Jonas 2016: ♫ People Are Blowing Snow ♫

If you haven’t thought of the Weezer song with regard to this storm, you’ve failed me. It deserves some parody. I tried. Oh well. Onward…

What’s changed since yesterday, Matt?

Not much. Other than bread and milk supplies in the grocery store being dwindled.

  • The storm is still coming.
  • It still appears the metro Washington, DC area is the bullseye for snow.
  • Coastal flooding is still a serious concern.
  • Blizzard Watches have been expanded to include much of Jersey, Philly, and the New York City area and Blizzard Warnings are posted for DC and Baltimore.
  • The northern edge of the storm is still going to drive most meteorologists to their local bar.

So how much snow for me?

Here’s my updated map:

012116_Snow_Forecast
My own personal snow forecast as of 5:30 PM ET Thursday. Again, not official, but my way of expressing it.

Again, I’ve highlighted the two key areas of uncertainty. The northern fringe is going to be a royal pain. There are some models that still bring good snow 8-12″ to NYC, but I don’t personally buy that scenario right now. Based on my experience, these sorts of storms have disappointed on the northern fringe, so I’d rather take a conservative stance there.

From Philly into Baltimore and DC, it gets complicated too. You’ll have a number of factors driving snow totals. I expect there to be issues with mixing in spots. Convection (thunderstorms…yes, thundersnow) will also be likely with this storm. In those cases, sometimes strong bands of snow setup over one place and effectively “rob” another of snowfall. So it’s possible that the final snow totals will not look this uniform. You could easily go from 18″ one place, to 10-12″ a couple towns over, back to 18″ a couple towns over from that. It’s chaotic. Snow forecasts aren’t meant to be simple.

What about the blizzard part?

Yes, Blizzard Watches and Warnings are posted all over. Fun fact: The amount of snow you see has 0 factor in whether or not a storm is defined as a blizzard. Why is that? My honest answer is because we like to make things difficult on ourselves as forecasters and communicators. That aside, it has to do with impacts mostly. A blizzard is supposed to mean wind, which limits how many storms meet the criteria of one…thus making it special and making it stand out.

For a storm to be a blizzard, it has to have 3 hours of winds sustained at or frequently gusting to 35 mph and visibility below 1/4 mile. That’s all. So we’ll see if that gets achieved, but based on model data, yes, it looks like blizzard criteria will be met at many places. For the sake of yourself, stay home Saturday.

How about the coastal flooding?

Here are the very latest tidal forecasts for Cape May, Atlantic City, and Sandy Hook. You can select others from those sites.

I heard this was going to be like Sandy?

Here’s something that agitated me today. I heard from several people somewhat panicked, thinking this was going to be Sandy II. Sandy was a 940 mb monster storm to the south of NJ, that was dragging days of water across the Atlantic Ocean directly into Jersey and New York. This storm will be strong, but it will be moving away from the coast. It won’t have nearly the same characteristics as Sandy did. Meteorologically, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

But in terms of actual impact what does it mean? It means something worse than what you saw back in October with Joaquin, but short of what you saw in Sandy. It means a lot of water, yes, and major coastal flooding and a top 10 event perhaps. It means problems. The coast is more vulnerable now than it was 5 years ago.

That said, it does not mean mass devastation like was seen in Sandy. So you are right to be preparing and be concerned. But should you panic? No. Make your preparations as you would for any major coastal storm. Remain calm and heed the forecasts of the National Weather Service.

This will likely be my final forecast post on this storm. Thanks for reading and hope you have some time to enjoy the power of nature without being impacted too hard.

Follow me on Twitter @mattlanza.

Jonas 2016: Make Snow Forecasting Great Again

I don’t have any mom texts to run with today, but I do have a map. We’ll get to that shortly. Let’s break things down.

So what’s changed since yesterday, Matt?

Honestly? Not much really. We still have a storm. It’s still early in the game for snow forecast maps, but we can at least make some assumptions. We still have a major coastal flooding issue to deal with. We do have blizzard watches posted, among other NWS watches and warnings. All this means is “prepare for a snowstorm.”

Where are the watches and warnings?

Glad you asked. Here:

012016_snowwarnings
National Weather Service Watch/Warning Map as of 5:45 ET Wednesday

In the East, the purple are winter weather advisories, the blue winter storm watches, the pink winter storm warnings, and the green near DC is a Blizzard Watch. Consult your local NWS office website for what it all means exactly, but the bottom line is a major winter storm is going impact places from Central Arkansas to New York City.

Has the coastal flooding idea changed?

Not really. There have been some forecast tweaks, but overall you’re still looking at a top 5-10 coastal flooding event along the Jersey and Delaware Shore, and possibly for places south and north of there also. Basically, this should be the worst you’ve seen since Sandy. It should *not* match Sandy in most places (though in Cape May and Delaware it’s going to come close), but I don’t want that to diminish the significance. The coast is far more vulnerable in spots now than it was then, so just because it’s not Sandy II, does not mean it’s going to bust. This is a big deal. Here are the very latest tidal forecasts for Cape May, Atlantic City, and Sandy Hook.

This flooding event will rival some of the great nor’easters in memory. Think Ash Wednesday 1962, Halloween 1991, December 1992. This storm will have elements of those storms and it should be treated seriously if you live on the coast or back bays.

Alright, so talk to me about snow.

Here is *my* snow forecast thinking. This is not an official forecast. It’s subject to change, and you should always consult the official NWS forecast or local TV for the most up to date info. Yes, I’m a native of Jersey and spent 5 winters drawing snow maps in Upstate New York when I worked in Syracuse and Utica, but I live in Texas now. I can only do so much.

012016_Snow_Forecast
My snow forecast as of Wednesday evening. Not an official forecast, just my own opinion.

What do I think? Some key points.

The northern fringe of this storm is an absolute nightmare. If you live north of I-195 in NJ or I-76 in PA, this is going to be an incredibly difficult forecast to peg down. The tight gradient in snowfall that I spoke of yesterday is going to wreak havoc. A 20 mile shift in track of the storm (highly possible) could lead to a 6-12″ difference in snow totals, if not more. This is going to be a big problem for North Jersey, possibly the Harrisburg metro area, New York City and extreme southern Connecticut/Long Island.

The Jersey Shore is oscillating between a total mix scenario and a thumping snow. I don’t think this is like the storms of 2009 and 2010, where coastal South Jersey absolutely raked in snow totals. This will be more complex, and I’ve cautiously gone about 3-6″ there, but I do see risk for higher amounts depending on the exact final track.

The thump zone for this will be Northern/Western Virginia through DC and Baltimore. While I don’t expect a uniform 18-24″ in that zone, I do expect some locations to push 30″, contingent on mixing and thunderstorm potential. Other areas will see less than 18″. That’s the nature of snowstorms like this.

Yes, thunder is going to be likely from VA through NJ with this I think.

Winds of 30-50 mph are likely, and some gusts could be even stronger. This will create blizzard conditions. I would not be shocked to see Blizzard Watches expanded tomorrow.

Anything else I should know?

Snowstorms are fun. This one is going to be big, massive, and historic. While fun, it has a very serious element to it that should be respected. If you have plans on Saturday, I would strongly consider rescheduling them. Heed the warnings from NWS. They’re not just throwing this stuff out there. It’s serious.

And please consider taking pictures of something other than your patio furniture. Seriously. Get creative!

Follow me on Twitter @mattlanza.

Facebook Us…Oh, And Snow.

It’s been a disruptive month for State of Occlusion! Transitioning my life offline from the West Coast to the East Coast, so haven’t had time to blog. I’ve discovered Facebook to be an extremely useful tool to communicate short bursts of information and post maps quickly. I will occasionally use this blog to elaborate on various significant events, but in the meantime, for the latest thoughts and information from me, like the Facebook page and tell your friends. We’ve already got 100 fans…let’s go for 200!

Follow State of Occlusion on Facebook for the latest!

In the meantime, while many in the Northeast enjoyed record warmth this Friday, winter is around the corner ready to take its season back. It will be cooler and extremely windy Saturday, followed by a leveling off of temps Sun and Mon. One storm will swing through Monday, potentially dropping heavy snow on Upstate NY, far N PA, into Connecticut and Southern/Central New England. Round two will affect areas south of I-80, somewhere between DC and New York, bringing the potential for very heavy snow on Tuesday as colder, Arctic air pours in. Right now the best odds for this appear to me to be between Baltimore and Allentown, back west across all of PA into Ohio and east into NJ. Potential does exist for 6″ or more with this storm, so this may cause significant travel issues in the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday. Cold Wednesday followed by another semi-thaw (though not to the extent you saw this week).

I will post updates on Facebook through the holiday weekend.

So About Next Week…

Tonight's 00Z European Model Forecast for Next Wednesday Evening (http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~gadomski)

I’m not one to go bonkers when it comes to any particular storm (in fact, you read me discussing how I would be apt to NOT hype next week a couple days ago). But I think now it’s obvious we have something rather significant showing up here. The three major models tonight all went nuts for the middle of next week, showing an absolutely massive storm slowly rolling up the East Coast. When all three models lock in on a massive storm, that very often means that they’re right. Models struggle and they can be a bit inconsistent at times, but when it comes to the extremely large, widespread or historic sized events, they are usually quick to hit on things. I’m not saying that next week’s storm will be historic, but there’s no question we’re now looking at a significant to major event for much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Tonight's 00Z GFS Model Forecast for Next Wednesday Evening (http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~gadomski)

So what are the details? Well, it’s far too early to speculate, but we’ll do just that because we can. Based on tonight’s model runs, we’d be looking at a snow to mix/rain ending as snow event from I-95 to the coast (and even a little further inland from there), with extremely heavy snow/mix possible from the Smokeys north into Upstate NY and interior New England. The storm is also extremely slow moving. For example, the precip begins in Philly on tonight’s Euro run at about Midnight Wednesday and does not end until about 9-11 AM Thursday. Snow moves into the Albany area around 9 AM Wednesday and doesn’t depart until after Noon on Thursday. These aren’t forecasts…they’re just examples of what the model is showing and emphasis on a 24+ hour event.

Tonight's 00Z Canadian Model Forecast for Next Wednesday Evening (http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~gadomski)

The other issue then is track. Tonight’s runs are up along or just inland from the coast. That is extremely unfavorable for heavy snow from DC-Boston…that’s a wet track, not a white one. However, if you look closely at each model’s ensemble mean, you’ll see the track is still fairly far offshore. What does this mean? That the operational models *may* be on the extreme west edge of the track forecast envelope. I wouldn’t go shouting from the rooftops just yet, but it’s something to keep in mind.

We’ve seen a lot of storms the last couple winters, but this one I think is the most impressive looking in terms of physical size and slow track. We’re in a powder keg pattern right now, and this may be the fuse that helps things explode. I’m not going to get into details of the meteorology behind what’s happening right now, but we need to watch things very closely over the next few days. But each model run has looked more impressive with this storm, not less impressive, and that trend may continue as we get closer.

Unfortunately, I’m heading out of town Friday afternoon…well, actually I’m moving, but taking a week or so to drive to Texas, so my updates will be much more infrequent. However, make sure you “like” State of Occlusion on Facebook, as I’ll post updates each night/morning with the latest information. This really could be a big time event, so stay tuned!

What 2 Watch 4

Watching the Onion Sports Dome tonight, so there’s a play on SportsCenter. A couple things to watch. As the annoying snow/ice/sleet/rain storm exits the Northeast tonight, attention focuses on the next two systems. The first one looks to bring a quick hitting shot of snow in a couple days, followed by a much stronger and larger system next week, who’s ultimate fate remains to be seen.

GFS Forecast for Friday Morning, credit: PSU E-Wall (http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~gadomski)

A very quick moving system will swing through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Thursday night and exiting Friday afternoon. The map to the left shows the GFS forecast for Friday morning, which has a pocket of moderate to heavy precip in Central Jersey and just south of Long Island. This is a pretty cut and dry situation, with the system sliding through. The only final question is on track. Once that’s in line, we can pin down amounts and locations. Right now it appears that there will be a solid stripe of 2-4″, surrounded by lighter amounts. At this point, the models pin it north of the Mason-Dixon Line and northwest of I-95. So Philly-NYC expect roughly 2-4″ right now. There is the chance it could be closer to 5-6″ in spots, but this will not be a major storm. Then, as the storm blows up exiting the New England coastal region, we could see some heavy snow fly back toward Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. I wouldn’t be shocked to see higher amounts there. Heavy snow will also fall in western Maryland and western PA and parts of WV.

Now heading into next week, the models continue to advertise a significant East Coast event. I’m not entirely convinced this will be a big snow event for anyone in particular. The three main models (Canadian, American, and European) all show the storm. The GFS is a little more suppressed, which isn’t abnormal. So it would just be a mild snow event. The European and Canadian models are much stronger and hug the coast. So what we have here is a situation. We’re a week away and we have a storm showing up, and it could be potentially strong. We’ve got it showing up a little further west than more recent big snow events on the whole. And we have disagreements on overall track.

So, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about next week. The bottom line: Way too far out to hype this thing. It could do any number of things. It could be snow, it could be rain, it could be a mix, it could be nothing. So stay tuned!

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State of Occlusion is on Facebook! I’ll post some additional cool links, quick model status updates, and snow maps early on that page. “Like” the blog by clicking here!

Here We Snow Again!

Snowfall Forecast for Tues/Wed.

There’s the snow map at the left. Here’s some ideas by region.

– Boston area could see some very high snow amounts of 16-20″, depending on the exact track of the storm. If the storm tracks just right, they could get slammed, as some models suggest. Interior Southern New England right now would appear to be the jackpot, but I wanted to emphasize the risk to the Boston area. Parts of CT and MA may see some 20″+ amounts, with generic 8-16″ amounts as you approach the coast (some coastal areas and the CT River Valley may see lesser amounts). Cape Cod will likely be close enough to the storm to mix or change to rain. This will cut down on snow amounts a bit there. Additionally, wind will crank on Wednesday, leading to blizzard conditions in parts of New England.

– Metro NYC area/NE NJ won’t be the jackpot this time around. However, this still appears to be a respectable, business hampering snow. Think of the last system that went through, think of post-Christmas, and expect this storm to end up somewhere in between the two. There will yet again be a very sharp cutoff to significant snows, somewhere within the I-287 corridor. Blowing and drifting snow will occur in this region Tuesday night and Wednesday.

– Southern NJ will be close to the center of the storm, so I do expect the possibility of a mix. It also appears the storm will really explode a little too far away from this area this time. I still expect a respectable 4-8″, with the potential for higher amounts in mainland Cape May, Atlantic, Burlington, and Ocean Counties (6-10 perhaps?). Coastal sections may even see less, primarily in Cape May County. If mixing for some reason does not occur, tack on an additional 2-4″ to these forecast amounts. Blowing snow will cause a few problems Wednesday.

– Philly/Trenton will be solidly in the 4-8″ range, with potential for higher amounts (8-12) as you get closer to Trenton/New Brunswick and slightly lesser amounts as you slide south and west of Philly. Blowing snow will be a problem on Wednesday.

– DC/Baltimore appear to be in the 1-4″ range, with again potential for higher amounts in the northeast corner of the map. Much of the interior back through OH/MI will average 1-4″ as well, with potential for a few 4-6″ amounts in spots, depending on how things shake out.

And that’s that! After this storm, it appears we’ll head into a relative period of calm in the Northeast. So enjoy this if you like big storms and snow. Winter is certainly not over though, so stay tuned.

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Just a reminder… State of Occlusion is on Facebook. I’ve posted some additional cool links, quick model updates, and snow maps early on that page. “Like” the blog by clicking here!

More Wintry Mayhem

This might be the worst period of travel of all the storms we’ve seen the last two winters. With 1,000 flights cancelled in Atlanta tomorrow, and the odds increasing that this southern storm is going to become a major Northeast snowstorm, airline schedules are going to be absolutely logjammed this week. This is looking ugly right now. Travel in the Deep South is becoming difficult if not impossible in spots. A stripe of 3-6″+ of snow, plus a stripe of 1/4-1/2″ ice accretion, and you have issues.

Snowfall Outlook for the Midweek Storm (Not a forecast)

My snowfall outlook for the Northeast is at the left. We’re still a solid 48 hours away from things beginning. But this is just meant to give you an idea of the highest probabilities of the highest snow. This is not meant to be a forecast and should not be treated like one. To sum up the models this morning: All models take the low and develop off the Northeast coast. Some are closer than others (NAM/Euro) and bring heavier precip. There’s going to be (again) a sharp cutoff of the western extent of the real heavy snow, vs. generic 3-7″ totals. There will also be a sharp southwestern cutoff to this as well.

So what does this mean? It means that in specifically New Jersey I think, there’s going to be a very sharp gradient that cuts off somewhere between Atlantic City, Trenton, and about Parsippany. North and east of that line, odds for heavy snow (6-12+) increases significantly. South and west of it, the odds drop off. It will be a little while before we can really peg that down. So for now, roughly from about NYC into New England stands the highest odds for significant snow. There is a strong possibility of a 12-18″ area of major snows, somewhere between the immediate north and east side of NYC into Southern New England. Mixing may cut down some totals in Eastern Long Island and coastal S New England, but for now, I just carpet bombed the whole area for potentially significant snows until we can know more. The DC and Baltimore areas, as has been the case most of this winter, look to get shafted by this storm, caught in between the developing coastal and dying inland low. I think this means 1-3″ at most, but we’ll see. Philly is on the cusp between the heavy stuff and nuisance stuff, so think 4-8/5-10 type snows for now.

Can things change? Yes. The NAM and Euro models are the beefiest right now in terms of heavy snow. In my opinion, they’ve had some strengths this winter, so I’m leaning more heavily on them together. The GFS model is a little too far offshore in my opinion, and thus produces lighter snow. The short range ensembles are also not very excited about this storm, but they also underestimated snow in the last event, so I would take them with a grain of salt.

So stay tuned, as there will be tweaks and changes, but I feel personally that this will be a nuisance event in DC/BWI, moderate event for Philly and South Jersey (potentially significant for the Shore), a significant to borderline major event for NYC, and a major event for much of interior Southern New England (some shadowing may occur in some areas, so it may not hammer ALL of SNE, but it looks promising to be good for many).

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Just a reminder… State of Occlusion is on Facebook. I’ve posted some additional cool links, quick model updates, and snow maps early on that page. “Like” the blog by clicking here!