A Touch More Snow, Then Bitter Cold!

windchill (1)Low pressure sliding in from the west will freshen up our snow cover tonight into Friday.  There will be periods of light snow and flurries and some spots might even get a moderate burst of snow for a short time.  Most of the precipitation will fall between midnight and noon Friday, however I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few flurries around earlier in the night.  Also, a south wind will keep temperatures up tonight.  In fact, they may rise a few degrees and it is possible that there could also be rain showers tonight in some locations south & east of Hartford, CT.  This looks like a 1″-3″ type of event for us, with more places seeing 1″ or 2″ and fewer seeing 3″.  It is even possible that a few spots could see less than an inch – especially in those locations where any of the precipitation is light rain/showers instead of snow.

Any lingering snow will taper to flurries by Friday afternoon and there could be some partial clearing.  A northwest wind will be increasing during Friday afternoon and night, getting up to 15-30 mph, with higher gusts.  Arctic air will flow in and take full hold Friday night and Saturday, sending lows into the single numbers and low teens Friday night, with the wind chill factor dropping to near -20 at times (this can produce frostbite on exposed skin in 30 minutes).  Highs Saturday will be in the teens-low 20′s at best and it will still be windy.

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You Can Never Be Too Safe

Valley Forge Cancellations

Click To Enlarge

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A Historic Bust?

SubwaySo the big storm pretty much panned out as expected for eastern New England and many places in southern New England to the south & east of Hartford.  But north & west of Hartford and for the 9 million residents of America’s largest city it was considered a historic bust!  Although I would argue that because the atmosphere is always changing, the forecast is always changing, and there is really no cut-off time for the last forecast to be submitted.  Adjustments should continue through the completion of the event.  When people ask me how accurate I am, I have been know to say that I am 100% accurate, but sometimes I can only give you 2 minutes notice.  I am only partially joking when I say that, but I realize people want to know what tomorrow’s weather will be today, so they have time to make or change plans.  I hope that I was able to convey to you in some of my previous posts about the storm, the concern that there was a chance western areas might underperform.  This was one of those situations where you had to wait until the storm was already in progress to know whether to expect 7″ or 27″ in some places, and it probably won’t be the last.

Part of the “bust” phenomenon is due to media and political events that swirl around these forecasts of the future.  And I have to admit that I get a certain amount of satisfaction when a high profile, consensus forecast busts in spectacular fashion like this last one did for some heavily populated areas.  And I know I am not the only one.  I believe this is because it teaches us the virtue of humility.  It helps to prevent us from becoming cocky and thinking we know everything.  Our understanding is still no match for the complexities of nature.

“History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men”

- Blue Oyster Cult

 

Some notes:

  • The GFS (American model) outforecasted the ECMWF (European model) on this storm.  For all the hype and groupie like devotion the Euro has generated, especially after Sandy, it was the main reason that so many forecasts busted so badly for New York City & western CT.  It is a very good model, especially several days out, but when it is an outlier, it should not be followed with religious zealotry.
  • The mission of the National Weather Service is to protect life and property.   They rightfully use terms like “life-threatening” or “crippling” to illustrate the impacts a storm could have if it lives up to its potential.  They will always err on the side of caution.  What may be life threatening or crippling to a commercial fisherman or homeless person might just be another no work or no school day in the comfort of your living room for you, but they are attempting to keep everyone safe when danger lurks.  Plan accordingly based on your own situation.
  • Until yesterday, I haven’t watched The Weather Channel in years.  They lost me through excessive commercial loads, reality programming vs. weather coverage, and becoming too political.  I have to give them props on this storm, though.  They had the guts to start scaling back the forecast in NY City and parts of CT hours before many of the local forecasters made that call.
  • Once the media machine is in motion, trying to stop it is like standing in front of a tank.  Once you provide newsrooms with forecasts that contain words like historic and reporters and weather people are placed in the usual outdoor locations, the show must go on, regardless of changes to the forecast.  This is why you continue to see everyone basically still reporting the “Blizzard of 2015″ story in places where nothing close to a blizzard occurred.  In fact, you’re still watching it, right?  So why should they go back to syndicated programming?
  • Politicians at all levels of government are intervening too much during significant weather events.  They have discovered that (rightfully or wrongfully) how their actions are perceived during these events can make them or break them in terms of public opinion, so now they sometimes do too much.  If being involved simply meant keeping the roads clear or announcing the locations of local homeless shelters, I’d be all for it.  But closing down a city or state based on a forecast of the future?  That frequently causes more problems than it solves.  Was it really necessary to close down the NY subway system for the first time in history?  NY city has had 6 storms of 20″ or more since records have been kept.  They reported 26.9″ in a 2006 storm.  The subways never stopped during any of those events.  In fact they were built after the Blizzard of 1888 so that transportation could continue during blizzards and severe weather.  Can’t we make contingency plans in case forecast severe weather comes to fruition, but hold off implementation until it actually starts to materialize?

What are your thoughts on recent events?

 

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Morning Update

Surface Map 7 A.M. EST

Surface Map 7 A.M. EST

Well, for areas north & west of Hartford, down into New York City, it’s certainly not historic.  In fact it’s not even all that bad.  Further east, it’s a more significant event, but it’s historical significance is open to debate.  I’d prefer to wait until the dust (or in this case, the snow) clears before tackling that one.  So far, it looks like many parts of CT saw between 12″-26″ of snow, however amounts are much smaller north & west of Hartford.  At last check Bridgeport only had 5.0″.  The storm track was a bit further east than some of the modeling had indicated, so basically everything was pushed east by about 60 miles.  This was within the margin of error on the forecast map I posted yesterday, and is a good example of why I am uncomfortable when terms like “historic“, “epic“, and “crippling” start getting thrown around before an event has even begun (more on that later).

Temperatures today are in the low-mid 20′s and wind chills are in the single numbers.  There will be periods of lingering snow and flurries at times today.  Some places will get some additional accumulation – maybe even a couple inches.  Others, just another coating.   Areas of blowing & drifting snow will continue.

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The Plot Thickens!

HRRR Model Forecast Radar at 5 A.M. EST

HRRR Model Forecast Radar at 5 A.M. EST (Click To Enlarge)

The Plot Thickens!  I see The Weather Channel is downgrading the snow amounts for CT & southeastern NY based on short term guidance keeping the heaviest snow to the east.  There is a surprising amount of disagreement between models, considering that the event is already in progress!  I have been concerned about the same.  For now, I’ll keep the forecast unchanged, but am watching developments closely.  Notice how on the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model to the left, there is a sharp difference between precipitation amounts north & west of Hartford, CT vs. south & east at 5 A.M.  Can you imagine if this were to verify and the 9 million people in New York City wake up to just an ordinary snowfall?  What would the fallout be?  Should be an interesting night!

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Midday Blizzard Update

Snowfall Forecast

Snowfall Forecast

This is a very rough idea of what I’m thinking for storm totals.  The surface storm will get stacked up underneath the mid-level low (see black arrow on image below).  This will cause it to slow down and move erratically for a while.  This could cause further fluctuations in forecast snow amounts and how they line up.  Based on differences between models, the snowfall forecast image contour lines have a margin of error of +/- 75-100 miles.  These big storms always have mesocale bands that develop and produce the heaviest snow totals and sometimes contain thunder & lightning.  The location of these bands really can’t

NAM 500-mb (mid-level) and Surface Forecast for 1 PM Tuesday

NAM 500-mb (mid-level) and Surface Forecast for 1 PM Tuesday

be placed accurately until they show up on radar, but that is where the “locally highest” totals will occur.  The GFS is the least impressive model right now, but also a bit of an outlier, so I have underweighted it.

 

 

  • The heaviest snow will kick in toward and after midnight.  Many places in the 15″-30″ area will see over a foot fall in a 6-hour time frame.
  • Winds will gust over 40 mph inland by early Tuesday and over 50 mph closer to the coast and in parts of eastern CT.  Even higher gusts across southeastern New England.
  • Wind-Chills will be in the single numbers to around 0 late tonight & Tuesday.
  • Blowing & drifting of the snow will cause problems.  It will be a dry, powdery snow.
  • Visibility overnight into early Tuesday morning will be reduced to between 0 and 1/4 mile at times in the Blizzard warning areas.
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Models Trend Back West

1 AM NAM Total Precipitation Forecast (Liquid).  Compare difference to previous run below.

1 AM NAM Total Precipitation Forecast (Liquid). Compare difference to previous run below.

After trending eastward a bit during Sunday, the overnight night model runs have jogged back to the west. This means that the threat for big snow amounts (15″-30″) continues across all of southern New England and parts of southeastern NY, including New York City.  To give you an idea of the fluctuation in snow amounts being forecast in some places consider the past few runs of the NAM:

 

 

————————————————–1 PM Sunday       7 PM Sunday     1 AM Monday

Canaan, CT (Litchfield Cty.)                   10.9″                        5.5″                     25.1″

LaGuardia Airport (NYC)                        24.9″                       8.4″                     22.3″

Windsor Locks, CT                                    25.9″                       15.2″                   21.5″

Poughkeepsie, NY                                      8.8″                          5.0″                    18.7″

7 PM Sunday NAM Precipitation Forecast (liquid).  Compare to most recent run above.

7 PM Sunday NAM Precipitation Forecast (liquid). Compare to most recent run above.

You can see how much these amounts have varied in some places from run to run on the NAM, however there has been less variability in other locations like Boston, which has been up around 20″ or so on the last few runs (currently at 23.9″).  This illustrates why we shouldn’t put too much stock in a single model or single run, but have to give more weight to the trend and to a consensus of the models (after tossing outliers).  The ECMWF (Euro) model has probably been the most consistent all along, and continues to thump the entire region with big snow.  With the other models now trending back west, big snow looks like a good bet for all of southern New England, southeastern NY, and southern NH.

Expect some occasional light snow and flurries to get going during the day today.  There could be a couple inches on the ground by evening.  The real snow will come down between midnight and early Tuesday morning.  In a few hours, the morning guidance will be available and it will be time to make a final call on specifics.

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What Could Go Wrong?

NAM Precipitation Forecast (liquid)

NAM Precipitation Forecast (liquid). Notice the sharp cutoff near the NY/CT border.  Click to enlarge.

 

By now you’ve heard the mega numbers and menacing adjectives swirling around the coming storm.  Historic, crippling, 15-30″.  Is there any chance it won’t be that bad?  Well the ingredients are still there for big storm potential, but I have noticed that everything has trended a tad eastward during the past few model runs.  It would seem that unless things fluctuate back to the west again, the jackpot snows would most likely occur in eastern areas of New England.  There is the possibility that this storm won’t live up to the hype in westernmost areas.  I don’t want you to put too much stock in one model run, but consider this:  The 9 million people in New York City have been told to expect 18″-24″, with the potential for 30″ from the storm, with possibly “crippling” effects.

GFS Precipitation Forecast (liquid).  Click to enlarge.

GFS Precipitation Forecast (liquid). Click to enlarge.

The afternoon run of the NAM was putting out 24.9″ of snow for LaGuardia Airport.  Tonight’s run of the same model? 8.4″.  Why?  Because there is a fairly sharp cutoff between the mega snow amounts and much more pedestrian ones.  And New York City is very close to that cutoff.  And everything has nudged slightly to the east at last check.  For the same reason, you could argue that in the far northwest corner of Litchfield County, CT, 6″-12″ would be a reasonable forecast  based on the latest trend, and that parts of interior, eastern NY state  that are under winter storm and blizzard warnings could have trouble verifying.    Again, this is just one model, but the slight eastward trend can be seen in several models to varying extents.  With the potential high impact to our region from this storm, keep up-to-date with the latest changes.  But at this point, I think there is some question as to just how great that impact will be in westernmost areas.

1:26 A.M. update: BTW, tonight’s run of the ECMWF (the Euro) is in now and it still clobbers everybody, as it’s been doing all along.

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Blizzard Watch!

Blizzard Watch 1A Blizzard Watch has been issued for the counties in green from Monday afternoon through Wednesday morning.  All other counties (in blue) are under a Winter Storm Watch.  We don’t see blizzard watches issued that often, so now is a good time to review what that means and some general questions that always come up about big snowstorms.  Blizzard conditions are when the visibility is reduced by falling and/or blowing snow to 1/4 mile or less and winds are sustained at, or frequently gusting to at least 35 miles per hour.  Both of these conditions though, have to persist for at least 3 consecutive hours for it to be a blizzard.  Notice that according to the definition, you can have a blizzard with zero new snow accumulation (a “ground blizzard” due to blowing snow already on the ground).

Blizzard 2As the various model runs continue to indicate snow and wind for us from this storm, as we get closer to the start time (tomorrow), it is becoming increasingly likely that it will happen.  Here are some things to know:

There is the threat for a foot or more of snow in many parts of southern New England and the potential even exists for 2 feet or more somewhere in southern New England.  In addition to that there will likely be deeper drifts due to strong wind.

Could the storm go out to sea/miss us?  Yes, that is always possible, although a complete miss is becoming unlikely at this point.  These storms usually have one or more bands of especially heavy snow that develops (mesoscale bands). This is where the greatest snow amounts will fall, but it can be difficult/impossible to place these band(s) ahead of time.

Any forecast you hear becomes invalid within 6-12 hours.  Weather forecasts are not static.  They change constantly, as does the atmosphere.  Major model runs come in every 6-12 hours, and new short-term guidance is generated every hour. What you heard yesterday or even earlier today may no longer be valid.  Stay up-to-date.

Historic?  Dispelling weather rumors is more difficult than ever in the age of social media.  This storm is a good example why.  As you know, likes and shares on Facebook are similar to TV ratings.  The more you have, the more valuable your platform is.  I can understand why some would say that this storm has the potential to be historic or compare it to a past blizzard.  That will also generate a lot of likes & shares.  It looks like a lot of the ingredients are there.  But if this thing blows up a little further to the south & east, then you’ll end up with big storm over the ocean that brushes us, that most people won’t remember.  So, while you cannot dismiss this as being a memorable and potentially “historic” storm  if it lives up to its potential, it’s really too early to be throwing those kind of descriptors out.  I’d be more comfortable talking about its significance after it actually happens, if it does pan out.

The storm that will affect us has not even formed yet.  Some of the ingredients are moving east, but the main “storm” wouldn’t start developing until tomorrow.  At this point, expect some snow around by Monday afternoon, with the threat for heavy snow & wind Monday night into Tuesday.  Lighter snow may linger into Tuesday night and even part of Wednesday according to some of the models.

 

 

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Snow Storm Potential Monday Night/Tuesday

NAM Forecast 1 PM EST Tuesday

NAM Forecast 1 PM EST Tuesday (Click To Enlarge)

Models are now projecting snowstorm potential for Monday night & Tuesday!  Suggestion is jackpot amounts could be in eastern New England.  Although I’d like to see another model run or two (or three) to confirm this event, the NAM, GFS, ECMWF & GEM are all putting out snow & wind for this time frame now.

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