As of noon on Friday, forecast models have begun to show signs of agreement on the threat of winter weather on Tuesday, January 24th. Does that mean we can expect to see snow? Well, it’s complicated. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the latest!

Upper Air Pattern as of 8am Friday.

A low pressure system currently located over the northern Pacific Ocean is expected to dive south once it comes onshore to our west, and this has the potential to put West Texas into position to receive wintry weather.

GFS Model Run depicting a strong low pressure system with snowfall potential over the South Plains on Tuesday.

For the last several days, the medium to long range forecast models have been butting heads over the evolution of this system as it approaches. Some have depicted snow, some have given us all rain, and some have kept us totally dry with the system passing harmlessly to our north. Finally, we have begun to see these models converge on a storm track that puts the low near or over the South Plains.

European Model depicting a similar scenario, with snowfall possible over the South Plains.

This is a step in the right direction toward a confident forecast, but there are many factors still left to resolve. The storm is still 4 to 5 days out, with thousands of miles to cover before it gets here. One of the big problems to solve is just how potent the cold air with this storm will be. If you recall the system that came through over Thanksgiving this past year, the air temperature danced on a knife edge at 32°F but remained just a hair too warm to give us heavy snow. Portions of eastern New Mexico recorded in excess of 7 inches of snow, while Lubbock saw none. A similar trend appears likely with this system, with models depicting surface temperatures just barely cold enough to produce winter weather. The timing of the system could also impact the outcome. A daytime arrival would make things too warm, but if it comes in at night, temperatures may fall enough to reach that critical 32°F threshold.

The forecast is still highly, highly uncertain for a whole host of factors that will only become clearer with time. The upper level low is still over the northern pacific, where there are no weather stations to properly sample the upper atmosphere. This means models have to start from a best guess of the initial conditions, and therefore their outputs are less reliable. Once the system comes onshore out west, we will see accuracy improve dramatically.

What We Know:

  • An upper level storm system will approach the area on Tuesday, and will bring precipitation and colder air with it.
  • While still subject to change, the forecast track is looking likely to be near the Lubbock area, with the corridor of highest precipitation amounts somewhere nearby

What We Don’t Know

  • The precise track of the low will vary, causing local totals to differ drastically.
  • The exact timing of the onset of precipitation and greatest impacts.
  • The type of precipitation that will be falling.

It is still too early to determine what the impacts of this system will be, but there is potential for a significant storm to impact the South Plains early next week. Do NOT trust anyone posting snowfall accumulation maps this far out! Colder temperatures are a guarantee, and rain looks likely. Whether it will be frozen remains to be seen. Be sure to stick with the KLBK First Warning weather team for updates through the weekend, and download the KLBK First Warning Weather App to get updates and alerts on your mobile device!

Jack Maney