to 40° F (2 <35° F (2 ° C)

to 4° C)

Surface Dew Point >35° F (2° C) 25 to 35° F <25° F (-4° C)

(-4° to 2° F)

850 mb Temperature >5° C 1 to 5° C <1° C

700 mb Temperature >-5° C -5 to –9° C <-9° C

500 mb N of 40° N and >-25° C -25 to –29° C <-29° C


500 mb S of 40° N >-15° C -15 to –19° C <-19° C

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Miscellaneous Hints

- Examine WSR-88D VWP for low level advection pattern
- Monitor bright band/freezing levels on composite reflectivity
- Closely monitor potential for evaporative cooling
- Vigorously monitor dew points and wet bulb temperatures
- Examine low levels of appropriate Skew-T’s for inversions,
and CAA
- Consider state-of-ground (soil temperature) and its effect on
low level temperature profile.
- For eastern North and South Carolina
NE wind is cold upslope advection and reinforce Cold Air
Damming (CAD)
SE wind is warm upslope advection and breaks down CAD
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General Heavy Snow ROTs

500 mb
-- Under 500 mb closed low, and/or slightly downstream of
inflection point from where 500 mb flow changes from
cyclonic to anticyclonic
- Along and left of associated vorticity center track
snowfall generally 100-200 miles wide
- Vorticity value should be +14 or more, with largest
snowstorms having values of +19 or more

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General Heavy Snow ROTs

• mb
-Western edge of heavy snow no farther west than 700 mb
trough line

850 mb
- Heavy snow occurs to left of 850 mb track
- Snow starts at zone of low-level (850 mb) convergence
- 850 mb dew point in range -5° C to 0° C

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General Heavy Snow ROTs

-Along 60-180 nm left of the track of surface low
-Associated with strong WAA and positive vorticity
advection with adequate moisture
-In increased low-level warm advection in overrunning
- Miscellaneous
850-700 mb thickness between 1,540 and 1,520 m
Under 1000-500 mb thickness ridge, between 5,310
and 5,370 m thickness lines

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Freezing Precipitation Synoptic Pattern
Recognition (references)

Except as noted, the following page numbers refer to
AFWA/TN-98/001 (Freezing Precipitation )

Overrunning (pgs 3-36,3-37,4-11)

Underrunning (Undercutting) (pgs 3-34,3-36,3-37)
Overrunning/Undercutting Simultaneously (pgs 3-38,3-39)
Neutral Advection (Surface) (pgs 3-22,4-6)
Appalachian Damming (pgs 4-18)
(Winter Storm Forecast Process Binder)
Typical east coast wedge front (Fig 3, 5WW/FM-8/005)
Freezing Drizzle (pgs 3-19 through 3-21)
Located: 98/001 N-drive, T&S, 6L, FREEPREP
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Regime Recognition

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Freezing Precipitation
• Synoptic Pattern Recognition
•A stationary cP high is located Southern Plains and Gulf Coast
over Great Lakes/upper
•CP high extends southward
to Gulf Coast.
•Cyclogenesis takes place
over the northern Gulf
creating an overrunning
•Freezing rain falls along
inland over the northern
Gulf Coast
I n states.
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Freezing Precipitation

• Southern Plains and Gulf Coast (continued)

•A variation of this pattern has

the cP high in the same location.
•A new low develops in the
western Gulf of Mexico and
moves east toward Florida.
•Freezing precipitation develops
between the 5520 and 5400
thickness and the 850 mb +5°C
and -5°C temperature ribbon.

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Freezing Precipitation

•A gulf frontal low develops with
favorable upper level support and moves
•A cold cP high is located over the Great
•The low moves over Northern Florida
and northeast along the eastern seaboard.
•Extensive precipitation including
freezing precipitation is produced back
into the cold air associated with the cP
•The freezing precipitation will move
northeast with the track of the Low
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Freezing Precipitation
Appalachian Damming

A slow moving cP high pressure system
is located over Maine with a narrow
elongated ridge extending to the southern
The ridge is located along and east
of the mountains.
A strong low level inversion and moist,
easterly, flow from the Atlantic produces
upslope stratus along with fog.
An approaching disturbance will
overrun the shallow air mass and produce
freezing rain for a few hours.

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Freezing Precipitation
Advection Pattern

Frontal Overrunning
850 mb advection is neutral to warm.
Likely precipitation type is
freezing rain or freezing drizzle.

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Show Example Skew-T’s

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