Last Chance For Snow

I can’t remember them ever doing this before prior to this year, but once again The Weather Channel is blasting away at a coastal storm for the Mid Atlantic this weekend. I guess they haven’t really had all that much to talk about this season so they want to be the first ones to mention it. This way if the storm pans out they can say they saw it coming first. Whatever! Me… Im one that is more concerned about being accurate rather than the first one to call a storm a week in advance. But because they are blasting away at this and I am already getting a few emails I will just show you what the models are suggesting.

By no means is this my forecast, and this is certainly NOT the AccuWeather forecast.

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QUICK LOOK BACK/ EXPLANATION

For the record, it’s my belief that this winter is already over and done with and has been for quite some time now. I know this past weekend featured the coldest wind chills of the season with snow squalls, but for the most part the 2011/ ’12 winter season as a whole has been a huge disappointment for snow lovers.  With that said, the pattern has become a little more active now. We’re starting to see a series of systems, one after the next traveling across the country producing rains and snows. Some of them cut north into the Great Lakes states (Great Lakes Cutters), others run right off the Carolinas and out to sea.

So as far as the moisture is concerned, we got it. The big problem continues to be the lack of cold air and the unusally warm ocean temperatures (mid 40s). I think this past weekend was a perfect example of how mild ocean temperatures can ruin everything if you’re a snow lover. Looking back, the track of the storm this past weekend supported snow and cold. The thicknesses and temperature of the atmosphere (540 line, 850s) also both supported cold and snow. All signs with that coastal storm should of been a go! However, if you looked at the soundings (vertical profile) of the atmosphere the t -1 layer (layer closest to the ground) was well above freezing. The reason, simple …. it was an east wind driving the relatively milder ocean air inland. That’s why we saw the MINOR accumulations with the coastal storm as opposed to a significant snow. Yes it was cold enough to snow, but it was not cold enough to allow that snow to stick any longer then while it was actually snowing. As a matter of fact, once it stopped snowing almost all of it immediately melted with air temperatures in the mid to upper 30s.

Now what happened Saturday Night was a completely different event. Ths snow squalls that we picked up were associated with an arctic front that produced what’s called a quick freeze. Temperatures plunged, snow ratios became very high and quick bursts of accumulating snow developed.  That had nothing to do with the coastal storm. It was an entirely different feature. If we could get that kind of cold air in here for a longer duration of time other than just a day or two, we would have no problem getting a good snow storm around here. Unfortunately though that has not been the way the pattern has panned out this season.

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WEEKEND STORM

Let’s move ahead to the second half of this upcoming weekend. I am going to go on record and say right now that if this system does not pan out (and judging how this season has gone so far it probably won’t), that we will not see any more accumulating snow until next season. We may pick up a coating here or there or something which is more of just a nuisance, but as far as a bigger storm we’re done. It is my oppinion that this is our last chance at getting a snow storm.

Yes, I know it’s only the middle of February and some of our biggest snow storms have occurred around this time of the year, but this season is a little different. It’s different because of how warm the ocean is. With each passing day the sun gets higher in the sky, the days get longer and longer, and the temperatures with a lack of snow cover get milder. All three combined do not bode well for snow.

With that said, the European forecast model does show a sizeable storm running up the east coast. It comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, cuts north through the Carolinas and eventually off the coast of the Delmarva early Monday morning. This track keeps the Delaware Valley in the cold sector of the storm. It also suggests that the heaviest mositure would develop at night with no sun to melt it. The model, as of now, prints out 2-4 inches of snow for southern New Jersey and Delaware, but nothing more than just an inch north and west of Philadelphia. The cut off line would be I-95 from Philadelphia to Wilmington. We’ll also use the Atlantic City expressway as the other cut off line. From those points south and east it shows 2-4 inches. From those lines north and west, it’s an inch at best. My only concern once again will be the ocean temperature and how mild it keeps the air closest to the ground. If we get into a situation that is similar to what we saw this past weekend then this is nothing more than just an inch everywhere.

The GFS (Global forecast system) brings this storm out of the Gulf of Mexico northward into the Carolinas as well. However, before it can come any further north it runs off the coast and out to sea, missing the Delaware Valley. So the European is a hit while the GFS is a miss. The DGEX model actually splits the difference between the two and shows an inch in southern New Jersey with nothing north and west of Philadelphia. The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) is trending positive. This time around, believe it or not, I actually think that’s a plus for snow because the ridging that develops south and east off the coast of Florida will actually force this storm north. That favors the European model over the GFS. One thing to remember here is that it’s very early in the game and this thing could change twenty times before Sunday gets here. So tomorrow it may dissappear comletely from the models only to come back Thursday of Friday. One things for sure though and that’s I’m convinced that winter is over and done with after this system. If we don’t get snow this time around start thinking about Spring Training and the Phillies because winter is done.

Chris Sowers

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About Chris Sowers

I'm the weekend meteorologist for WPVI-TV, Action News in Philadelphia. I've been forecasting for nearly twelve years now. Some of my stops along the way include Bowling Green, Kentucky and the windy city of Chicago, Illinois. I have an identical twin brother, Gary, and a younger brother Jason. I'm a big sports nut. I watch everything from football to baseball to hockey, even horse racing. Another passion of mine is finance. There's nothing like making money, and lots of it! But most of all I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a little niece, Gabriella, and four year old nephew Hayden. They both mean the world to me. So much so that I've started a little segment on my Action News facebook fan page called "Gabby says". Once a week little Gabriella gives her forecast to the city of "Brotherly Love!" You can catch me Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6-8am, 9-10:30am and then again at noon.
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2 Responses to Last Chance For Snow

  1. Mark Bratz says:

    Chris – Excellent blog. One of my met friends- Larry Cosgrove said that the subtropical High in So. FL could push track inland. Does that make sense? Thanks!

  2. Chris Sowers says:

    Yes it does actually. That’s the positive trending NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) at work. That will force the storm up and out of the Gulf Of Mexico. The only question is how far north will it come. We need that southern branch of the jet to come out of the front range a little quicker. If it does so, look out! We get the snow storm we’ve been waiting for all winter. If it does not come out to phase with the northern branch this system will go out to sea.

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