New Mexico Weather: 2/22/16

In Rio Rancho this morning, the weather is cool, clear and still. The backyard weather station says the temperature is 30.9 F, the relative humidity is 65%, the relative pressure is 30.09 in Hg and falling, and the winds are still.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Albuquerque forecasts a 20% chance of thunderstorms today after 11 am. Otherwise, the skies will be partly sunny, with a temperature of 58 F, and winds switching from 5-10 mph from the southwest to 15-20 mph from the northwest. This evening, the skies will become partly cloudy, with a 10% chance of rain or snow, a northwest wind of 15-25 mph and a low temperature of 34 F. The NWS has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tomorrow, as a strong trough and a back door cold front intersect over the state, producing the potential for snow and cold temperatures. Skywarn Spotter activation is not anticipated at this time. The NWS has issued Red Flag warnings for the southwestern corner of the state, and Winter Weather Advisories and Winter Storm Warnings for the northeastern corner of the state. Below is the Hazards Map, as issued by the NWS in Albuquerque.

The visible satellite imagery is unavailable at this time.

The enhanced infrared satellite imagery shows no thick clouds over the state so far this morning.

The water vapor satellite imagery shows that a deep trough has extended into Mexico, and there is a pocket of dry air behind the leading edge of this trough. This trough will deform, and will be the cause of our strange weather over the next few days.

The 12Z upper air sounding from Albuquerque shows a sounding with variable moisture. There is an extremely dry layer at 550 mb, but a humid layer at 350 mb, and everywhere else falls somewhere in between. There was 0.25 inches of precipitable moisture and no Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) present in the column this morning. There was only a slight thermal inversion near the surface, and the 0-3 km average lapse rate was 4.5 C/km.

The deep-layer shear was 53 kts (dominated by speed changes), and the low-level shear was 9 kts (dominated by directional changes).

The surface observations (from the SPC Mesoscale Analysis Map) show cool temperatures, still winds, and mostly clear skies. There is a weak dryline that runs between Albuquerque and Socorro, where the dewpoint jumps up 5 degrees in Socorro.

The surface pressure map shows a low pressure system forming over southwestern New Mexico this morning. Currently, the pressure is 1010 mb, and this pressure will continue to drop over the next six hours as it moves northeast, according to the RAP.

Currently, all of the critical thickness contours are well north of the state. I expect them to drop south, but I don’t expect them to enter the state. Based on the NWS prediction, I expect that we will have no accumulation, and thus the cold air layer will be relatively thin.

Synoptically speaking, the 300 mb NAM chart (from Unisys) shows the deep trough and a jetstreak on the western edge of the trough that will push through New Mexico over the next few days.

The 500 mb NAM chart shows Positive Vorticity Advection (PVA) entering the western part of the state by this afternoon. This is due to the jetstreak movement embedded in the trough, and may lead to some convective development.

The 700 mb NAM chart shows a few pockets of rapidly-rising air. The one over northeastern New Mexico may lead to some snow this evening, hence the Winter Storm Warnings for this area.

The 850 mb NAM chart shows the nose of the Cold Air Advection (CAA) pushing into southwestern New Mexico. The CAA is not strong through this afternoon, as the winds do not blow across this strong gradient. However, starting this evening and into early tomorrow morning, the CAA will intensify and be the subject of tomorrow’s post.

Overall, I expect the next few days to be quite turbulent. I am not expecting a significant snowfall (I bet it won’t hardly coat the ground, or stick at all), but I do expect a chance of thunderstorms today and rain/snow mix over the next few days. I am hoping for a little moisture for my garden, but no snow. Well, I can hope in one hand…

Thank you for reading my forecast.

The upper air soundings and mesoscale analysis plots are from the Storm Prediction Center website.
The forecasted upper air soundings are from TwisterData.com.
The surface observation and upper level charts are from Unisys Weather.
The satellite data is from NASA – MSFC

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About highplainschasing

This blog is about my tales in storm chasing. My name is Seth Price and I am an instrumentation instructor at New Mexico Tech. My amateur radio call sign is N3MRA.
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