Tuesday, January 25, 2005

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THREE HURRICANES IN ONE MONTH
WHY NOT THREE BLIZZARDS?

Second of three major winter storms to grip East Coast late this weekend from South Carolina to New England...each storm will be more intense and widespread than it's predecessor. National Weather Service beginning to recognize atmospheric parallels to previous patterns which have led to crippling, immobilizing storms in the past. Accuweather already hinting at possible major storm, but computer models are all over the place as usual.


HOUSE-KEEPING AND SITE UPDATES

- I have added a variety of new links in this "calm before the storm" to help you understand the science behind the forecasts, if you wish.

- I have yet to complete the wrapup of Blizzard #1, and my new grading scheme. I will post that tomorrow along with my grades for snowfall totals across the Northeast. The overall storm forecast was a B- and I'll explain how I arrived at that so you can see it is fair statistical formula.

- Before I go back into giant megastorm mode, I thought it appropriate to re-introduce myself a little more to new viewers and discuss my background with weather so you know where I am coming from.

WINTER STORM WATCH FOR SOUTHEASTERN NEW ENGLAND TONIGHT

Another vigorous clipper (according to ABC 2 in Balto, is clipper #5 as of late) will swing through Pennsylvania today, bringing a light snow/light mix to the southern portions of I-95 from Philly on south. Central PA might pickup a couple quick inches due to lake effect, as will mountains of western PA near Seven Springs Resort. Reaching the Jersey coast, all eyes are on New England as it is believed this system may slow down some (have we learned our lesson?) and tap that readily available above normal Atlantic water. Thus a general swath of 1-4" looks likely from central and northern PA to north of NYC and into SE new England. Then late tonight as Atlantic moisture is tapped, some regeneration of the Low enhancement is expected along the coast, with a wraparound that can drop up to 4 inches in Boston and 6 inches along the Cape by early tomorrow morning.

For a few hours, it may look like Blizzard #1 was making a comeback, just like the quick bursts of snow we all saw Monday afternoon.

GRADING SNOWFALL FORECASTS. Please note in my new snowfall projections that I am now issuing a SINGLE number. The expectation is that the results will be 2 inches on either side of that number. So if I predict 4 inches for Logan Airport, and 3 inches fall, the score is a 75% and the grade a C. If the storm goes berzerkoid, and Boston gets 6 inches, that is 125% but still 25% off, so the grade is still a C.

ANALYSIS OF BLIZZARD # 2 FOR THIS WEEKEND

Explanation of maps above.

Panel 1, left top is the European for late Sunday night. It has changed somewhat recently, but has consistently advertised a fairly hefty system rolling up the east coast late Sunday. Notice the high PARKED IN THE WAY ahead of the storm. Same setup as notable Blizzards of the past, namely 83 and 03.

Panel 2 and 3 is the Global Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies for Jan 03 and Jan 04. Notice the extremely warm water (reds and oranges) off the Northeast Coast right now, as compared to Jan 03. Notice how the Gulf is a degree or so warmer now than it was 2 years ago at this time. This water temp variance will be critical in the next 3 weeks as it is pretty much the Quarterback of this game.

Panel 4 is the North Atlantic Oscillation, a measure of changes in atmospheric mass/air pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. When the "NAO" flips negative, the East Coast is more often than not, hammered with a big storm. WHEN THE NAO STAYS NEGATIVE FOR A LONG PERIOD OF 10 DAYS TO 2 WEEKS (as NOAA is forecasting it to do), then the East Coast is in for a period of successive storms and very cold weather.

So here's what to do this week...

1. IGNORE THE GFS (Global Forecast System). It has a history of supressing these storms too far south or sending them out to sea. How many NWS forecast offices said Blizzard #1 was not going to go north? Eh?

2. FORGET THE 'BIG WARMUP' that TV forecasters and everyone else is calling for this week. Some of the coldest air of the season is coming for Friday and Saturday. Why? Because the GFS has trouble incorporating the fresh snowpack influence on surface level temperatures. Your temps Thu-Fri-Sat will probably bust 10 degrees below what was originally forecasted on TWC and everywhere else. 50 degrees in Baltimore? Whatever. 45 in Boston? Let me know when that happens this week, cause it ain't gonna.

3. WATCH THE DANCING MODELS. No not that kind, geez. Get your mind out of the gutter. I mean how all the computer programs are going to waffle ALL OVER the place with this all week long, and it will drive all of us insane. You are going to see every forecast under the sun for this weekend all up and down the East Coast, from rain to partly cloudy to heavy snow to freezing rain and sleet to nothing. Then suddenly on Friday, presto! Major snowstorm and Special Weather Statements galore. You just watch what happens, we'll see how it ends up.

4. ACCUMULATION MANIA. I believe this storm will be a cross between Jan 22, 1987 and Feb 11, 1983. If you notice the QPF's for Day 4-5 on the links above, you'll see that what ever is coming out of the Gulf will be LOADED FOR BEAR. 3+ inches of liquid at kickoff.

Answering your comment questions

There is going to be a period of tremendous hedging by almost anyone in the forecast business about the eventual outcome of this storm. I especially enjoy watching the go-between of Justin Berk and Norm Lewis on Baltimore's ABC 2. Norm is the Chief Meteorologist on for the evening broadcasts and Justin is the early morning guy. Justin comes on Monday morning and says.. "Another coastal storm possible this weekend." Then Norm comes on Monday night and says, "Just some freezing rain, nothing big to be concerned about." Now Tuesday morning, Justin returns with a moderated "Coastal Storm Mix." Interesting to see what Norm does tonight. Once again, we have to issue a MARTY BASS alert for our Baltimore viewers, as he is going to have to make a call about this storm sometime, and it will be a tough one for him. Julee, Chip and Hereford friends, keep us posted on what Marty is up to.

So what is the reason behind everyone hedging versus me coming out with guns blazing?

NWS is hedging on this storm because they believe...

1. The cold High coming in behind this clipper is going to slide off the coast sooner than they expected, and the cold air will be retreating somewhat. That will create a southeasterly flow directing TOO MUCH warm moist air into the developing Carolina Low, resulting in more of a rain/snow/ice mix.

2. That kind of sloppy arrangement would cut down on accumulations, obviously. Coastal cities would see some snow, changing to sleet, then freezing rain and then rain.

I am not hedging on this storm because I believe...

1. Computer models are still underestimating the strength of the high coming Thursday and Friday. GFS projects that snowpack will diminish, thus moderating the high somewhat. Hey Philadelphia, you tell me by Thursday how much of that 13 inches melted away, okay?

2. This is going to be a southern stream intrusion into a cold Canadian high. Classic setup.

3. By Friday, there is another high very close by just above the lakes. Both highs will not be that much different in their pressures by Saturday. Has ANYONE considered the possibility that instead of being two distinct systems, they link and more cold air than was originally thought is able to bleed out in front of the storm? Is that a totally unreasonable idea? And if the storm develops as expected, who is to say the counter-clockwise motion is not able to tap cold air available in that second high?

4. Underestimated strength of high and lower than expected temperatures will allow for considerable cold air damming down east side of Appalachians. Many times before NWS has indicated that it is hard for the upper level warm air advection to scour out the surface level cold air. Cloud cover should be limited Saturday, allowing night time temps to plummet.

5. New England should consider themselves UNDER THE GUN because position of high on Sunday is going to slow forward motion of storm, enabling it to gather abundant moisture before the final assault. Impacts could range from a very wet, sloppy snowstorm with strong wind to a paralyzing ice storm if there is less cold air in place when moisture arrives. Imagine what would happen to all your roofs even if just several inches snow/rain/ice mix fell on top of the 18-38 inches already there? Thousands of roofs would collapse, ensuing a regional disaster. On the other hand, once the storm gets wound up with a fresh supply of cold air, what was forecasted to be several inches of wet snow becomes...1-2 feet of wind-whipped powder all over again.

SO YES VIRGINIA, ANOTHER MAJOR SNOWSTORM IS POSSIBLE AND YOU SHOULD BE READY.

Tuesday night, I will do a more specific day-by-day breakdown of how I think this will play out. In the meantime, you go get that snowblower, you'll be happy you did, and fill up about 3 of those red gas cans with the 32:1 gas oil mix. You are going to need them the rest of this winter.


Monday, January 24, 2005

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WILL LIGHTNING STRIKE THE SAME PLACE TWICE?

Don't get too comfortable in the Northeast with the idea that storm was it for us. There are rumblings in the computer models (the more RELIABLE ones) that another, more potent system may develop late next weekend. With several large extremely cold Arctic highs rolling in from eastern Canada, temperatures this week will stay well below whatever you see forecasted. The GFS especially is mis-reading the influence of snowcover, and thus local forecasters have to adjust the numbers.

What appears to be setting up is by Friday... a medium sized high parked near Montreal, with COLD AIR DAMMING down the Appalachians, and a coastal low forming along the Carolinas. I am not making this up for ratings sake. If the northwest flow continues and the upper trough shows to be tilting back toward the Great Lakes, by Saturday or Sunday we could be looking at EITHER:

- ANOTHER MAJOR STORM OF NEAR-HISTORIC POTENTIAL this weekend for the Northeast OR
- A CRIPPLING ICE STORM FOR THE CAROLINAS AND SOUTHEASTERN VIRGINIA by Sunday.

Since I am going to school today, I will not have as much time to analyze this situation, but will have the inside scoop for you by the end of the day. I also want to do a storm wrapup because there is much to discuss so you understand where I will be taking the February forecast. And I will also do a wrapup of the situation in southeastern New England.


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THE BOSTON BLIZZARD... BEYOND UNBELIEVABLE

I wanted to post a couple good pictures for all to see just how incredibly incredible the snow is up in Patriots Country right now. Beanfolk... can you help me out? Know any good links for pics I can post to show the drifts up to 5 feet, up to the 1st floor of some houses, etc? I think our powderhounds down south need to see this, because the dynamics which pummeled you can very well do a second act next month for the Mid-Atlantic.

Anyone looking for some phenomenal stats on this storm, check out the Boston Area NWS Storm Reports. 38 INCHES IN SALEM! 84 MPH WIND GUST IN THE NANTUCKET AREA. And good indepth reports from the Boston's Channel 5 WCVB

It has been quite a rollercoaster emotional weekend for all of us, especially all those Eagles/Steelers/Patriots Fans. What a combination of events, huh? Playoff mania surrounded by Blizzard mania all at the same time. I think ESPN and the Weather Channel had the highest ratings of anyone this weekend. And the digging out up there will be historic in it's own right. If the storm mayhem and playoff anticipation did not exhaust you, then the shoveling probably will! But thank you to all our newly acquired Boston readers for all the great comments. Please feel free to continue posting your obs about the recovery. I still think your schools are out the entire week.

Game prediction as of 8:50 PM... Final Score: Patriot 38, Steelers 27.

I will do a final grade for storm totals on Monday, after I turn in my quarterly grades while on duty ON TIME at my school. Chip, if the inservice day is on, I'll be reporting at 7:30 AM, I promise. Either way, I am very grateful we have this day to at least mentally recover after a wonderful but tiring ski trip. It is a total toss up what will happen tomorrow morning... some schools may delay, others will be on time, and some will close.

(12:50 AM update...a number of the surrounding school systems around Baltimore have all closed for Monday... Harford, Cecil, Anne Arundel. No word from Howard or Balto County yet. But you know the rule, as Harford County goes... so goes the region, right? I've been in Baltimore County only four years now, and in that time, I can't recall an instance where BCPS was open and Harford was closed. What do you think? Maybe the solution is to get a "dual certificate" so we can also teach in Boston during the winter.)

I think most Philadelphia metro and suburban schools will be closed just tomorrow, and some may have a delay Tuesday, but crews will get it all cleared by the end of Tuesday.

Will be posting in the next day or two a detailed wrapup of the 2005 Blizzard, why it happened, how the computers missed it, and what are the factors which can lead to this repeating in February for a larger portion of the East Coast. No joke. If three hurricanes can hit Florida in one month, is two Blizzards impossible? I am concerned about what is coming Wednesday. A quick snapshot of the satellite shows a very active stream of moisture from DEEP in the tropics heading north, with another series of shortwaves heading southeast around the Rockies high pressure ridge. Something smells fishy in the forecast, yet again. If BCPS bows to the pressure of it's neighbors, (fingers crossed, wearing lucky wool slippers, while eating a fruit cup) then I'll have more time today to analyze this situation.

Congratulations New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.... what a weekend it has been. One of the most exciting Superbowls in a long time is now on the table, occuring in a month which may go down in weather history as the most exciting in it's own right.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

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TWO ROADS DIVERGED IN A YELLOW WOOD,
AND I TOOK THE ONE LESS TRAVELED BY,
AND THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
- from "Stopping by a woods on a snowy evening" by Robert Frost

As of January 26, this site will be been on the air one year. It has been an amazing time, and I look forward to the increasingly interesting weather coming for the remainder of our lifetimes. I enjoy big storms, forecasting big storms, and most importantly, providing information that helps you be safe in the big storm.

So as we turn the corner and go into the second year, it is time to pause and get your input on what YOU want to see with this site. I run this just like my trips with the Dundalk Adventure Club. We find out what kind of trip the kids want to do, then put out some proposals, and they decide on the trip. So think about some ideas that can help the site be more informative for everyone. Consider recommending any specific links you'd like to see, what areas of the Northeast do you think need better forecasting coverage on this site, etc.

Remember the primary focus is the I-95 corridor, except for when tropical systems threaten the U.S., or if a snowstorm would hit the southeast (haven't forgotten about you central Alabama).

I will explain the meaning of the headline when I can post the pics I took in the storm out here at Seven Springs.

Change in snowfall forecasting

1. Accumulation predictions will be a straight number for a city or specific area, such as
"12 inches for Philadelphia" or "8 inches for York County" the caveat is that forecast implies their may be a 2 inch variance on either side of that number.

2. I will begin grading the accuracy of the forecast based on a percentage system. How close in percent was the actual accumulation to the forecast. If Philly gets 11" and I said 12", then it is about 90% accurate, which would be an A. York County, if I said 8" and the actual was 5" then 5/8 = 60% roughly? That's a D which in my book is not really passing. I will grade all my forecasts when the storm is over based on the LOW number to be consistent.

3. I'll do an average roundup of all the predictions for a final storm grade based on percent accuracy.

About the comments

1. SPORTS AND WEATHER. I used to drive my parents nuts (right Mom?) about the weather at home back in the day. I was probably one of the first viewers of the Weather Channel when it came on the air... (anyone know the date? ah, good guess.. it was March 1, 1982). So I get as emotional and OCD about the weather as sports people do about their teams. So my fellow powderhounds in Beantown... IT IS OKAY to let your emotions spill over onto this site about your sports teams. In fact it helps to broaden and diversify our viewpoints on life, as my family would vigorously nod their heads were I to say there is more to life than weather. My statement about the Steelers country servers was just to throw a snowball at you for fun. Then again, it's so powdery, I can't make snowballs.

2. STORM REPORTS. I think other viewers really seem to enjoy reading the storm reports from far away. Us PH's love a good snow, even in July. Just hearing about it. And the NWS reporting system is not ideal, so it helps us understand the dynamics of the storm with your observations. Keep on postin' !

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE NEXT BIG STORM

Fear the Florida Factor. I am running out of internet cafe time, so this is a preview of my next big call, which is not hype, it is grounded in science. Bostonians, get your seatbelt out. I think this storm was only a setup for what is coming in February. Florida provided that lightning strikes twice, or three times, or four times. Water temp profiles off east coast are running 4-6 deg C above normal. That's why you'll have 25-30" in Boston today.

So the early word on February, another storm bigger than this one, believe it or not. More later.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

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"I'M MAKING FRESH TRACKS ON INTERSTATE 95."

That is the headline of the day from my friend Mike Arles, who make an almost 8 hour trip through the southern part of the storm.. Williamsburg, VA to Philadelphia. But Mike is home safe now, thankfully.

I only have a few minutes at this point, and will do a quick roundup of the major issues right now, then a larger post this evening. I would like to write more but it costs $ to do that at a ski resort. And we have super great lake effect right now so I want to get back out and make some fresh tracks of my own:

STORM ROUNDUP (from Southwest to Northeast)

Pittsburgh/Allegheny Mountains/Altoona-State College
The worst may be over, accumulations fell in the lower range, closer to 6-8 than 12. Lake effect will add to that in the traditional snowbelts areas, pushing their totals another 1-2 inches higher.

South Central PA- Central Maryland-Baltimore Metro
Hopefully the 8-12" call was not too far off the mark. I heard 7 inches in Dundalk, and a shortwave swinging southeast might do a little surprise number on the heels of the secondary low. Big problems with blowing and drifting snow Sunday and Monday. NO SCHOOL Monday for anyone in the Baltimore Metro area. The reason I will explain later, but trust me on this. If you get any more surprise snow, there's a 2-hour delay Tuesday or possibly even closed.

Philadelphia Metro
9" in suburbs, probably more in the city. May fall short of the 12-15" call, but there is still wraparound possibility, and the shortwave. Winds and blowing snow tonight and Sunday may reach Blizzard Watch criteria. Power outages likely. The game will go on as scheduled. School?
At least a 2-hour delay for most Phila metro schools

New York City
Here's aiming big guns aiming at you, baby. Too many details right now, but the basics are:
- power outages, winds 35 mph plus and snowfall rates of 2-3" per hour in the next few hours until early Sunday. Impossible for crews to do anything about the snow until late Sunday. NYC will resemble scenes from Day After Tomorrow, at least in appearance. City will be pretty much shut down for 6-12 hours. Total snow... 10-15 in city, 15-25 along the Island, 25+ inland areas north of Long Island.

Boston
Here's aiming MONSTER BIG GUNS.. YOU ARE THE BIG KAHUNA. SAY GOODBYE TO FEB 1978, YOU WILL BREAK YOUR RECORD. It is not inconceivable to hear 30" reports in downtown. These winds mean business, gusts to storm force (55mph+). They might use Fanuiel Hall (sp? I'm tired) for scenes in Day After Tomorrow II. Snowfall rates 3-4" an hour overnight Sunday. Thundersnow and Lightning due to excessive lift rates. I am not making this up. Waves 5-10 feet in the harbour. Massive power outages and collapsed roofs from weight of snow. Significant threat to safety of elderly who may not be accessible for days. (Did you check in on Grandmother yet?) . Snow ratios 30:1, schools closed for the entire week. I am pinching myself. Now I pinched the person next to me. Am I really writing this?

Although a massive, crippling storm like this is a serious threat to health and safety, if you take the necessary precautions to protect your family, it can be the most significant event of your life. The Blizzard of 83 in Philly is the catalyst that got me into weather. Ask my mom, she's the one who posted earlier today.

So much more to write about, so little time. The slopes beckon. You Beantown guys stay safe, take some pictures, I want to hear about snowfall rates and wind speeds, the whole kitchen sink and more. You keep commenting until your fingers hurt, because hundreds and possibly thousands of fellow powderhounds are reading what you write. In closing..

BOSTON... YOU ARE NOT JUST THE BOMB... YOU ARE THE THERMONUCLEAR BOMB. From this moment forward, you guys will be in the Foot's Forecast Hall of Fame, and I will do specific projections for your area just like I do for my area. You're earned this badge of courage.

Gotta go... next post late tonight.

Friday, January 21, 2005

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IS THIS "THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW" OR WHAT?

WHEW! I don't know where to begin. You probably have whiplash from just trying to keep up with the earth-shattering changes in the forecast since early Friday morning. I only have a few minutes to do a quick analysis and respond to some great comments and observations.
The storm does seem to be taking on almost a mythical aura as it has turned into the most monstrous looking "clipper" I have ever seen in 20 years of following and forecasting weather.
I think the original ideas about this storm are beginning to pan out, best summarized in
"The Final Word" I issued Friday morning:

QPF (liquid equiv in atmosphere) will be HIGHER than expected, temps will be COLDER than expected, the primary low will eject off the coast a LITTLE SLOWER than expected, thus everyone will receive slightly MORE than forecasted.

That certainly seems to be the case with the entire I-95 corridor... GO BOSTON AND NEW YORK CITY/LONG ISLAND/SE NEW ENGLAND! You take the prize for the most rapid about face in a forecast I think I've ever seen. Snowboards call it catching air, I think the NWS guys at Upton were probably spun around so fast by the model changes that they did a 720.

SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

1. Please continue to post your observation if you can, in between shoveling and resting with those neat back warmer things. Kids... go out and make money with this storm!

2. Will accumulations change again from here? Now that the ante has been upped all to Day After Tomorrow Status (NYC, Boston getting pummeled with crippling historic blizzard), I don't know how much farther up they can go..but it is possible some areas top 3 feet with the way this is panning out.

3. You can tell we've entered the twilight zone of forecasting when you start seeing calls like: "Total storm accumulation 1-2 feet" it's what the kids call "off the charts." The snow ratios will probably end up being 30:1 in New York and Boston, 20:1 in Philly and Baltimore.

4. Is there a chance this busts like the March 2001 NOstorm and falls apart? We had a similar forecast that time for 12-24 inches across PA, NJ, NY etc, and it never materialized. The difference this time is our primary storm has already demonstrated it is loaded with moisture, and moving quickly. That forecast 4 years ago busted because the expectation was a big blizzard would form ON the coast, with no preceding storm. We will have a monster storm ARRIVING at the coast already a force to be reckoned with.

A QUICK ROUNDUP OF ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

First of all, you guys and gals all make me blush. I do this because I love storms and enjoy keeping my friends, family and colleagues well-informed so they can be safe. Out of admiration and respect for my fellow powderhounds in Beantown, I will be adding a variety of features in the links column so you can get a regular storm info fix for the short term and long term. And I'll add a NWS link for you as well.

Woburn! My heart goes out to you as my Environmental Science class and I did an in-depth study of the W.R. Grace situation. As you can probably see from the recent changes, most of Mass is going to get hammered, so 12-24 might be LOW for Boston as QPF's are 2.5+ just off the Cape. If that shifts ever so slightly west, with those high ratios, Good Lord you could see historic amounts of snow. 30 inches is not unrealistic.

How did I know about this a week to 10 days out? I trust my instincts and compare the pattern to previous storms I have forecasted, won or lost. And since I am not the government or private industry, I can say what needs to be said in a professional way and not worry about upsetting my boss, or department, agency or co-workers. The real boss is the Lord and the weather he creates. You and I are just the happy recipients of the blessings he will let us enjoy for a couple days here. So everyone be safe, take your time, and stop for a moment to take it all in for what it is worth.

Because February may have something EVEN MORE dramatic in store for us. (drum roll.....)

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SOME THINGS ARE TRUE
WHETHER YOU BELIEVE
THEM OR NOT...PART 2 

JANUARY 21, 2005
THE FINAL WORDS ON THIS STORM: STAY THE COURSE

PREPARE FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW IN MAJOR CITIES OF THE
I-95 CORRIDOR, NEW JERSEY AND INTERIOR PENNSYLVANIA

Reasons for my snowfall predictions:
1. While western origin storms do not usually bring a lot of snow to the East Coast, the situation continues to be the high snow-to-liquid ratios due to the entrenched cold air and a fresh supply of Arctic air in a nearby high pressure to the north.

2. The NWS is holding back or staying conservative because their flagship model, the GFS is doing that. What you see above is the ETA, which is more in line with what I see most TV stations and Accuweather going with. The farther away from DC you get, the more that I see forecast offices being willing to consider other models in their call. If you spent millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars on a ground-breaking computer model, would you disregard it in the shadow of Washington DC and opt to follow other programs?

3. Waters off the Atlantic Coast continue to be above normal. This will allow for more moisture to be pulled into whatever coastal low develops, even if it is weak.

4. Daytime and overnight temperatures will be colder by 2-5 deg F than forecasted throughout the northeast. This will lead to a bump in accumulations from 2-4" depending on where you live.

QPF/SNOWFALL ANALYSIS
I agree with the prognostication of many readers who have posted, especially Philadelphia, York County and Boston. There seems to be the feeling that when a snowfall amount that is generally "less than a blizzard" is made, the reality ends up being a bit more than that. Contrast with March 2001, when everyone was calling for the end of the world (24-36"), and major cities saw a few inches at best. Contrast THAT with the 2003 Blizzard and many a New England Nor'easters, all of which were either going to go south or out to sea.. then you woke up to 6-12" and more coming. Reminds me of the famous phrase I once heard someone call into to a TV Weather Station: "Mr. Forecaster, could you please come to my house and help me shovel the 6 inches of partly cloudy on my driveway?"

In the final analysis... I think QPF (liquid equiv in atmosphere) will be HIGHER than expected, temps will be COLDER than expected, the primary low will eject off the coast a LITTLE SLOWER than expected, thus everyone will receive slightly MORE than forecasted.

Here's my final QPF/snow breakdowns... might be slightly different to account for adjustments in liquid forecasts. Then I am off to school and the ski trip. Next post late tonight from Seven Springs Resort.

Boston: .50/15/25:1/6-12" (slightly more than the banner listed at top)
NYC/Long Island: .5/20/20:1/8-12" Philadelphia: 1.0/25/15:1/12-15"
Pittsburgh: .75/20/20:1/12-18" Interior/Central PA: .75/20/20:1/12-15" (incl. York County)
Baltimore: .75/25/15:1/10" Washington: .5/30/10:1/4-6"
Richmond: .25/30/10:1/3-5" Norfolk: .75-1.0/35/2-4" then rain

Please continue to post your questions and observations once the fun begins! I will do my best to keep you updated throughout the storm from where I will be this weekend with my students.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

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SOME THINGS ARE TRUE
WHETHER YOU BELIEVE THEM OR NOT

That would be the line for the National Weather Service this morning. These people do work very hard and are very good at what they do, it is just a matter of interpretation. Who among us is interpreting the computer models the most accurately? Only time will tell. If I am wrong and this is a major bust, I will be glad to post for all to see a picture of me wearing my bag, which I have worn a couple times so far this winter. Today's post will be the last detailed analysis on this storm, as I go into trip mode for a departure to Seven Springs Ski Resort in western PA. I will post from out there sometime Friday night. Read over the previous columns to understand the evolution of the storm.

Here is the morning picture show to drive home my point that this will be in the top ten or twenty all time big snows for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, similar to January 1996, though not as much snow. I still see the signs that could turn this from a pesky 12" snowfall into a monstrous 24" wipeout for much of the battleground zone I have outlined above. The best indicators of how this will play out in your backyard are going to be:

1. QPF results (Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts) Bookmark that site and check it about every 6 hours.

2. Surface and upper air temperatures. If you notice Saturdays temperatures start out much colder than the forecast, prepare for a lot more snow.

So let me lay it out this way:

HOW THIS COULD BECOME A BIGGER MONSTER As discussed in detail Wednesday, if the liquid equivalents end up a lot higher than we expect, due to enhancement from the Gulf and the Coastal low being slower and closer, then this can easily double to a 24" storm for "the zone" indicated above. If the expected handoff from the Midwest Low to the Coastal low occurs quickly, that allows for faster development and solid 24 hour period of snow. This is where you get the big prizes of 38 inches in York County such as in the 96 Blizzard as reported by an alert reader.

HOW THIS COULD BECOME A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT Though this is not as likely, it is possible that for some unknown reason, the western Low stays stronger, and burns out all it's snow on the Appalachians. It's happened before, and powderhounds should always be on guard that western origin storms are suspect for not panning out as we think they will. The eastern moisture never gets into the act, and the coastal Low is weak, forms too far out to sea, or never forms. What was going to be 12-18 inches ends up just 3 or 4 in the big cities and the real story is the lake effect snow in western PA and MD. Again this is highly unlikely.

So now is the time to begin preparing, for the snow will arrive in western PA Saturday morning, central PA and MD by noon Saturday, eastern PA and MD by Saturday afternoon.

A quick early evening post tonight, another brief morning picture show Friday AM, and then it is off to the races!


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

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PREPARE TO GO NOWHERE FAST

SEVERE WINTER STORM TO CRIPPLE PARTS OF THE MID-ATLANTIC
AND EAST COAST THIS WEEKEND...BLIZZARD CONDITIONS POSSIBLE

FIRST, a check of where we stand with public knowledge of the storm:

- a Marty Bass alert has been issued. A Baltimore area TV forecaster, Marty is getting ramped up from what I hear, starting to drop hints about the storm.

- Carl Parker on the Weather Channel has been particularly adamant this evening about doing a "up play-down play" on this by saying things like: "There's the potential for a huge snowstorm to develop this weekend for the Mid-Atlantic." And they keep saying this about every four mintues. You know that when Paul Kocin gets on there, it's a serious situation. If you don't know who these people are, it's okay, you're probably a normal person.

- As of Wednesday afternoon, only the Baltimore/Washington and New York City NWS offices issued Special Weather Statement Wednesday afternoon. All other NWS offices held back until Thursday morning. State College, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh now have come out with their Winter Storm statements. Read their forecast discussions: (scroll down a page to get the weekend analysis), very interesting to see how they all still carefully avoid even talking about the liquid-to-snow rates. PIttsburgh, State College, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore.

- Accuweather is calling it what it is... a major winter storm, and has a series of graphics on their site which would indicate the I-95 corridor is going to the under the gun either way. And it appears they believe a secondary low will develop off the SC coast and more northeast, delivering a wrap-around punch of snow over the big cities of the northeast.

- Mainstream media outlets, such as MSNBC, local TV station websites, etc. have not begun advertising the storm, but I think that will start to change in a big way Thursday. By Friday everyone will be in major hype mode, and the NWS will roll out Winter Storm Watches for most of the Mid-Atlantic.

SECOND, what will be the evolution of this as a significant snowfall event?

- Liquid to snow ratios will be generally 15:1 and 20:1 in higher elevations, due to the Arctic air being delivered by the clipper which just passed and the next one on Thursday. I think highs throughout the Northeast will in the lower 20's.

- The current QPF (Quantitaitive Precipitation Forecast) as put out by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is calling for a general 1.0 to 2.0 avaiable liquid because it appear likely Gulf moisture will be drawn into the first system diving southeast from the upper Midwest on Friday-Saturday, and then Atlantic moisture will wrap-around the second system on Sunday.

- A ridge off the Southeast coast is going to slow forward motion of the east-moving low, so the Mid-Atlantic will get a longer duration event on Saturday into the evening before energy transfer begins and the second low cranks up as it moves north from the VA/NC border.

- Colder air means more snow. While a forecast is more complicated than some simple calculations, I do base my snowfall amounts on the tried-and-true formula that gave us 23.5 inches in the Feb 2003 Storm. It is the snow ratio as determined by the air temperature, X available moisture. A rule of thumb in snow is that 1" of rain is 10" of snow at 32 degrees F. But the colder the air, the more snow you can squeeze out of the same parcel of air.

Let's say the average available moisture in this storm for the Mid-Atlantic (including all of PA south of I-80, all of Maryland from DC north, all of DelMarVa from Dover north) is 1.25 inches of liquid. Now take your location... if you are near the coast, temps are warmer, around 25 F, so you'll have a 15:1 ratio. In the mountains of PA and MD, where temps will not crack 20 F, it'll be 20:1 and possibly 25:1 at ski resorts like Seven Springs, Blue Knob, all of the Poconos, Whitetail, Liberty, Roundtop and so on).

Do the math...multiply 1.25 by the ratio of your area, to get your projected snowfall:

Northern Virginia/Northern West Virginia/Southwest PA: 1.25 x 25 = 31 inches. Not impossible, given forecast highs of 18 F around Pittsburgh, and liquid equivs topping 1.5 inches. Probably more like 18-24"

Central PA south of I-80: (Cold, highs in 20's, but slightly less moisture)
.75 x snow ratio of 20 = 12-15 inches anywhere from Altoona east to the Blue Route/Northeast extension, including State College, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Selinsgrove, Chester County, Bucks County, Allentown.

Southern PA to Northern/Central MD, the I-76, I-83, I-70 corridor: (Saturday Highs in mid 20's, but more moisture) 1.25 x snow ratio of 15 = 18.75, so I'm calling for a general 12-18 inches, with some localized amounts in the lower Susquehanna Valley near 2 feet. That would include York-Franklin Counties.

All important I-95 corridor from DC to NYC: (Saturday highs in upper teen's NY, lower 20's south, moisture will be over two storms, Saturday system, then Sunday system) 1.25 x a snow ratio of 10 south, 15 north means a general range of 12-18 inches from metro DC north to metro Philly on the ground by 8pm Sunday.

Northeast/New England from NYC to Boston: (Sunday highs in teens to low 20's) This is more tricky, because these areas will be affected by the second and third systems coming north from the VA/NC border, bringing hefty moisture. CPC has a liquid equiv of 2-3 inches just off shore NYC on Sunday, which would pretty much be a rerun of "The Day After Tomorrow" That's 2.0 x a snow ratio of at least 15 = 30 inches! Seems crazy but then again who would have forecasted 30.7 for Philly in the 96 Blizzard?

THIRD, how would this kind of snowfall affect schools?

The historical pattern in Maryland seems to be that it takes one full workday for maintenance crews to clear 5" of snow. It is a tremendous amount of work, and they go sometimes two full shifts to get it done. That means for every 5", you are going to miss one day of school.

So the early no brainer call is: NO SCHOOL MONDAY for the vast majority of students living throughout the Mid-Atlantic, (except for Garrett County, MD, which got 50 inches in Feb 2003 and never lost a day of school)If 10" then a delay on Tuesday. If 15" school is closed Monday and Tuesday, 20" is closed until Thursday, and so on.

AND FINALLY, answers to your comment questions:

1. Dad, flight should be fine, but will be delays as PHL is going to have tough time keeping runways clear. Height of storm is Saturday night-Sunday AM.

2. MA...when the hype starts on Friday, you'll start having more believers. They'll really believe you when they are shoveling 15 inches.

3. York County...20 to 30 inches is not out of the question if the air is colder than we anticipate and the liquid equivs go up above 1.25. Blizzard-like conditions are possible on Saturday night-Sunday, but only in brief bursts when winds gust to near 35 mph.

4. Glenville, PA... yes, drifting is going to be a bigger problem, as this is wind-driven powder that will fluff all over the place. I would imagine drifts of 3-5 feet would not be unusual.

IN CLOSING for the evening, if I am wrong on this, or the snowfall totals do not materialize the way I thought they would, I will keep in tradition with my students and wear a bag. Except this time, I'll do a picture of me wearing the bag on this site, just for fun.

Please note that any previous information posted below is still considered valid. The current post does not supersede a previous post unless I specifically state I have changed the forecast.

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PICTURE THIS...
YOU, A SHOVEL, AND A WHOLE LOTTA SNOW

For our visual learners out there, this is a compilation of the latest and greatest computer modeling on this upcoming potential superstorm. The top row of maps is from the ECMWF, known as the European computer model. The bottom left is the GFS snowfall totals as of 8PM Monday, and the bottom right is the NWS liquid equivalent guidance from Friday to Sunday. Hopefully it is clear enough to read. Enjoy, and go get that extra shovel. With this kind of weather, looks like both NFC playoff games will be verrry interesting.

Next update late this evening. That snow today?... an inch max, slippery at evening rush. That snow Thursday? Nothing, just flurries.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

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IT’S DÉJÀ VU ALL OVER AGAIN, AS WEEKEND
MEGASTORM TO RESEMBLE JAN 96 & FEB 03

If you just want a snapshot view of what I project this storm will do for your area, scroll down to the bottom of this post for details on a geographic forecast for the Mid-Atlantic. (Warning: This is a wordy, long pre-storm post, difficult to read in one sitting.) I will post some graphics on Wednesday for back up the claims made in this forecast.

If you are new to this site, a brief introduction:
I am an Earth Science teacher at Dundalk High School in Baltimore County. I have been forecasting weather at a semi-professional level for over 10 years, and began this hobby/adventure 20 years ago with weather broadcasts on my high school morning TV news program and morning announcements. I have interned at the National Weather Service, forecasted for several semesters at the Penn State Weather Center, and earned an Earth Science degree at Penn State with a concentration in Meteorology and Geology. But I prefer teaching about the weather because it is more fun working with kids than staring at a computer screen all day, which is what meteorologists have to do most of the time.

This site has been in operation since late January 2004. I forecast the weather based on my analysis of the same computer modeling programs and reports that are viewed by professional meteorologists, whether at the NWS, Accuweather, or The Weather Channel. I have been wrong from time to time, just ask my wife! However, where it counts in this business is the big call. I don’t really focus much on the day-to-day weather, just the long term patterns that can give rise to the life-interrupting or -thrilling events we call storms.

I have been successful in nailing several of the most recent big storms in memory:
(Warning: brief resume of forecasts, not a brag sheet)

On Friday, February 14, 2003... I told my colleagues at school that Baltimore would receive 18-24 inches of snow by Monday the 17th, and we would be out of school one week. The total in my backyard at Dundalk: 23.5. The BWI airport: 27. We did not report back to school until the 24th.

On Monday, September 12, 2003, I told my students and colleagues that Hurricane Isabel was likely to charge right up the Chesapeake Bay, and those living near water should consider preparing to leave their homes. It did, and some of my students and their families unfortunately were flooded out of their homes in Southeastern Baltimore County.

My personal favorite is:
In October 2002, I told my Earth Science students there would be snow the first week of December. Then on December 4, a Wednesday, I said to my classes, “Happy Friday!” They thought I was nuts. That night, we had 7 inches, and school was closed Thursday and Friday. 4 days to sleep in…. yeeehaw. Remember that one, Brandon?

METEOROLOGICAL and CULTURAL ANALYSIS OF STORM POTENTIAL

You were warned, that if you did not want to get locked into reading a big long post..then scroll down to the end. Since this storm is going to be one of the “Big Ones” I am going to take license and flesh out all the parameters of this event. (Then again, it could be a big bust too… either way, this will be big.)

The next section is my analysis of the overall situation, taking both climatology and past experience with storm forecasting, as well as the political implications of the forecast’s outcome.

Let’s cut to the chase already… why I believe the East Coast is primed for a major winter storm this weekend.

1. Déjà vu all over again.. I have the same feeling right now as I did for the February 2003 storm. I see similar elements falling into place. The abundant uncertainty that accompanies any big storm forecast by the major agencies, the diverging model trends, etc. etc. But I also see the weather through the forecast:

- Much above water temps off the East Coast. This was present in Feb 2003.

- A series of pre-storm clippers that recharge the area with fresh cold air
- A large blocking high to the north that noses out in front of the storm, slowing it’s forward motion, which results in a higher than predicted snow total.
- Daytime temps for this coming Saturday have been dropping all week… NWS temp forecast is now 24 F for Baltimore, and we’re still 4-5 days away. I’ll bet we barely break 20 F in the final outcome. The colder it is, the more snow there will be… that translates into a TON of snow for PA from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Whoever said 18 inches for Philadelphia is not far off the mark, that’s what the GFS is advertising as of late Tuesday evening.

And a final puzzle piece that win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse $10 billion prize for who pegs it first… will this become a PHASED event? If the northern stream storm dives far enough south through the Tennessee Valley to get the southern jet stream involved. If that happens, 2 feet in York County, PA is not unrealistic give the high liquid-to-snow ratios. Imagine how the Eagle/Falcons game will be in a blinding snowstorm... wonder who'll win? Hmmm.

2. Similarities and Differences. This section outlines how this storm is similar and different to notable ones of recent memory, so we can understand how the forecast will pan out over the next 5 days.

SIMILAR: Feb 11, 1983…the bonafide “Blizzard” was also a glorified cold core clipper than dug far enough southeast to tap Atlantic moisture, and just exploded along the coast… giving Philadelphia it’s second all time highest snowfall of 21.3 inches in 24 hours.

SIMILAR: Jan 6-7-8, 1996….a glorified Arctic front-type clipper dove southeast, then got blocked by a monster High off the coast. Sound familiar? Snowfall was mainly in the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, much like the Feb 83 storm, but snow totals were off the charts, 25-50 inches in interior sections of PA and MD. Philadelphia set it’s all time record, totaling 30.7 inches in downtown.

DIFFERENT: Jan 22, 1987… this was your classic southern origin nor’easter, with the New England High drilling cold air down the Appalachians, and the storm riding up from Georgia. Snow fell from Atlanta to Boston in amounts averaging 8-12” in the big cities. This is not likely to happen.

DIFFERENT: Mar 11, 1993… The "Storm of the Century” began as an already intense low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico, then slammed Florida with hurricane force winds and tornadoes. Drawing in cold air from a Canadian High, it went on to shut down every East Coast airport from Georgia to Maine. That is not likely to happen in this storm

IN BETWEEN: Feb 17, 2003…The “President’s Day Blizzard of 2003” will forever rank in the minds of Baltimoreans as the single biggest storm of modern times..27 inches over 2 days. Our upcoming monster will be a hybrid version of this, minus the intense supply of Pacific and (probably) Gulf moisture. The Feb 2003 storm was loaded with 2-3 inches of liquid equivalent, which under a cold dome of temps no higher than 20 F, made for extremely high liquid-to-snow ratios of 1:30.

3. Beware the Blue Bandwagon
A prediction about upcoming predictions. You will notice little whisperings and sidebar comments in the news about this big storm by Wednesday or Thursday. And then… with a drum roll and clash of cymbals, you will get whiplashed on how the NWS is going to suddenly just completely reverse course later this weekend. I guarantee they will come out with all guns blazing about a significant winter storm. I call it the Blue Bandwagon… because for several days, the most of the foreign weather forecast models have been advertising this storm. THEN… out of the blue, the forecast will dramatically change for the worse.
Even the JMA… the JAPANESE Meteorological Agency has a model predicting this. But the US-based GFS? Eh, can’t be bothered. Now come on, when a computer model program IN JAPAN is predicting a major storm on the US East Coast, it is time to get with the program.

4. Let’s Share and Compare
Read for yourself recent comments made “internally” by the NWS but posted on their respective sites. It is called the “Forecast Discussion” and gives you a better glimpse into what forecasters are thinking with what they just issued to the public, as well as their analysis of what’s coming. Notice how they seem to cleverly avoid mentioning the European or UKMET models too much, which are both advertising a major storm of nearly historic proportions. Granted this is 4-5 days away, but the GFS is the first computer program to accurately predict the March 93 storm 5 days in advance.

Philadelphia.. 9:45 PM Tue.

MAIN CONCERN FOR THE LONG TERM IS THE POTENTIAL STORM FOR THE WEEKEND. THE UPPER SYSTEM PROGD TO PRODUCE THIS IS STILL WELL OUT OVER THE PAC OCEAN SO A LOT CAN HAPPEN BETWEEN NOW AND THEN. HAVING SAID THAT...RECENT TREND OF THE GFS IS TO TRACK THE SFC LOW CENTER A LITTLE FARTHER N AND A LITTLE DEEPER...SO WE HAVE KEPT A CHC FOR PCPN SAT THRU SUN. CURRENT FCST IS FOR ALL SNOW BUT THERE ARE SOME INDICATIONS FOR MIXED PRECIP OVER THE SRN PART OF OUR CWA.

Baltimore…9:00 PM Tue

THE WEEKEND SYSTEM IS BASICALLY A LARGE CLIPPER FOR OUR AREA. THE GFS IS A LITTLE FASTER THAN THE ETA...BUT BOTH VERY SIMILAR AND THE GFS HAS GREAT RUN TO RUN CONSISTENCY WITH IT. 12Z EURO JUST IN AND ALSO SOMEWHAT SLOWER THAN THE GFS. A SFC LOW TRAVELS OUT OF THE DAKOTAS WITH A LARGE AREA OF WARM ADVCTIVE FORCING AHEAD OF IT. EDGE OF PRECIP BY THE GFS TIMING HAS IT REACHING OUR FORECAST AREA IN NW MD EARLY SAT MORNING AND OVER THE ENTIRE AREA BY LATE MORN SAT. THE LOW UNDERCUTS US ALONG THE VA NC BORDER...AND TRANSFERS ITS ENERGY TO THE COAST WHERE A SEC LOW TAKES OFF AROUND ORF. THE BULK OF OUR EFFECTS FROM THIS LOOK TO BE FROM THE PRIMARY LOW. WITH THE PRECIP FROM THAT MAXING OVER THE AREA MIDDAY SAT THRU MIDNIGHT SAT NIGHT. IF THE UPPER TROF CAN GET MORE NEG TILT THAN IT CURRENTLY IS FORECAST TO HAVE...THEN THE COASTAL COULD SLOW IT/S DEPARTURE AND SNOW COULD LAST WELL INTO SUNDAY. AT THIS POINT IT DOES LOOK LIKE WE DO GET INTO THE COLD CONVEYOR SNOWFALL ON SUNDAY FOR A TIME...BUT THE DURATION AND STRENGTH OF THE UPPER TROF WILL BE CRUCIAL. AT THIS POINT AM LOOKING FOR A LIGHT TO MODERATE EVENT SAT INTO SUNDAY.

Richmond…3:00 PM Tue

BELOW NORMAL TEMPS WILL CONTINUE TO BE THE RULE THRU THE EXTENDED FCST...WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR A SIGNIFICANT STORM SAT AFTN THRU SUN. MDL TRENDS HAVE BEEN SHOWING SYS DIVING FM UPR MIDWEST EWRD TO THE OFF THE MID ATLC CST SAT THRU SUN. THE LAST COUPLE OF MDL RUNS HAVE THIS SYS TRACKING FARTHER N...THUS SHOWING WRMER AIR BROUGHT INTO THE SYS AS IT APPROACHES OUR REGION...THEN TURNING COLDER AGAIN AS SYS EXITS OFF THE CST AND OUT TO SEA. SO...AT THIS TIME...HAVE INTRODUCED CHC OF R-/S- INTO SRN CNTIES DURINGSAT...THEN EXPANDED IT NWRD TO ALL AREAS EXCEPT EXTRM N CNTIES SAT NGT THRU SUN MORNG. HAVE KEPT JUST CHC OF S- FM N OF RIC ACRS TO OCN CITY MD THRU THE ENTIRE EVENT.

Pittsburgh…2:15 PM Tue
HIGH PRESSURE BUILDS INTO OUR AREA FROM THE NORTHWEST DURING THE DAY ON FRIDAY. FRIDAY NIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY LOW PRESSURE SWINGS SOUTHEAST THROUGH THE MIDWEST...THEN EAST ACROSS THE LOWER OHIO RIVER VALLEY...AND FINALLY OFF THE CAROLINA COAST. STRENGTH AND TRACK OF THIS LOW WILL DICTATE PCPN TYPE AND/OR SNOW AMOUNTS. PRESENTLY WE ARE GOING WITH THE COLDER SOLUTION AND KEEPING PCPN TYPE AS SNOW. HIGH PRESSURE BUILDS BACK INTO OUR AREA FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY.

5. And finally, those who don’t study history ….
The February 2003 storm caught many by surprise from the swiftness in which it changed its colors. Those in Maryland remember how you first got a couple inch preview on Saturday, then it stopped. The Weather Service AND the Weather Channel were still saying, “It’ll go south, from DC down to VA.” I was in Altoona, PA watching all this and thinking that the storm was going to stay south and slow down.

Thus, we could sleep in from our long day of skiing and take our time getting home Sunday. The next morning, we awoke at 6:30 AM to a winter wonderland. There was already 2-3 inches and it was coming down hard. Marylanders awoke to 6 or more inches of fresh powder, with another 18 on the way. So much for the going south theory. I just don't think this storm is going to head south either and miss the major metro areas.

So in the final analysis, I believe anyone who disregards this storm does so at their own peril.

ABOUT YOUR COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS

Thank you to all who posted such interesting and thought-provoking comments. If you have read along this far, congratulations on your patience. If you skipped directly to this part, that's okay too. Let me just say that while any forecast is speculation, this one is not without a lot of historical comparison and detailed analysis of the big picture. I believe the elements are in place to create a storm of historic porportions. I would not lead you astray and falsely hype something. The major media outlets were stung by the March 2001 debacle... where they called for the end of the world (24"+ in Philly, for example, and it was 4 inches). So in the years since, they have learned to be cautious and not excessively hype the public over big storm prediction.


As for snowfall... I know other forecasters would never go out on a limb and give you real hard numbers this early. But I am going to trust my instincts and just use simple math. The CPC (Centers for Climate Prediction) is projecting a general .90 to 1.20 inches liquid as a general range for the Mid-Atlantic in this storm from 8PM Friday to 8PM Sunday. Be sure to click on that link and see the liquid equivs map... it's fun and scary. If the snow liquid-to-snow ratio is 1:20 at daytime and 1:25 at night, then it is easy to see how anyone from Virginia to the PA/NY border can get 10 to 20 inches or more. So yeah, if you were going to get that snowblower or bag of salt, I figure you have one more day of "pre-hype" before word of this storm gets out and it is all over the news.

SYNOPSIS OF STORM EVOLUTION

I believe the Mid-Atlantic, Ohio and Tennessee Valleys will be affected by THREE separate low pressure systems … the FIRST is diving southeast Friday that will lay down an advance cover of an inch or two, while the SECOND low develops over the Tennessee Valley and draws in Gulf moisture… though NOT as much as the Feb 03 storm. The first low fades by Saturday night, the second low moves toward Virginia, and a THIRD low begins to develop off the NC Coast. It is these two lows, plus the high to the north, that will form a classic “triple barrel” situation that rides rich Atlantic moisture in over PA and MD into a dome of very cold air. The result... easily 2 feet.

PRELIMINARY STORM FORECAST FOR THE MID-ATLANTIC

Virginia/West Virginia: Northern mountains to get hammered… snow begins early Saturday morning, continues through the evening. Totals above 12 inches in higher elevations, including the southwestern PA mountains and ski resorts such as Seven Springs will see totals above 12 inches by daybreak Sunday. Coastal SE Virginia to escape brunt of storm, with light snow and rain mixed.

Maryland… Western: The traditional snow counties of Washington, Garrett, etc, will also get hammered with 12 or more inches by Sunday morning.

Central MD: Baltimore metro and surrounding counties to see snow increase in intensity throughout Saturday, accumulating 3-6” by midnight. Once secondary and third low develop, another 6” on top of the first snowfall by mid-day Sunday. If the third low is slower to develop, and moves slower than expected, totals will easily top 12 inches.

Eastern MD: Snow begins by late Saturday, continues overnight, accumulating 2-3” by daybreak Sunday. As lows approach, there may be a lull, followed by another pulse of snow as the wraparound effect of the departing low drops it’s heaviest load of perhaps 6” or more.

Southern MD: The tricky part is here. If the double low sets up, areas inside and near the center can often be shut out of any snow at all. I think the SE Chesapeake and Tidewater of VA where my Aunts Sandy and Helen are get away with light snow/rain and fog as the center of the low passes over them.

Pennsylvania… At this point, it appears that almost the entire state has the potential to be crippled as it was in the 96 storm, due to the double/triple barrel effect that sets up this massive conveyor belt of snow directly from the Atlantic. I think the core of heaviest snow, if I follow the GFS current printout, is fully 7/8th of the state from Philly north to Scranton, west along I-80 to Meadville, south to Pittsburgh, back east to Philly. I am not kidding, the GFS has 18 inches plus mapped out for this region I described. That could change, but given high snow ratios of perhaps 1:20 to 1:30, and .75 to 1.25 inches liquid... just do the math. (.75 x 20 = 15" on the low end). Skiing in the Poconos? Better get there by Friday night, plan to stay until Monday. My advice: Get to the store by Thursday to beat the storm crowds.

Delaware…same as eastern Maryland. Potential for a coastal backlash as wraparound snow on Sunday night brings another quick 2-3” on top of 6-9 inches.

New Jersey….due to the nature of the double barrel conveyor belt, and proximity of the state to the coast, it is possible that coastal locations like Atlantic City see some mixed precip, but not a lot of snow, which will be more the farther west you go towards Philly. Accumulations: 3-6” in western NJ, less than 3” in Eastern. Of course the storm could expand and include Jersey in the belt, in which case totals are closer to 6-12".

New York…There is always the potential this conveyor belt idea shifts a tad bit more north than we think it will. If that happens, southern interior NY gets into the act, with 6 or more inches. If there is a sharp cutoff to the precip, it might look like the storm is simply obeying state lines, and bulk of snow stays south. The low would have to really ride the coast to deliver big snow to the Southern Tier.

Coastal New England.. I think Boston and extreme eastern Mass get just clipped by this, with more wind and cold then snow. Perhaps Martha’s Vineyard gets heavy snow, but not for downtown Beantown.



WHAT TO EXPECT ON THIS SITE THE NEXT 4 DAYS

I will read your comments carefully and try to address all questions in a general post during the evening. Here's what I plan to do with this storm:

Wednesday night: Detailed maps of snowfall and storm evolution

Thursday night: Final predictions for snowfall totals and school closings next week

Friday night: No post until probably 9 PM as I will be at Seven Springs Ski Resort, hoping to get snowed in at a resort for once in my life.

Saturday night: Live update from the heart of snow country. Once the storm plays out, it should be a fun time to post some pics for you of the condition out there.

And so it begins!



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BLIZZARD OF 2005?

I figured that headline would get your attention. Yes, there is the potential of a major winter storm brewing for the as yet untouched I-95 corridor from DC to NYC. In fact, several world-reknown computer models (the European featured below, the Canadian, and the UKMET) all are predicting a significant to possibly crippling snowstorm for Saturday night into Sunday night. However, this is not to be the classic setup for major snow as was the case in February 2003. This is a "northern branch" storm, which means it is going to be all snow for everyone affected. The southern jet is not going to be involved with this, much like what happened in January 1996. It is a "cold-core" storm that does not feature a rain-snow line or any freezing precip, just all snow. Can you say, "Hallelujah!" ?

There will be a couple clipper systems to lay down an inch here and there across the Mid-Atlantic between now and Friday, but that is just a preview of the Big Kahuna.


By Wednesday, I expect the major media outlets will start to pickup on this, and by Friday it will be hyped into outer space. Everyone will be racing to the store, clearing out home depot of shovels and snowblowers. And you'll be resting comfortably in your well-stocked house, not stressing or worried about preparing for the storm. Why? Because you're reading this website and knew a week ago that this might be coming.

Several of the forecast offices in the National Weather Service, namely Baltimore-Washington and Richmond, have been poohpoohing the storm. That's because they mostly rely on the GFS, which is the US model. It would be nearly treason for them to base their forecast on FOREIGN computer modeling programs. Is there a hint of politics in this forecast maybe? I think you'll see private weather agencies be all over the storm, and then suddenly out of the blue... the NWS will appear to jump on the bandwagon with a Special Weather Statement Thursday, then a Winter Storm Watch Friday.

All your questions will soon be answered... like how much, when, where and so on. The basic 411 for you to begin planning on is:

- 6 TO 12 INCHES SNOWFALL for the major metropolitian areas from Richmond to Philly, perhaps as far north as NYC. This include all of central MD, metro Baltimore, Chester, Delaware Counties west of Philly, southern NJ, Del-Mar-Va. Baltimore NWS says the storm appears to be going out to sea, and is going to be a near miss for the major metro areas. We'll see who is right in the end.

- Time frame looks to be a Saturday morning start in western PA, Saturday afternoon in MD and continuing through Sunday night for all areas. It should really get cranking from late Saturday night into Sunday late afternoon.

- How certain am I this is a real forecast and NOT a wishcast? When most major computer model programs start coming into agreement on a significant winter weather event 5-6 days away, it is a very good bet they are right. Data from the 2003, 1996 and 1993 Blizzards has been added to their programming, thus these models are becoming more adept at spotting this kind of system farther in advance.

- Will this affect school on Monday or Tuesday of next week? If your school system was planning to hold classes as normal next Monday (not a teacher inservice) there is a strong likelihood school will be closed. What happens Tuesday depends on how quickly maintenance crews can clean up on Monday. A 12" storm on Sunday has the potential to produce at least a 2 hour delay on Tuesday due to the amount of time it takes to clear parking areas and bus lots.

More details on the evolution of this storm in the next several days. I am preparing for midterms and a ski trip so don't stress if I don't post more than once daily until about Thursday. So prepare yourself... for WINTER STRIKES BACK!


Sunday, January 16, 2005

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QUICK AND COLORFUL LOOK AT THE WEEK AHEAD

Images courtesy of Accuweather.com. I just assemble them in one frame for easier viewing.


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I LOVE A PARADE.... OF STORMS THAT IS



What you see above is the beginning of a parade of storms that will finally return winter to it's proper location on the calendar. Water temperature indications in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and eastern Pacific are lining up to deliver the conditions necessary for what I think will be one or two hefty storms in February. I believe the I-95 corridor will see at least one solid 6-12" snowfall early next month. So let's start the parade...

Sunday 1/16: I should have posted this on Saturday, as I felt areas of the northeast would be getting a surprise snow. NWS forecast as of yesterday was partly cloudy. But the model (top, left) above was clearly indicating available moisture and temperatures for snow. Mountains and areas near water might get 1-2" while interior sections (Frederick, northern Balto County), will see one inch or less. But at least it will be snowing from DC to NYC for a change.

Wednesday 1/19: Midterm Mayhem. My school, as are many others, having midterms this coming week. The weather promises to interfere. In the top right model frame, Baltimore and DC are close to the 540mb thickness line (the blue line), which means a mix of sleet, freezing rain and snow. There will be low-level cold air at the surface, and a bit of overrunning warm air above. Central PA as you can see, is well inside the green, which means a general 2-4". This event looks to be sometime from late morning into the evening, so it definitely has the potential to mess up midterms, and put snow on the ground for the Inauguration Ceremony Thursday.

Next weekend 1/21-23: Since the Adventure Club at my school is going on a ski trip next Friday, we need snow. Lo and behold, Mother Nature is going to deliver right on time. The bottom two model frame indicate a clipper system coming from the Lakes to the mid-atlantic. These generally do not produce a lot of snow for the East Coast. This one, however, is moving a bit slower, and projected to come more across PA then the higher western MD and WVA mountains, which tend to rob clippers of moisture. Central PA could see another 2-4" of powder-like snow on Saturday. If it moves slow enough, it has time to tap Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay moisture, which is why I believe I-95 cities from Richmond north to NYC will see a couple inches of snow from this one. As you can see on the lower right frame, if this system gets to the coast and has the chance to redevelop, it could hammer NYC and New England.

So now you know the parade is on the way, all we have to do is wait for it. The next update Sunday night.

Friday, January 14, 2005

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PERHAPS A SNOW DAY JUST FOR TEACHERS ?

The heavy rain, strong winds, tornadoes and thunderstorms for Friday 1/15 signal the arrival of a major Arctic front, and will usher in much colder air to dominate the East's weather for the next 2-3 weeks. For powderhounds, this is very good news, because they know winter is about to strike back in a big way. Based on the trends I have been watching with the forecast models, I can now make the bold prediction you've been waiting for:

The elements are coming together for a major snow event on the East Coast sometime in the next 7-10 days.

And for Baltimore County teachers, you may luck out with a snow day of your own.



The map above is a forecast model projection for 7AM Sunday morning the 23rd. It shows snow throughout the northeast from Baltimore to Boston. While this is an early indication, it has been consistently showing some type of hybrid clipper/coastal low to cruise through next weekend.

Students in Baltimore County, MD do not have school on Monday 1/24, but teachers do. Perhaps this storm will enable them, namely my colleage Mr. Fantasie in Dundalk High's science department, to see their wish come true. I'll be doing a paper sort and purge whether I'm at home or in school, but I am yearning for snow so my 17-month old daughter Jayla can see her first real snow at home.

This weekend, I'll give you a closer look at the threat of the first major snow event for the I-95 corridor. It has been a long time to wait, but I think powderhounds will be pleased with the outcome.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

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I-95 CORRIDOR...PREPARE FOR A STORMY,
COLD AND SNOWY END TO JANUARY.

As you already know, a major pattern break is coming, along with a 30 F temperature drop this Friday for the Northeast. Snow? Maybe flurries or a touch of light snow in the mountains of central PA/western MD as the front passes, but rain along the coast Thursday night and Friday.

Super cold this coming weekend, highs not getting out of the 20's and 30's for most areas north of DC. Lows in teens to single digits in outlying areas. Snowpack areas of the I-80 corridor may flirt with zero again.

Then next week, the real setup begins. The forecast model above indicates .25 to .50 liquid precip over the I-95 corridor for next Saturday 1/22, preceded by .25 on Friday, and followed by .25 on Sunday. That adds up to about 1.0 liquid, which if it pans out, means roughly 10 inches falling out of the sky for the areas in blue and green. That is not to say 10 inches of snow WILL be on the ground, it is an early indication that the pattern is setting up for nor'easters to develop which could be the start of a 1-2 week period of storminess to take us into February. By early next week, I'll have a better idea of how this storm will look.

When I get a snowfall estimate map available, I will post it in the next couple days. Enjoy the summer preview, for winter is about to strike back hard.

Oh I can just hear the powderhounds howling now.


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FIRST....SUMMER, THEN THEN BACK TO WINTER

I've been keeping a close eye on the pattern break coming this weekend. Wherever you live if along the East Coast, Mid West or central Plains, you are likely to see a 30 to 50 degree temperature drop between Wednesday and Friday. Temps along I-95 will soar to near 70 from Baltimore on south, and in the 60's north.

For my East Coast Powderhounds...no big snow just yet with the Ultra Arctic front sweeping east Thursday-Friday, but it is the beginning of a major big huge shift in the weather pattern for the next 3-4 weeks. And just guess what that pattern shift might be? Cold, snowy and stormy... just like winter is supposed to be about this time of year.

After Monday of next week, it looks as though the snow machine is going to kick into gear, both for the Great Lakes region, as well as the East Coast. As soon as I get a whiff of the next big storm, you'll be the first to know.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

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MAJOR ICE STORM IN PROGRESS OVER THE MIDWEST, CENTRAL PA, NORTHERN NJ, NY AND NEW ENGLAND


A Winter Storm Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for Wednesday morning through Thursday morning for central, northern and northeastern Pennsylvania into New York State. Snow accumulations will range around 2-3" south of I-80, and 3-6" north of I-80 before the precip turns to freezing rain and sleet. Travel will be hazardous if not life threating on rural roads that are untreated.

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for portions of southcentral Pennsylvania. Snow accumulations will generally be less than 2" but the potential exists for ice accumulations from a coating in urban areas up to 1/8" inch in rural areas. Mountainous areas of central and western Maryland are expected to stay slightly above freezing, so any ice will be confined to above 1500 feet.

This is a life threatening weather event which has the potential to cut power to thousands of homes throughout the areas covered by the warnings...especially in central and northern Pennsylvania into New York State.


AN OVERVIEW OF THE IMPACTS FROM THIS STORM

SCHOOLS:
- Many schools in central and northern PA decided to close for Wednesday instead of face the risk of an early dismissal amidst an ice storm. Overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, accumulations of ice will reach dangerous levels, causing massive downing of trees and powerlines. In higher elevations, thicknesses are expected to exceed 1/2 inch. This will keep central/northern PA schools closed for Thursday AND Friday, and possibly into early next week.

- In southcentral and southeastern PA, light freezing precip will occur late tonight, making a tough decision for school officials Thursday morning. I think districts in more outlying areas of Lancaster County and beyond will pick the safe route and stay closed instead of risking a 2-hour delay in the hopes the ice will melt in time for the buses.

COMMUNITIES AND TOWNS:
- In central/northern PA, One half inch of ice mixed with 2-3" of snow will bring down a majority of neighborhood power lines and many trees, causing massive power outages for over 24 hours in many areas.

- Those large transmission towers?... they are built to withstand up to 1 inch of ice, which is thousands of pounds of additional stress. If ice thicknesses go beyond an inch, those towers will begin to crumble, crippling the power grid for hundreds of thousands of people. While this is unlikely, icing events can change the outcome of the storm in a short period of time.

- Public utilities and government agencies will underestimate the severity of the problem until it is happening. Power restoration crews will not be able to keep up with the crushing load of outages, hence some people will go for 24 hours or more without electricity.

- In central PA, roads, sidewalks and just about every object outside your house will become so slippery that travel will be almost impossible until the ice melts.

- Southeastern PA will be spared most of the agony, as warmer air will allow the sleet to change back to rain before it accumulates too much. But there will still be plenty of slick spots on Thursday morning, as well as plenty of accidents along with them.

- Air travel? Fuggetaboutit.

ANYONE ELSE AFFECTED BY THIS STORM?

If you mean Maryland, Delaware, Virginia... the answer is... rain. If you've seen the news, then you know the Rockies, Midwest and New England have been or will be hammered with heavy snow and crippling ice. You can see from the snowfall map above who's going to get hammered and who will be spared. Far western MD counties in the mountains will see mostly rain with a bit of freezing precip in higher elevations. Rainfall amounts in those areas will exceed 1 inch. Coastal areas, including metro Richmond, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia will see up to 1 inch of rain over the next 36 hours, producing some small stream and urban street flooding.

WHERE'S THE SNOW? WAAAAA!

No snowstorms for the I-95 corridor through at least next Tuesday. I already told you January will be a virtual snowless month, except for the very last week. I will, however be issuing my mid winter forecast soon. The increasing warmth is going to cause our weather for the rest of the winter to go completely haywire. Highs along the I-95 corridor may approach 70 early next week. This means that March is occuring in January, which means February has the potential to be an extremely cold and wintry month, which would lead to April occuring in March, allowing for a very rapid return to spring, leading to a cooler than normal summer...and so on. You get the idea.

The next update Thursday morning.