Severe/Winter Weather Guides
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The National Weather Service authors Severe and Winter Weather guides annually. The guides serve to educate the public about hazardous weather and how to prepare for severe and winter storms.
 
Winter Guide (Terrain and Winter Weather/Pg 2)
 
A Winter Scenario...snow in northwest Arkansas (where shallow cold air has stalled) and rain farther south. The graphic to left shows a worst case scenario. It is cold enough for snow at Harrison. But the cold air has had difficulty pushing over the mountains.
In the graphic above, rain is represented by circles, triangles are ice (freezing rain/sleet) and flakes are snow.

 

With the cold air being so shallow, it is raining aloft over Clinton...but freezes in subfreezing air near the ground (and icing results). The cold air has not penetrated as far south as Little Rock, where it is above freezing from the ground up. There, precipitation is in the form of rain.

 

It is interesting to note that sometimes the cold air will take a path of least resistance. In other words, it will try to avoid obstacles by going around the mountains. Here, a northeast wind will usually be noted, with the cold air flowing around the Ozarks from Jonesboro toward Little Rock. Cold air will often take paths of least resistance.

 

Heavy snow is most likely when cold air is already in place and a storm system is approaching from the southwest. Should the cold air (below freezing temperatures) get into the state before an approaching system ("L" to left) arrives (with abundant moisture), heavy snow could be the result with not much mixed precipitation (especially if the system is tracking south of the state).  

 

Of course, it should be of no surprise that most snow falls in northern Arkansas (near the coldest air). Close to a foot of snow is about average each year in northwest sections of the state. Average Annual Snowfall in Arkansas

 

By contrast, only about 2 inches of snow accumulates toward the southern border. For a look at average snowfalls across the central United States, click here.

 


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