New Mexico Weather: 3/6/16

In Rio Rancho this morning, the weather was mild, still and overcast. On my commute to Socorro, there was some off and on drizzle, and the skies are still mostly cloudy down here in Socorro.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Albuquerque forecasts (for Socorro) a mostly cloudy day today, with a high temperature of 74 F. The winds will pick up throughout the afternoon, reaching 15-20 mph by this evening. This evening will be mostly cloudy, with a low temperature of 39 F and a southwest wind of 5-15 mph. The NWS has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for concerning snow in the north and west, especially at high elevations and for Red Flag Warnings in for the east and central highlands. I have posted the current NWS Watch and Warning map below. Part of the state is in danger of freezing, and part is in danger of burning, in typical “New Mexico spring” fashion.

The visible satellite imagery shows the mostly-cloudy to overcast skies. Notice the mountain wave pattern in the clouds over the north-central part of the state as well as over parts of AZ, UT, and CO. This is always a neat thing to see, in my humble opinion.

The enhanced infrared satellite imagery shows that some of the clouds today are quite thick. Notice the clouds over the eastern part of the state, in particular. It doesn’t take a very thick cloud to produce precipitation.

The water vapor satellite imagery shows that New Mexico is one of the wettest states on the map today. Notice the deep moisture throughout New Mexico and Colorado. This is part of the reason for our rainy/snowy weather today.

The 12Z upper air sounding from Albuquerque shows a particularly humid sounding, with nearly 100% humidity at all layers between 600 mb and 400 mb. The precipitable water was 0.53 inches, and there was no Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE) present in the column this morning. There was no thermal inversion, and the 0-3 km average lapse rate was 7.4 C/km.

The deep-layer shear was 47 kts, and the low-level shear was 27 kts. Shear at all levels was largely due to speed changes rather than directional changes.

The surface observations (from the SPC Mesoscale Analysis Map) show mild temperatures, low wind speeds, and cloudy skies over much of the state today. There are no strong frontal boundaries present thus far today. However, notice the sharp increase in surface dewpoints in the northwestern corner of the state, and the low dewpoints in the southeastern corner. One could argue that there is a deformed dryline running through the state this morning, passing somewhere just south of Socorro.

The surface pressure map shows the development of a lee-side low pressure system over the eastern Rocky Mountains in Colorado. There is a slight pressure gradient over the northern part of the state, as this low intensifies. The RAP shows the lee-side low pressure system intensifying over the next six hours, though the gradient will only increase slightly. However, I expect that the gradient will increase after six hours, which is why we can expect a windy afternoon, according to the NWS. Also, notice the sharp gradient over the Nevada and California border; this is moving our way.

The critical thickness chart shows no critical thickness contours over New Mexico, in spite of the snow that is falling at higher elevations. This chart has been excluded from today’s post.

The Fosberg Fire Weather Index is expected to climb significantly over the next six hours in the southwestern part of the state today, as shown by the RAP.

Synoptically speaking, the 300 mb NAM chart (from Unisys) shows mostly-zonal flow over the state today, though we see the beginnings of a new trough forming over Nevada. This will bring us foul weather over the next few days.

The 500 mb NAM chart shows no significant vorticity advection occurring over the state today. This chart has been excluded from today’s post.

The 700 mb NAM chart shows some rapidly-sinking air over the eastern and southern parts of the state. This is significant, as it will increase wind speeds and lower the relative humidity, increasing the risk of wildfires.

The 850 mb NAM chart shows some Warm Air Advection (WAA) over the eastern part of the state by this afternoon. This will also increase the fire risk, as it will lower the relative humidity in this region.

Overall, I expect some turbulent days ahead. Today, there will be a danger of fire in the south and west, while the higher elevations get snow. There will also be off and on showers throughout much of the state today. In the next few days, the trough will intensify and pass through New Mexico, bringing rain, non-severe storms and snow to much of the state.

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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