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Sunday’s Snow and the Model Forecasts

Snow fell December 8, 2017 in our area
Snow fell December 8, 2017 in our area

Houston, TX – Those Snowpeople above came to life back on December 8, 2017 when our earliest snowfall on record occurred from College Station into the Houston area. So, it does happen and we under a Winter Storm Watch in our northern counties for Sunday Afternoon to Monday Morning! The models are all over the place on snow and the question becomes will SNOW be all over the place? Let’s have a look at the American Model and European Models first, which at the very most show a dusting of snow from a Brenham to Lake Livingston line and perhaps a bit more north:

American Model has 1-2" of snow well north of Houston
American Model has 1-2" of snow well north of Houston
European Model shows just a dusting from Conroe to Madisonville, then 1-2" north
European Model shows just a dusting from Conroe to Madisonville, then 1-2" north

Both of these models are the BEST Global models we have which only run twice a day but take into account global weather conditions (as opposed to national or regional) and put that data through the most sophisticated equations to come up with the forecast. You can see from the above they are not big on much snow across the area and certainly not in Houston.

What About These Other Models?

A popular model for snowcasting is the NAM, North American Model, which, honestly, sometimes gets the snow depth forecast absolutely right, but more often than not really blows the forecast. It’s run four times a day and has a tighter resolution than the global models which might be the model’s undoing. What do I mean by that? The best example I can think of is a pimple on your nose. You see it in the mirror as a red spot and then you look in one of those 10X (high resolution) mirrors and the whole thing looks huge! Amplified. The NAM tends to do the same thing, taking a slight chance for snow/amounts and really ramping it up. Here’s the NAM showing 1-3″ of snow across Houston and more north! In fact, snow all the way to Wharton and Brazoria counties and the beach!

The NAM shows 1-3" of snow IN Houston and 4-6" north
The NAM shows 1-3" of snow IN Houston and 4-6" north

Is that crazy? Not if you consider a 10 to 1 ratio of snow to rain---a quarter inch of rain could become 2-3″ of snow. However, our ground will be way to warm so that any snow that did fall would not accumulate. Speaking of which, look at the Canadian model below which goes extreme on snow:

Canadian Model showing 10" of snow in Crockett! Hmmmmm
Canadian Model showing 10" of snow in Crockett! Hmmmmm

No snow in Houston, but 10″ in Houston COUNTY! Again, over-amplification from a model that usually focuses on Canada and all its mountains. I just don’t think those equations work for our topography.

So What’s Our Forecast?

I’m going with the European model. I think it makes the most sense given that as the COLD precipitation gets here it will struggle against a WARM southeast wind and a relatively warm ground. Here is the current Texas and Houston Euro model for Sunday afternoon into Monday morning. I slowed it down to make it easy to follow. Watch the pinks and blues, that’s the winter precip.

A lot of snow for Texas
A lot of snow for Texas
No Snow for Houston
No Snow for Houston

Brenham to Huntsville to Lake Livingston looks to be the farthest south that perhaps a dusting to an inch of snow might fall with as much as 3″ farther north. So if you’re looking for snow, drive northwest up 290 or north on I-45 Sunday night. But watch out, if the other models are right, you might not get home until Tuesday!!

Frank

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