March 11, 2018

Another Nor'easter Will Dump Snow This Week and Nobody's Forecast Is the Same

Archaeologists will soon be able to tell time by observing the layers in the snowpack that's developed across the northeastern United States this month. The seeds of yet another nor'easter—the third in the past two weeks, if you're keeping count—are developing over the Ohio Valley and off the coast of the southeast this evening. The newly-minted storm will eventually hook toward New England on Monday night, where some folks may see more than a foot of snow by Wednesday morning.

The current pattern dictating North America's weather over the past few weeks has allowed nor'easters to return with the weekly reliability of a bad sitcom. The storm coming up on Monday and Tuesday will be the third major winter storm in two weeks. This latest storm won't be as widely impactful as the previous two, but the folks who get heavy snow will have plenty of it come Wednesday morning.

Snow will fall in two phases: the first on Sunday night and Monday in the Mid-Atlantic, and the second batch comes while the nor'easter revs up in classic fashion off the coast. The first batch of snow is already falling over the Ohio Valley this evening; some parts of Kentucky are under winter storm warnings for up to eight inches of snow.

How much snow will your town get? Pick a forecast and have fun! The uncertainty in the track of the storm is leading to some interesting and diverging forecasts. Most forecasts for most spots are roughly the same, but you can see the uncertainty in the storm's track based on the forecasts for some cities.

I can understand the frustration of folks who don't follow weather as a hobby as they try to grapple with the idea of forecast uncertainty. My town in North Carolina is currently expecting anywhere between zero and five inches of snow depending on whose forecast you read.

A more southerly track on Sunday night and Monday could expose parts of Virginia and North Carolina to heavier snow and greater accumulations than what's currently forecast. A closer track to the coast on Monday night and Tuesday could bring the heavier snow closer inland, placing more of the Northeast in the path of heavy snow than currently forecast.

Weather Prediction Center:


The latest forecast from the Weather Prediction Center shows a slug of snow starting in Kentucky this evening as the storm makes its way toward the Mid-Atlantic. Rain will change over to snow north of the storm's path, likely subjecting the Appalachians and Piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina to a quick coating on Monday.

Once the nor'easter blooms off the coast on Monday night and Tuesday, heavy snow bands on the northwest side of the storm will rake across New England and drop more than a foot of snow in many spots. Some of these towns still have a foot or more of snow on the ground from last week's storm.

The Weather Channel:

 


The Weather Channel's forecast is more bullish than the Weather Prediction Center's, showing anywhere from one to five inches of snow across north-central North Carolina, and one to three inches of snow in eastern New Jersey and New York City. Much of coastal New England will see a foot, with some spots coming in with more than a foot-and-a-half.

Despite its taste for internet dramatics and endless reality shows on television, the Atlanta-based weather behemoth has a darn good track record when it comes to forecast accuracy.

WeatherBug:


The way WeatherBug sees it, a lot of people are going to get 1 to 5 of snow (inches? millimeters? corgi-lengths?) and New England is getting ready to see...dark blue? Where's the dark blue on the scale? What are the units? I have no idea what's going on here, but they're showing a lot (maybe?) in North Carolina and Virginia, and they're giving all the big eastern cities an amount of snow. We're not sure what amount that would be, but it's certainly an amount.

AccuWeather:

 

AccuWeather's forecast on Sunday afternoon showed the heaviest snow in the Mid-Atlantic falling in the Appalachian Mountains with lighter totals extending out into the Piedmont toward Richmond, Virginia. Up in New England, the heaviest snow would fall in New Hampshire and Maine.

City Forecasts

Here are some select forecasts for cities on the East Coast as we get closer to the event. This is what you would have seen had you checked the weather around 9:00 PM Eastern on Sunday night.

Some of the forecasts are in line with each other, but they do diverge on amounts. Boston and Providence could see anywhere between 6 and 18 inches of snow depending on whose forecast you look at. New York City could between less than an inch and four inches.

The difference between accumulations is often just splitting hairs—three and five inches of snow are roughly the same in terms of impacts—but a light coating of snow can pose a significant risk in rush hour traffic compared to an inch or two that gives you a chance at some traction. On the other end of the scale, 6-10" is a solid snowstorm but vehicles can easily become stranded once you enter double-digit snows.

Either way, it looks like the big winners (a subjective term, of course) will be the Boston metro area, eastern New Hampshire, and the bulk of populated Maine. When it comes to significant rush hour issues, keep an eye on North Carolina, Virginia, and the Washington D.C. area. It doesn't take much snow to trigger mass panic, and if they're not calling for much tonight and there is accumulating snow tomorrow, lots of people will venture to work only to find themselves driving home in the snow and ice.

[Images: WSV3 / Dennis Mersereau / TWC / WeatherBug / AccuWeather]
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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I ran Gawker's The Vane for two years and I've contributed to Mental Floss, Forbes, Popular Science, and the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. I also teamed up with Outdoor Life to write a book called The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, which came out in October 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Assuming the WeatherBug forecast map is in inches, what's up with the scale and length of the color key? I can't imagine a situation where 191+ inches of snow are predicted within a 72 hour period. Good job guys.

    But in all seriousness, good job to you Dennis. Glad to see regular-ish postings from you again. I hope this venture works out for you or leads to something more substantial.

    ReplyDelete