UPDATE: Shifting air current could bring snow

Saturday, January 24, 2009 | 5:20 p.m. CST; updated 7:26 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 24, 2009

Columbia snowfall information

Snowfall so far this year: 2.7 inches

Average snowfall for this point in the season: 11 inches

Average winter snowfall: 20.8 inches

Least snowfall in last 100 years: 3.5 inches (2005-2006 winter)

Most snowfall in last 100 years: 54.9 inches (1977-1978 winter)

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COLUMBIA — The National Weather Service says snow is likely Sunday through Tuesday, but this could be only a symptom of a shift in a weather pattern that's made for a relatively cold, dry winter.

The arctic pattern that has meant cold and very dry polar air for much of the winter was shifting late this week to a more zonal pattern that's characterized by systems moving from the west that could bring moisture from the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico to mid-Missouri.

The jet stream, a fast, high-altitude, eastward-moving wind current whose path is governed by everything from ocean currents to the rotation of the Earth and wave mechanics, acts as the barrier between cold arctic air and warmer subtropical air.

When the jet stream dips south, arctic air envelops Columbia; when it flows to the north, the air can be warmer.

"What a zonal pattern will do is keep us from seeing the waves of dramatic temperature changes that the arctic pattern brought us," said Benjamin Sipprell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis. "We will have to keep our eye on things as we get into February."

With less than two months to go before the end of winter, Columbia has recorded 2.7 inches of snow. That's 8.3 inches shy of the normal snowfall of 11 inches for this point in the winter, Sipprell said.

Pat Guinan, an extension climatologist with MU's commercial agriculture program, said the least amount of snowfall in Columbia since 1900 was 3.5 inches during the 2005-06 winter season. The average yearly snowfall recorded since 1900 is about 20.8 inches, more than seven times the 2.7 inches this winter.

December saw most of this year's snow at the Columbia Regional Airport, which serves as a National Weather Service station. Columbia received 1.9 inches in December; the most snow was 1.1 inches on Dec. 16.

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Charles Dudley Jr January 23, 2009 | 6:11 p.m.

We better get some more water content out of that snow to help build back up our water tables so new deeper wells do not have to be looked at as some areas have had to in the past.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 23, 2009 | 9:24 p.m.

After the wet 2008 (third-wettest in recorded history I think?), I don't think low water tables are a major concern yet.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 24, 2009 | 3:14 a.m.

A friend of mine went to Canada a few years ago via plane ride as he did every year to go fishing on his vacation. He said as he went and came you could see the literal "brown line" of the areas of lack of water or low water tables. He had been into agricultural studies all of his life.

The facts are that all over Missouri there are areas of low water tables due to lack of rain.

You can have alot of rain but if all it does is run off or the vast majority is run off due to the already saturated ground your water tables might not come up very much if at all. That is the reason for the amount of "water content in your snow packs". You can have alot of snow but very little water content.

In order to get your water tables up properly you need long slow steady rains not fast dumping variety of rains. The water must have time to "soak down" not just saturate the surface and run off.

This is a problem all across our country with the weather changes happening and the lack of quality rain fall that raises water tables.

Ask any water well drilling company across the United States how much business goes up by the year due to the wells that once produce no longer produce as they did say 3-5 or even 10 years ago.

I seen it happen in Northern California many times over as well as in the South West and I have seen it happen here as well.

Just because you have the wettest year on record does not mean you are safe by far it just means you had a wet year with one hell of alot of "run off" not "soak down".

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking January 24, 2009 | 3:44 a.m.

Water table levels are coming up, according to USGS:


(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 24, 2009 | 4:24 a.m.

Well that is a good thing then but how far up from the normal? Now we are going to be going into summer with once again alot of agricultural irrigation going on and once again those tables will drop. How much is still to be seen.

Now if you can show us a graph Mark of over the last say 10 years of water table activity and not just current we might see some kind of a trend on this issue. Is it a radical trend or is it a slow gradual trend is the real question.

Also does that just represent one well monitored or multiple wells monitored as due to rock structures underground not all water tables are the same level. That might just be a average too.

(Report Comment)

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