Spring 2017 Weather Whisper Newsletter Navigation


February 2017 Warmth at Des Moines – By Jim Lee, Meteorologist

February 2017 Warmth at Waterloo – By Jim Lee, Meteorologist

Spring and Summer Outlooks for Iowa – 2017 – By Allan Curtis, Meteorologist Intern

Outreach and Education

Spotter Training – Spring 2017

Spring Fire Weather Update – by Frank Boksa, Meteorologist

NWS Des Moines Participates in the Girls in Science Festival – By Mindy Beerends, Senior Meteorologist

NWS Des Moines Decision Support Services – By Kenny Podrazik, Meteorologist

Cooperative Observer Awards

Science and Technology

New Weather Satellite Will Improve Forecasting and Warnings – By Andrew Ansorge, Meteorologist


NWS Des Moines Decision Support Services

The National Weather Service continues to provide decision support services (DSS) for specific events and/or incidents to partners and stakeholders throughout the year. Most DSS provided is for scheduled events such as county fairs, races, parades, concerts, and even RAGBRAI. Occasionally, the NWS will be asked upon to provide DSS for emergency incidents including one recent event that occurred in Graettinger, Iowa (Palo Alto County) when a train derailed on the morning of March 10, 2017.  A total of 27 cars where involved with the train derailment in which a few were loaded with alcohol and was unfortunately set ablaze (See image below).   The Palo Alto Emergency Management requested daily DSS briefings which included highlights of upcoming weather, hourly forecast graph, a detailed 5-day text forecast, and resources (See Figure 1).   The briefings finally ceased by Wednesday March 15th and this incident is just one of several examples on the DSS that the NWS provides to their partners. 
NWS Decision Support Services Include (but not limited to): 
  • Weather briefings provided at designated times and through requested formats including phone calls, emails, video conferences and on-site deployments
  • NWS maintains a constant weather watch for the event or incident
  • If hazardous weather is imminent, the NWS will contact the provided point of contact(s)
  • Support provided for your requested impact and decision making thresholds
  • Location specific situational awareness webpage
Last summer, the NWS deployed a new DSS Calendar Tool to aid in the NWS Des Moines partner support.   Requests can be made by NWS partners and once a request is received and details of the DSS is finalized, then the event/incident is listed in the DSS Calendar.  The NWS Des Moines also has several Decision Support Pages available for anyone to use:  NWS Des Moines Decision Support Page.  The DSS varies from severewinter, fire weather and flooding. Radar, satellite, current watches and warnings, webcams, road conditions, and the latest observations are all available on the aforementioned links.  
KCAU-TV/Nexstar Media Group

KCAU-TV/Nexstar Media Group


Figure 1: Example of the decision support services provided to the Palo Alto Emergency Management for the Graettinger, Iowa Train Derailment in March 2017.

Blog post by Kenny Podrazik, Meteorologist


Spring Fire Weather Update

The recent stretch of unseasonably warm and dry weather forced a slightly earlier start to the 2017 fire weather season for much of Iowa.  Fire weather planning forecasts and a daily Grassland Fire Danger map are displayed on the fire weather page of our website as is the current Annual Operating Plan. 

Late last fall there was a re-design of the spot forecast request page with a few additional tweaks being made over the winter.  The spot request page is Google based now and overall is easier to use than the old page. However, there are some things to keep in mind.  Since the spot request page is only used by government agencies and those with government contracts, most of these changes will not impact the majority of customers that use the fire weather page.  Training on the new spot page is provided by clicking on the link within the fire weather page.


In other fire weather news, there have been studies done on the Grassland Fire Danger Index in particular, how it relates to when we are issuing Red Flag Warnings based on fuels and meteorological parameters.  There was confirmation that the ranges for the categories, in particular the very high and extreme categories, needed some adjusting for the Plains.  Changes were made based on where tall grass, short grass and mixed grass prairies exists and a proposal is being worked on to not only adopt these changes but to have all central region offices run the Grassland Fire Danger Index for their areas and see if this is a better tool at determining a grassland danger threat.

To view the fire weather forecasts, fire weather planning tools and the 2017 Annual Operating, please visit the National Weather Service website at: http://www.weather.gov/dmx/fire

Blog post by Frank Boksa, Meteorologist

February 2017 Warmth at Des Moines

February of 2017 was remarkably warm across Iowa, including at Des Moines where it was the warmest February on record and continued a streak of 18 consecutive months in which the average temperature has been above normal, dating back to September of 2015. Several daily records were established for warm temperatures in February, including maximum temperature records on the 17th (75°F), 19th (73°F), 21st (68°F) and 22nd (73°F), and a warm minimum temperature record on the 22nd (47°F). During the 28 days of February there were only 4 days with an average temperature below normal, while there were 16 days that were 10+ degrees above normal and 8 days that were 20+ degrees above normal. Here is where the month stacked up in various Des Moines records (going back to 1879):

Warmest February’s on record

  1. 39.2°F (2017)
  2. 38.1°F (1930)
  3. 37.7°F (1954)
  4. 36.9°F (1931)
  5. 36.4°F (2000)

Warmest February days on record

  1. 78°F (2/24/1930)
  2. 75°F (2/17/2017), 75°F (2/15/1921)
  3. 73°F (2/22/2017), 73°F (2/19/2017), 73°F (2/29/1972)

Most 70+ degree days in February

  1. 3 (2017)
  2. 2 (1930)
    (All other years 1 or 0)

Most 60+ degree days in February

  1. 8 (2017)
  2. 7 (1981, 1930)
  3. 6 (2000)
  4. 5 (1999, 1932)


Blog post by Jim Lee, Meteorologist