Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Significant Winter Storm to Impact Area

Odds are increasing that a high impact winter storm will impact the region beginning early tomorrow morning and continuing to tomorrow evening. Uncertainty still exists with regards to the potential for mixed precipitation, as well as where the heaviest banding will setup. Nonetheless, most if not everyone in the region will see eventful winter weather...and some will see substantial impacts to travel and activities. 

Below, you'll see the 06z GFS model. As we get closer and closer to the event, I'd suggest weighing more heavily on the mesoscale models like the NAM, RGEM etc. 

The 06z GFS run from 2/17. This indicates a period of snow and then mixing for the DC area.


Next is the 06z NAM run followed by the 06z RGEM run (that is a Canadian regional model). 

The 06z NAM run from 2/17. Another possible progression to the storm system.



06z RGEM model (a Canadian produced model). 

At this point in time, I think it's safe to say that the favored areas to the north and west of the I-95 corridor will do the best in terms of snow totals. Sleet and freezing rain mix potential will cut down the snow totals closer to the metro area as well as to the south and east of the corridor. 

That said, the less snow any one location sees, the more sleet and icing will be possible. Areas near Fredericksburg and running into Southern Maryland have the potential for a SIGNIFICANT icing event after an initial burst of snow. In these areas, there's even the chance at icing accretion of in excess of a quarter inch. This could lead to power outages in areas hardest hit. 

Conditions may vary greatly over relatively short distances. Thus, your exact location will have large impacts to your exact forecast. I'll do my best to break it down here - apologies if your exact location is not mentioned. 

I-95 Corridor (including areas like Silver Spring, Laurel, and running up towards Baltimore)

2-4 inches of snowfall seems probable. After that, some accumulation of sleet (possibly significant) may occur to give a "crust" to the snow. Additionally, a little glaze (up to a tenth of an inch or so) will be possible to top it all off. A true, "kitchen sink" of precipitation types and NOT fun for driving or even walking. 

North and West Zones (including areas like Frederick, Westminster, Sugarloaf Mountain, Damascus etc - think places like Frederick and Carroll County in MD and Loudoun in VA)

4-8 inches of snowfall with isolated totals to 10 inches. This area may not see much mixing at all - but a little sleet is possible - especially the further south and east you get (closer to the first zone up above). This area should see a storm system more heavily weighted towards snow. Power outage risk should be much lower for these places.

South and East Zones (including areas like Fredericksburg, Charles County, Calvert/St. Mary's)

1-4 inches of snowfall with the most likely being in the 1-3 range. Sleet may become the predominant precipitation type pretty quickly in this area. Even then, a transition to freezing rain may occur much sooner than the other areas listed. This is dangerous as it will create the potential for a significant ice storm component. At least a tenth of an inch of ice, with the potential for four tenths (perhaps even a half inch in spots) will be possible here. This will be enough to cause potential power outages and MAJOR travel concerns. Folks in this area should at least PREPARE for the potential of outages. 

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Of course, all of the forecast hinges on how deep and how far north the warm layer above the surface gets. Confidence is high that this storm will have a good supply of fresh cold air to work with at the surface. But there will be some warmer layers of the atmosphere up near the 700mb level that will be the cause of the mixed precip. If these layers are only thin and not too warm, sleet may be predominate in the mixing. However, if the warm layer is on the warmer or thicker side, freezing rain would become more probable. These are factors that are difficult to forecast even at shorter ranges. 

Stay tuned for any refinements or updates to the forecast. This should be a pretty significant/high-impact winter storm for the region. There's the potential for more "waves" behind this system. It's possible these will favor plain rain, though. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Another Two Part Winter Event

The National Weather Service has posted a *Winter Weather Advisory* for most of the area for tonight into tomorrow. All indications are that a slug of snowfall will impact the area from this evening into tomorrow morning. That being said, most guidance has converged on lower snow totals than were seen as being possible earlier in the week. Even so, the Euro model still indicates a shot at low-end warning criteria. In general, I think the NWS call for 1-3 inches of snow tonight is solid. I think it could push into the 2-4 inch range in spots that get better snowfall rates. 

The second wave looks to miss the DC-Baltimore corridor to the south. However, it's not out of the range of possibilities for this to trend back north. This second part of the system would be from later on Thursday and into Friday. 

TL;DR - A general 1-3 inches for much of the area tonight into tomorrow. Roads may be dangerous for travel. Some areas could see a bit higher. The second wave is still uncertain but for now, looks to miss. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Long Duration Winter Storm Possible

Confidence is high that winter weather will impact the region once again this week. Currently, it appears that snow will develop from west to east across the area on Wednesday afternoon or evening. There continues to be some model disagreement with regards to exact details. This storm system is actually two "waves," and one may become dominant while one reduce in intensity. For this reason, while the odds for winter precipitation are high, the confidence in the exact timing or amounts are less certain. 

The 06z NAM model run from early morning on 2/9. This shows the progression that this model thinks is possible for the winter weather event for Wed-Fri. (Source: Pivotal Weather)

The 06z RGEM model from early morning on 2/9. This shows another model's take on what may transpire with the storm system for Wed-Fri. (Source: Pivotal Weather)

The 06z GFS model run from early on 2/9. This is just another example of another forecast model trying to crunch the numbers to determine what may happen for our next winter storm. (Source: Pivotal Weather)


You can see from the above forecast model loops, that the timing and intensity varies from one model to the next. However, there is a good chance at 1" or more of snowfall areawide (with the usual exceptions perhaps being to the areas south and east of the metro corridor). I'd even go farther and say that the chance for 2" or more are also quite high. Beyond that, a lot will rely on how potent each of the waves turns out to be in reality. This could be yet another situation of a winter storm that has a slug of snow, a lull and then perhaps additional snowfall with wave two. 

There is a chance that this could be a 4-8" snowstorm when all is said and done. Some mixing will be possible to the south and east. 

Taking a blend of various models gives the area a very healthy snowstorm. For now...I'd forecast 2+ inches with this system and leave it at that until some additional clarity is given by short term forecasting. 

"National Blend of Models" product from Pivotal Weather. This is a blended map showing what a blend of various weather models thinks will occur. This *could* be on the high end IF the system becomes weaker than modeled.


Looking even further ahead...there appears to be winter storm threats (very low confidence forecast at this time) for the weekend and then again Tue/Wed of next week. There's some early indication that significant ice could be in play for the weekend system...but of course it is too early to say with any sort of certainty. 

The bottom line is that we should continue to see a parade of at least THREATS for winter storms. Whether these pan out remains to be seen. However, the pattern certainly supports continued attacks by Old Man Winter. I'll continue to keep you updated as each system gets closer in time. 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Winter Storm Warning for Tonight

* Quick hitting winter storm to impact the area overnight *

Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for most of the DC/Baltimore area for tonight. Snowfall from a fast moving storm system will move into the area after midnight. By sunrise, most of the area should be seeing snowfall...and some could be heavy at times. Some rain and/or mixing is possible mainly south and east of the I-95 corridor. The snowfall will be ending and departing the area by the early afternoon. 

Due to the potential for a few heavy bands of snow...this system may drop between three and six inches in a narrow stripe in the metro area. Keep in mind...only small adjustments could shift this area of heavier snowfall north and west or east and south. 

Temperatures will be on the rise Sunday afternoon, so plowing and melting should allow roads to become quickly passable again. That being said, the snow will be heavy enough to cause significant travel problems on the roads during the morning. I'd suggest staying off the roads until the afternoon. 

No fancy maps this time, as this will be a quick post for a quick hitting storm. 

Looking ahead, the pattern will support additional chances for significant winter weather during the later part of the coming week. But we'll dive more into that as the potential gets closer in time. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Storm Winding Down - What's Next? [VIDEO]

Note from Pulse Weather: The video that goes along with this video is included both here, and at the bottom of this post for your convenience. The details in the text are covered in the video edition as well.

What's Next for DC's Winter? VIDEO

The current storm is starting to wind down across the area. I'll describe that storm system as a bit of an odd one. This particular type of storm is classified as something called a "Miller B" storm. Miller Bs are characterized by a primary low pressure system heading into the Ohio Valley and then redeveloping or transferring to the coast. Most of the time, the Washington, DC area tends to get a little "screwed" by these types of storms as they often develop the coastal just a little too late. 

Areas along the Mason-Dixon Line were treated to some great wraparound snowfall this afternoon. Totals there have really ramped up. Totals locally in Montgomery County and the DC/Baltimore area have been more tempered. It was an odd storm that spread light wintry precip out in a span of a few full days. 

Snowfall totals as shown by a map from the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia (LWX). This image is courtesy of their website. Click for full size image. 


Snow showers may continue through the night and into tomorrow in spots. Some gusty winds may also be  a factor - particularly to the north and east. 

So...What's next? [NOTE: A video is included at the bottom of this video for those not wanting to read a wall of text]

1) Moderating temperatures later in the week: Later this week, in the wake of our current storm system, temperatures will be able to rebound a bit into the 40s. This will be ahead of the next weather maker over the coming weekend. 

2) Significant dump of Arctic air with the potential for an associated batch of snow squalls: During the coming weekend, a significant batch of frigid air will come out of Canada and move eastward to impact the area. There's a chance that a secondary front behind the initial one could produce snow squalls similar to the Valentine's Day snow squalls in 2015. This is discussed in more detail in the video below. 

Robust shot of Arctic air shown dumping out of Canada on the 18z GFS model run. (Source: TropicalTidbits) - Click on the image for the full size. 


3) Storm system for the 2/8 or 2/9 timeframe: After the dump of Arctic air, a potential storm system will develop in the southern half of the country. Depending on the exact evolution of various upper level features, this storm system could pose a threat for significant winter weather in the area. Of course, being seven days out increases the amount of uncertainty. 

4) Follow up storm system for the period around 2/10: Immediately in the wake of the potential storm system for 2/8-9...another storm system may develop in the Gulf Coast states and track along the eastern seaboard. Being 10 or so days out significantly decreases confidence in any one model solution at this time - but this could pose a threat for follow-up winter weather for the region. 

All of these potential winter weather threats are due in part to a very favorable upper air pattern. A favorable -NAO block is forecast to be in place near Greenland. Of course, details will be easier to forecast as we get closer, but the threat is there for long lead winter storms. Occasionally, in this type of pattern, confidence can be higher from longer leads due to blocking and pattern stability. We'll see if things are more clear than they were with this most recent winter storm. 

500mb pattern as depicted by the GFS Ensembles from the 18z run on 2/1/2021. (Source: TropicalTidbits) - Click on the image for the full size. 


The big area of positive height anomalies shown near Greenland is what is referred to as a -NAO. Negative anomalies in this area would be a +NAO. There are other indices to monitor as well. The PNA and AO are other factor. Perhaps a winter storm hunter "crash course" would be an interesting post for the future. 

Check out the video that goes along with this latest post!