Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So I'll say a little prayer

"So I'll say a little prayer, and hope 
my dreams will take me there..."
-lyrics from My Love, by WestLife (VEVO Music Video)


Image credit: VEVO Video & Westlife Productions

4:00 PM EDT 3/19 - We know it has a very rough winter for many, and like these words from Westlife's song "My Love" seeing blue skies and nice conditions again (for more than one weekend) is a common desire for all of us. 

At least Thursday into Saturday will be the respite you need, and tomorrow, we celebrate together having completed the journey out of winter. The real question going forward: What is next for the winter that seems to know NO endOur Long Range team has been examining the situation going forward for the next two weeks, and several indications are clear, as shown in the Climate Prediction Center's 8-14 day outlook:


  • PERSISTENT WAVES OF COLD AIR will continue to dominate the weather pattern for the Eastern U.S. What's responsible for this? Deep snowcover in Canada, keeping in place that new villan we love to hate: The Polar Vortex. Meteorologists such as WeatherBell.com's Joe Bastardi have indicated this next Arctic outbreak may be the coldest start to Spring the Eastern U.S. has seen in over 50 years.
  • NOT CONCERNED YET? What if we told you that the "analog" charts from the Climate Prediction Center for next week show a date that would make ANY school official stop in their tracks and say, "What did you say?" March 13, 1993 is being listed as the #2 most similar scenario match from a large scale perspective for the period March 24-29. 

SNIPPETS FROM NOAA (for Powderhound eyes only)
Weather Prediction Center, as of 3/19 for the period Saturday through next Wednesday:
"AT THE VERY LEAST, POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR UNUSUALLY FAR SOUTHWARD EXTENT OF SOME WINTRY PCPN FOR LATE MARCH...GIVEN COLD SECTOR TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES OF 10-25 F BELOW NORMAL.  AT THE VERY MOST THE POTENTIAL EXISTS FOR SRN/NRN STREAM INTERACTION TO FORM A LATE SEASON MIDWEST TO ERN US WINTER STORM DAYS TUE/WED." (Image below: Day 5 Surface Projection from the WPC. Note positioning of the Highs & Lows)

Climate Prediction Center, US Hazards, as of 3/19:
"MODEL GUIDANCE INDICATES THAT TWO STRONG SURFACE HIGHS (1040-HPA) ARE LIKELY TO BUILD SOUTH FROM CANADA DURING THE NEXT WEEK. MUCH BELOW-NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE POSTED FOR THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS, MIDWEST, AND GREAT LAKES THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD. SUB-ZERO MINIMUM TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED ACROSS THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI VALLEY ON SUNDAY MORNING, WHILE FREEZING TEMPERATURES SPREAD AS FAR SOUTH AS THE SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS, OZARKS, AND OHIO VALLEY. THE MUCH-BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES ARE FORECAST TO SHIFT EAST TO THE MID-ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST BY EARLY NEXT WEEK."

WHAT'S THIS MEAN? A cold and stormy pattern will keep the East locked in an unpleasantly delayed arrival of Spring, until the Canadian snowcover can begin to decrease. Another way of saying it is that now you know the meaning behind us "saying a little prayer, hoping dreams will take us there, where the skies are blue, to see you once again."





Hey, at least it's not March 1958!
(at least, we hope a repeat isn't in the cards)

(TEAM NOTE: FOR A SPECIAL REPORT ON HOW SNOW CAN BE END UP SO HEAVY THIS LATE IN MARCH, AND THE TECHNIQUES USED TO FORECAST SNOW, SCROLL DOWN TO OUR SPECIAL REPORT BY FORECASTER KATE O'BRIEN AT THE UNIV OF MD - COLLEGE PARK & OUR CAPITAL REGION TEAM.  IT'S A WEATHER LESSON WITH AN IRISH SMILE!)


10:15 AM 3/17On this Whiteout of a St. Patrick's Day in the Mid-Atlantic, we can take solace in one historical improvement: You're not facing 20-40 inches of heavy wet snow and 2 MORE weeks of school closings! 

This week 56 years ago, as a few of the seasoned Powderhounds here remember, there was a tad more snow. Imagine the impact now had a storm struck LIKE THAT at the end of THIS winter?!? Thankfully that history is not repeating, but we have not exactly had a pleasant go of it in 2014. As Advisor/Exec Director Mr. Keith noted earlier, "What  lovely Winter we are having this Spring. (sigh)." 

PRESENT DAY - Welp, it's snowing again in _______________ (insert metro region for the Mid-Atlantic). Areas from ______________ to _____________ have at least 4 inches and many readers in __________________ are reporting over 6" with snow having just recently stopped monsooning out of the sky. Note: You could add almost ANY town and it would work. What's next? Precipitable water values remain around 0.50" for the next few hours, which points to another 2" for areas where snow is currently moderate to heavy. (Yep, that would be most of you.) 

REST OF TODAY -  Though temperatures are going to stay sub-freezing for areas north of Washington DC, the magic of March sun angle is already at work on the roads! There is potential for back edge snow to continue clobbering the Maryland eastern shore, SE PA and southern NJ until Noon, so amounts may end higher than expected there, another 1-2" is not impossible. Let us know your local reports! 

"WHAT IS IT WITH YOU??" We apply this classic line from Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in Star Trek VI to our current winter which knows no end. We will be addressing the situation on WHY this has been such an unrelenting season (it's more than just the much-bandied about "Polar Vortex"). 

  • The real question coming off of the March storms in years like 1942, 1958, 1993 and 2014 storms is-- "How can it snow so heavily like this in late March??" 
  • To better explain the interesting dynamics of how snow is produced at this time of year, we offer this special report from Forecaster Kate O'Brien of our Capital Region Team. Kate is a senior in Atmospheric Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her report was written Sunday afternoon and we post it here to see how well it turned out!

“It’s sound-ing a lot like snow!"


Lucky 7" in Dundalk, MD on 3/17- so named for a town in yes, Ireland.

Greetings everyone from the Capital Region Team! This is Forecaster Kate, and for this special report I would like to bring our readers behind the scenes of a weather forecast and analysis of an atmospheric sounding that were used to forecast the St. Patrick’s Day snow event. 

WHAT IS A "SOUNDING"? 
A sounding represents what the weather conditions are at different levels of the atmosphere for a column of air above the ground location. 

Why is this important? One simple reason! By knowing what is happening above the surface, we can predict surface weather a lot easier!

This sounding shown left is being forecasted by the NAM model (or the North American Mesoscale model) for 8 AM tomorrow (Monday) in Washington, DC. For starters, altitude is often described in pressure surfaces (not height) in meteorology, due to the fact that that pressure decreases exponentially with height in the atmosphere. 

We see the different pressure surfaces along the left-hand axis of this sounding: 1000 hPa (near the surface), 850 hPa, 700 hPa, etc. (hPA stands for hectoPascal, a measure of atmospheric pressure.)





LEARNING HOW TO SOUND, Part 1 - Temperature
Along the horizontal axis is temperature in Celsius (where 0C is the freezing point of water). Four different lines originate from this axis. For simplicity, I will point out that the right- slanted diagonal lines are atmospheric temperature. The solid red line represents temperature and we see two important features of temperature on this map. 

  • 1) The temperature is below freezing for the entire profile. Snow can be formed high in the atmosphere without melting, as every level of air will be below freezing from the tropopause to the surface, snow will be able to fall to the surface. 
  • 2) A temperature inversion – an increase in height with temperature- between 900 hPa and 750 hPa can be seen on this profile. 
  • This temperature inversion will keep the atmosphere stable during the storm and will be associated with the snow-producing stratiform clouds expected for this snow event. 

LEARNING HOW TO SOUND, Part 2 - Dew Point & Winds
The solid green line represents dew point temperature. The closer the dew point temperature is to the air temperature, the more saturated the air. 
  • The dew point temperatures and air temperatures are on top of each other in the temperature inversion layer, which means that the water vapor in the air will condense as snow and precipitate out of the atmosphere as snow! Powderhounds rejoice!
  • Along the right of this sounding we see wind speed and direction. Near the surface, winds will be coming from the NE at approximately 10 MPH. A shift to westerly winds occurs around 800 hPa. The strongest winds – about the height of the jet stream – are occurring near 250 hPa. 
THE RESULT? A snow sounding for all to see! As we can plainly see on this St. Patrick's Day O'White-- what we saw in the sounding turned out to be correct! We hope you enjoyed the snow if you could, and our report about how we use science to make the predictions we do.


From Forecaster Mike Natoli, with 4.4" of Shamrock Snow in Bel Air, MD

(Forecasters Kate O., Mr. Foot & the Winter Stormcast Team)

39 comments:

Foot's Forecast said...

Suggested method for an accurate snow measurement:

In an open area, insert ruler into snow and record snow depth.

Repeat 5 TIMES in areas at least 2 FEET APART.

Like in the Olympics, disregard your highest and lowest measurement.

Average the remaining 3 measurements and post your results here!

Loosend said...

Looks like yet another over-acheiver. I'll take it and hope everyone stays safe. Happy St. Patty's Day!!

NeedaSnowday said...

Agreed Loosend!

Great winter for Powderhound's!

Westsidehideaway said...

Well. I am eating crow here in West Baltimore. I thought it would all be slush and I would be off to work by this time. It got a lot colder than I thought it could and the storm came further north than predicted. Six inches of nice snow here in West Bmore. Now draining the coffee and getting ready to head out with the shovel. Have a good one.

Detritus Effluvium said...

Chesapeake City, Cecil County, MD

7:00 EST
Average 5" of crunchy snow measured as per above method.

25 Degrees F.

ravensbbr said...

Off to go measure and report snowfall here in NE Carroll...here I go...right...back to sleep. No point reporting til it's all done, right? :-p

Unknown said...

8" in Woodstock!

kristia35 said...

6 here in Perry Hall

Detritus Effluvium said...

I see Blogger still hasn't updated my profile. Long running battle with Blogger, the Laverne & Shirley of blogsites.

Andy, Southern York County Pa said...

Last storm underachieved in most areas, this one over achieved! Great to be on the winning end. Solid 3 inches here of pure Colorado Mountain Winter Powder! Frigid out at 20 degrees. There are some AMAZING ratios for the second half of March at our latitude. The power of the polar cold this year is truly remarkable and relentless! Will we be tracking snow into April? I hope not, but time will tell!

NeedaSnowday said...

March 25-26? Eh?

Unknown said...

Yeah I heard something about a 943 mb low forecasted on the euro for March 25-26...? At this point a big storm is just gossip though. We have plenty to be happy with right now anyway! People on here Saturday morning were saying that "the debate has shifted to either open/delayed schools" on Monday because they though we wouldn't get enough snow, and here we are with the entire state closed!

NeedaSnowday said...

BBR... See the Jimmy Irsay story?

ravensbbr said...

Need, just saw it, wow, whouldathunkit, right :-/ Hate to judge a man for what his father was/did, but this is on him if it's true...

Haven't gone out to shovel here yet, but looks like about 4-6, tough to tell with the drifting. Pure powder, love to somehow preserve this for the July dog days this summer...

Andy, Southern York County Pa said...

I have a feeling this cold season will find a way to go out with a bang. I hope not. Plenty of cold air around, and the storm signal is there. With the right track and strength, and the extreme cold polar pool of air ready to be tapped into, there is a chance something big can happen. Again I'm out, but whether or not I'm out nature doesn't care. Last yer we had 6 inches here during the last week of March, so my snow blower is staying parked in the garage ready to roll!

Saleta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loosend said...

Hey Andy -- We got the 8" I was hounding you for in Edgemere. A very pleasant surprise. LOL

Julee said...

Six and a half FLUFFY inches in Pikesville. I knew something was up yesterday when
a. it was pret-ty chilly
b. didn't see much sun
c. precip started late in the day
d. it started as snow and NOT rain
e. the flakes were small and numerous and made a
nice little layer on the porch right away
THANKS Nature ... and Andy and Foot Inc.!

Morpheus said...

Revised measurement (using the more scientific method) from this morning post:

six and a half inches of fluffy beautiful snow for Bowie! I have a mid-day opening was able to get dive cleared, some slow tubing in this power and a little snowman but (not sticky enough - what a change from previous sloppy storms for this area)! Nice that it is overcast as well so we can enjoy one day before the melt off.

Verrrry happy to get beyond those miserable 4 inches storms. Happy Saint Patrick's Day Foots fans!


BioPat said...

About 8" on the hill in Catonsville. Still snowing but only sticking to cold surfaces like my composite wood steps. Also looking at the possibility of a late start tomorrow due to freezing rain?? Anyone heard more info on that possibility?
Great Job explaining the weather patterns and "Sounding" on the Home page, well done!

Detritus Effluvium said...

Just got done plowing 6" or so off our country lane. This is a nice snow that's easy to push around. I'm not taking the plow off the Cub Cadet yet because I have a funny feeling this Winter isn't done with us yet.

NeedaSnowday said...

Break out the sunscreen and sunglasses! Sun shining bright!

Morpheus said...

Agreed BP - nice exclamatory write up! Today reminders me of my youth growing up in NY. It seemed winter had endless days of gray where light snow would fall on and off to the point where it was just part of the scenery. Enjoying the day...

Morpheus said...

Still gray here Needa with flurries falling.

NeedaSnowday said...

Amy... Two hour delay announced!

Butch Dynomite said...

A little bit of any early call (delay)for B.C. .I'll take it. Things must be sloppy down south.

BioPat said...

Is Baltimore County announcing a 2 hour late opening? I got an email this evening from "School's Out" but it only stated Baltimore County was closed 3/17

BioPat said...

Never mind, found it on WBALTV closures, we are delayed 2 hours on Tuesday in Baltimore County.

Amy said...

Needa- I was stunned they announced so early but very appreciative as well. Much easier on sleep and planning. I'm sure that it also means nasty roads. HoCo seems the worst at plowing secondary roads.

ravensbbr said...

Soooo...we done for this winter, or is March 25-26 still in the mix...?

Thoughts?

ravensbbr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Accuweather's Bernie Rayno thinks the storm threat for the 25-26 is significant all the way from Baltimore/Washington up the East Coast. Its track is obviously not clear yet, but amazingly, the threat is there! Both the GFS and Euro currently support a significant storm for someone.

notsofreestate said...

:in best Ben Stein voice:

Andy...?
Andy...?
Anyone....?
Anyone....?

ravensbbr said...

Anyone see Joe Bastardi's latest? Dramatic warm-up with El Nino and then right back into the snow and icebox for next winter.

Couldn't ask for much better! :-)

BioPat said...

Possibly 70 on Saturday, then as raven stated the fridge door reopens. Some models are showing a snow even Mon/Tuesday but much much too early to look at this thing as any threat - yet. Time, as always, will tell. I am certain we have not seen the last of Winter 2014, but what remains could be as interesting as what we have already passed.
I believe this may be the year without a Spring. When the weather finally changes we will go from heat to a/c.

ravensbbr said...

BP, I was referring more to a climactic long range outlook, but it may hold true in the short term as well.

I would agree with you about the winter to summer possibilities, going to be snowthrowers to lawnmowers overnight :)

BioPat said...

After re-reading your post I do see you were referring to the next winter. Definitely in a vry strong El Nino pattern it will be interesting to see the weather patterns evolve. We just had the lawn mower and snow blower tuned up today. Our Ridgeway mower repair man couldn't believe how easily the snow blower started; it has just had lots of practice this year. Every other year we have these two work horses tuned up so they're ready to go - has always proved to be money well spent! So El Nino send what you will we are ready!!

Loosend said...

I always thought El Nino Summers are hot and dry and Winters colder than normal so any precip ends up being snow. Please correct me if I am wrong here. Thanks.

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