Ag Weather Forum

Year-End Storm System Forming

Bryce Anderson
By  Bryce Anderson , Ag Meteorologist Emeritus
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Moderate to heavy precipitation totals are in store for the central U.S. to add more moisture to an already heavy-precip year. (DTN graphic)

We all know how the year 2019 will be remembered. The January-November period of 2019 was the wettest in recorded history over the contiguous U.S. The 12-month period from December 2018 through November 2019 was also a record-wet period for the contiguous U.S.; North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan all posted record-wettest January through November periods. For the remaining states between the Rockies and Appalachians, most of them had January-November precipitation in the top 5% to 10% on record.

And now -- as we can easily see the end of this soggy mess of a year -- here comes another storm system... and it's a big one. A large storm system with rain and snow, already bringing heavy rain and snow to southern California, is getting set to track into the southwestern Plains during Friday, Dec. 27 and Saturday, Dec. 28; move through the central Plains-western Midwest sector Saturday Dec. 28-Sunday Dec. 29; and make its way through the northern Great Lakes toward James Bay, Canada, by Monday, Dec. 30.

The impact of this storm is going to be widespread and significant. The system is dragging plenty of Pacific-origin moisture into the Southwest. And, as it moves through the southwestern U.S. toward the southwestern Plains, the dynamics favor a healthy inflow of Gulf of Mexico moisture, to be wrung out of the sky as rain and snow. Rainfall of almost five inches is projected for the Deep South (Mississippi), with one to two-inch rains in much of the Southern Plains and the southern and eastern Midwest. The picture gets more interesting in the western and northern Midwest and the north-central and northeastern Plains. In these areas, that precipitation is likely to be in the form of snow and possibly freezing rain. Snowfall amounts of a foot are noted in total precipitation forecast summaries.

The region to be affected by this storm package is huge, basically from the High Plains of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas east and northeast. The affected area also includes river basins that bore the brunt of flooding this year; rivers which, in many instances, only recently had water levels recede to below flood stage.

Effects of the moisture will vary depending on need and desire. There are some very dry areas of the Southern Plains wheat country that could use a shot of moisture. In these areas, the precipitation will be welcome. But, in areas where heavy snow occurs, travel, transportation and livestock stress will also develop. That's not a favorable combination. Also, there are still fields where corn is not yet harvested. In these fields, a shot of snow and cold air will slam the door on chances to take care of that business.

And then, of course, there will be increased moisture on top of already-saturated soil profiles, to suggest a threat of flooding again in 2020. Could 2019 end any other way?

Bryce Anderson can be reached at

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