Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Do, or do not...there is no 'try' "
- Yoda in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

3:00 pm Wednesday 12.23.09 Now that we're all heading into "the most wonderful time of the year" according to Andy Williams, you need a heads-up on the incoming chunks of ice-covered coal headed to your stocking. Links below include the Christmas storm, a recap of the forecasts, and our Storm Grade Report.

Christmas Ice Storm  Summary | Analysis 
Our blizzard forecast ~ first call posted 6:00 AM Thu 12-17
Student analysis ~ second call posted 6:00 AM Fri 12-18 
How we predicted 24" ~ Crossroads students figured out final snowfall amounts by 3:30 PM Fri 12-18, the Stormcast Team verified it 10:00 PM Friday night and then, it happened.

What does 2010 have in stock? Good news and bad news! If you are a powderhound, make arrangements to be safely nestled at your favorite ski resort by New Years. If you are a teacher or student, be ready to roll quickly into instruction the week of 1/4 - the atmosphere has more "plans" for us. If you are an HSA planner in Maryland, we hypothesize conditions in mid-January will turn around and warm up - just in time to get state testing completed. After that? Let's just say the Empire Strikes Back - as in the empire of Old Man Winter. The January 20 to February 15 period might be a time that tries men's souls (and ladies too of course!)

Please take a moment to meet our Winter Stormcast Team and Climate Collaboration Teams in the report below. They deserve credit for the forecasts many followed so fervently on this site, well before before their work was featured in the Baltimore Sun on Saturday by Weather & Science Reporter Frank Roylance. For one last look at this historic moment, the image below is from NASA's Earth Observatory, showing extent of Mid-Atlantic snowcover following the storm:

Data assembled by PasadenaMatt, Public Safety Nowcaster
Sources: 12/22/09 Public Information Statements  by NWS offices:
Wakefield, VA | Sterling, VA | Mount Holly, NJ | State College, PA
NWS draft summary of December 2009 Storm, State College, PA

Since last Saturday (that's December 12) these fine young men devoted several hours per day of their own time, well into the evening, without any formal recognition or byline, to successfully forecast this storm. The discussion roundtables were lively but tiring, as we collectively corralled multiple maps and data sources into a succinct and clear message for the readership. With another significant pattern change looming around the New Year, it seemed timely to formally introduce the "faces behind the place." If these gentlemen scholars are any indication of what America's future holds, it is looking bright and promising indeed.

Mr. B, a junior at Penn State University, is also a student meteorologist and shift manager at the PSU Campus Weather Service. He has been a frequent contributor to this site since the Winter of 2006-07, providing early insight into pattern changes, model analyses and valuable “nowcast” data. When Mr. B is not comparing the GFS, NAM and European models late at night, you can find him playing hockey or building igloos.

Winterman, a junior at North Carroll High School in Carroll County, MD has been a frequent contributor to the site since Winter 2007-08. An avid fan of big snow, he has been able to peg trends leading to development of major storms, and closely monitors local forecasts for any hint of a “bust.” Upon joining the Winter Stormcast Team, winterman quickly established our new Facebook page. When not checking the forecast or tracking a storm, you can find him out for a run (year-round, mind you) or playing # 2 singles for the North Carroll Panthers. Beyond that, he's considering a college program in Environmental Science or Meteorology.

PasadenaMatt, a Senior at Archbishop Spalding High School in Anne Arundel County, MD became a regular contributor in 2008. Always "spot on" with local observations, he has a keen eye for details that get lost in the multi-tasking of weather predictions. Following the storm, PasadenaMatt quickly setup our Photobucket page. When team analyses are in progress, he readily provides "nowcast" data and public safety reports. When not following a Winter Storm or Hurricane, PasadenaMatt is active with local Emergency Management agencies, hopes to pursue a career in that field.

Equally as deserving of recognition are our intrepid bands of climate data explorers. Polar-sized kudos go out to Ms. Gerst's 5th grade students at Baltimore County's Perry Hall Elementary for their diligent tracking of extensive climate data tracing back to early November. Ms. Abrahms' 9th grade students at Mount Saint Joseph's High deserve a hearty round of applause, as they were the first group to begin tracking atmospheric signals along with Mr. Foot's 9th grade students at the BCPS Crossroads Center. The robust and weekly research these three classes generated is why the Winter Stormcast team was confident in presenting what seemed to many a bold forecast at the time.

We saw the potential for a significant winter pattern as early as August 2009, and refined those ideas in October. On 10/19/09 the following projection was made: "A rapid onset of persistent and disruptive winter weather is expected by December 5. If this unstable pattern continues, as was observed in October-December of 2002, areas of the Mid-Atlantic region could experience widespread school closings for 2 or more days this December. This may equal or exceed the cold and snowy period observed in the Baltimore region from December 4-11, 2002."

Just think, we're only two days past the actual winter solstice! What a ride there will be going forward, and we hope you'll continue with us in this grand adventure known as "Winter 2009-2010."  As the Carpenters singing group would say, "We've only just begun."

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