Tuesday, December 29, 2009

12/26/09 Significant Snowstorm

Heavy "fluffy" snow producing the
first significant snowfall of the winter in Kewanee, IL

This past weekend a "surprise snowstorm" took shape across central and northern Illinois. Thanks to the remnants of a major winter storm that impacted the Great Plains and portions of the Midwest with a blizzard before the Christmas holiday we received our first significant snowfall locally. This was all due to enhanced lift from several spokes of energy rotating around a low pressure center. The surprise part of this storm were the high-snow ratios present nearing 30:1 in this area allowing the snow to quickly accumulate. Fluffy snow accumulates fast even with only .10-.25 of liquid precipitation folks! Locally, I recorded a storm total of 7.3" of new snow accumulation before compaction. That's pretty amazing considering "wrap-around vorts" were responsible for most of the upward vertical motion thus the snowfall! However, I must point out that the GFS was hinting at this such scenario when everyone seem to have "tunnel-vision" on the blizzard in this area. Since, I pay a lot of attention to what will happen locally in this area I wasn't as surprised as others seemed to be. The GFS was hinting of around a 4" (if not a little more) snowfall locally from the left-overs of the major winter storm a few days before the event. Yes, it still undercut the reality of a 6" + greater snowfall, but still out-performed the other numerical models in this such event. Also, it was interesting that earlier GFS model-runs out-performed newer GFS model-runs! If just for a few model-runs you weren't paying attention and focusing too much on the blizzard well I'm sure you would have busted your snowfall forecast in this area. It's an excellent example to not get tunnel-vision when forecasting. Most of the weather media completely blown the forecast in this area with a 1-3" projected snowfall. It could be argued this was because many focused too much on the blizzard that was a near miss for the local-area and not enough attention was paid to a smaller snow event that exceeded its potential after the news-worthy blizzard. Definitely, an interesting storm and observing just how many busted forecasts were found all across northern and central Illinois after this snowstorm.

Sunshine and fresh-fallen snow
providing some picturesque winter photography
Snowdrift on the roof of the house
Snowplows working overtime over the Christmas holiday
Wide-angle shot of our snow-blasted fence
 Heavy snow!
"Big flakes"
A lighthouse in the snow...
The snowstorm, in-action shot
(heavy snowfall occurring)
A white blanket on the above-ground pool
Yet another snowplow in-action...
Different-type of snow fence here...(wide-angle)
Beautiful snow landscape shot (Canon telephoto-zoom lens)
Outdoor pasture always a good spot to get some
decent pics during the winter season
Outdoor ornaments in the elements
Canon telephoto-zoom lens...
(so much you can do with this lens)
Snowy bench...
Farm field now a snow field...
Evergreen trees showing the effects of the fresh-snow
Wildlife shot: Blue Jay
Cardinal and a Blue Jay in one shot...how bout that?
(Canon telephoto-zoom lens)

I've added a YouTube clip as well
illustrating the heavy snow (above)

We should see some more snowfall in the next 24 hrs. locally however, this system shouldn't produce as heavy of a snowfall as we experienced a few days ago, but it's sure to add to the grip Old Man Winter has on the Midwest right now...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

12/23/09 Old Man Winter's Icy Wonderland

Barbed-wire illustrating a freezing-rain event locally

A minor ice event occurred in the local-area here in Kewanee, IL this past Wednesday. It doesn't take much ice to cause serious travel problems and add the Christmas holiday to the mix...well...it's a recipe for chaos. The good thing with this such event: surface temperatures rose fairly quickly especially pavement temperatures. Other than elevated and untreated surfaces the roads in this area were in decent shape during this freezing rain event. Before this system took aim on the Midwest I was monitoring this system for about a week in advance "wishcasting" for a blizzard or ice storm in the local-area. It was a all for naught though...yes a strong winter storm did indeed develop however, but the track of the system was unfavorable at least in this area. The unfavorable track allowed the central plains and portions of the Midwest to get bombarded with yet another blizzard. Lucky or darn right unlucky for them? eh...you make the call! Anyhow, another powerhouse storm...that's three now for the month of December alone. It seems El Nino isn't disappointing thanks to the active southern branch of the jet stream eh? Furthermore, even though we missed out on the big "winter-side" of this storm its warm conveyor belt gave unseasonably heavy rains to much of Illinois. Heavy rains instead of heavy snow(s) and ice accumulations...a bummer to say the least, but oh well. This winter storm did show some interesting characteristics as it began the occlusion process. It began to retrograde west/northwest...very unusual. I actually have a water vapor loop to illustrate this as well. The photos I took of the minor freezing rain event can be found below:

One of my favorite shots of the morning
Wide-angle shot of some large ice-coated
trees in rural-Stark County, IL
Shatter-proof holiday tree ornaments
were obviously glazed overnight
Nice row of icicles here...(macro-lens)
Outdoor trellis showing off the effect when rain freezes on contact
Power-lines glazed over...wouldn't have took much more
ice accumulation to cause some power outages
(Canon telephoto-zoom lens)
Outdoor poinsettia encased in ice...
Lonesome ice-coated tree...
Lots and lots of ice accumulation
Example of what .10"-.20" in of total
ice accumulation looks like...
Even this minor freezing rain event had the look of an ice storm...
Nature freezing rain shot...(macro-lens)
Icy glaze
Personal outdoor weather station obs. compromised
Christmas light amidst the icy wonderland
Evergreen tree completely glazed here
Ok, I've never heard of an icy snowflake...
Ice-coated tree
Another nature shot...(macro-lens)
Some green vegetation now glazed-over
Icicles galore on this fence
Green grass in late-December...hmm
More and more scenes like this everywhere you could look
Definitely a "seasonal shot" here

Here are a couple night photos before all this ice melted with intense warm air advection overnight:

Icy holiday light display
Icicles all lit-up thanks to some rope lighting

We also had some light snowfall over the Christmas holiday. This was very minor however so it almost was the perfect opportunity for some photography of a different sort so here are a couple snowflake macro-lens shots below:

My favorite (macro snowflake) shot of the season

I added a short YouTube clip of a quick snow burst during Christmas Day (above)

We may have missed out on yet another big winter storm here in Illinois, but just a little bit of winter weather can create some dramatic effects and picturesque photography...

Monday, December 21, 2009

12/16/09 Festival of Lights & Peoria, IL Riverfront

The Budweiser Clydesdales featured in the Festival of Lights display

Last Wednesday, I attended the 25th annual Festival of Lights Holiday Light Show in East Peoria, IL. After the show...I headed down to the Peoria, IL riverfront to get some photos of the downtown-area along the Illinois River. I've always wanted to get some night shots of this area when driving home during storm chases in central Illinois, but I usually find myself too eager to get some sleep after a busy chase day. Nevertheless, I found my way in this area last Wednesday night for the Festival of Lights so I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to shoot some photos of the Peoria, IL riverfront as well. As far as the holiday light show goes...since there are no areas to pull-over and take some photos using a tripod this was a daunting task to get the images I was able to grab on my Canon Rebel T1i. The reason for this: even with an IS lens any camera-shake will blur your photos when shooting night photography or the quality will be somewhat degraded without the use of a tripod. Also, don't forget you are "in- motion" driving through this area...that doesn't help image stabilization (IS) as well. Nevertheless, I still managed to grab quite a few spectacular photos without using a tripod. Here are some of the photos I took of the Festival of Lights and the riverfront below:

Only thing missing here is the NBC "chime" being heard
...oh and where's Tina Fey?

Triceratops in the dinosaur display
Know your dinosaurs?! Stegosaurus
Christmas tree on a train-car
More and more ducks all lined-up...
The Coca-Cola polar bear
Train "in-motion"
Huge whale display
This was a really cool shot with this display (foreground)
and the city of Peoria (background)
Oregon Trail: I do remember never try to "Ford the river"...
Budweiser Clydesdales yet again...
Hard to imagine the "attention-to-detail" in many of these displays

Here are a few photos of the downtown landscape along the Illinois River looking toward downtown Peoria, IL from across the river in East Peoria, IL.

Wide-angle shot of downtown Peoria, IL
(background) and the Illinois River (foreground) looking northwest
Wide-angle shot of the I-74 bridge
stretching across the Illinois River (looking northeast)
Downtown Peoria, IL shot (Canon telephoto-zoom lens)
Not as long as a exposure here (downtown Peoria, IL)

My first visit to the Festival of Lights Holiday Light Show was sure worth the ($5.00) I'd say...Hopefully, at some point I'll head back down to this area and shoot some more riverfront photos. I always have wanted to shoot some of the Moline, IL riverfront as well...hmm guess I'll save that for another day.