North American Mesoscale Model Verification on January 26-27...

By: Zachary Labe , 10:34 PM GMT on January 29, 2011

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The North American Mesoscale Model (NAM) is a high resolution model courtesy of the National Center for Environmental Prediction. Another very common and referenced name for the model is the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF). They are the same model and run out to 84 hours. The purpose of the model is to run a higher resolution determining mesoscale features that often cannot be picked up by the global models due to their larger scale. The NAM can be run on an 80km resolution with a broad view of the United States, or 40km which allows the viewer to zoom in on a localized region to put up on mesoscale features. Also a very high resolution form of the NAM exists using a 12km parametric and can zoom into different states. The model is released four times a day at 0z, 6z, 12z, and 18z. Keep in mind that time is zulu or more commonly known as greenwich mean time.

Computer models are critical to forecasting the weather as they use parametric and other mathematical equations to derive the current and predicted state of the atmosphere using a physical and chemical explanation as the background for the predictions. The NCEP is associated with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to be the developer of these computer models. Each meteorological organization worlwide uses their own developed computer models to serve as a basis for the forecasts. Without computer models, we are not able to derive predictions on the weather greater than 24 hours out.

Like all computer models, the NAM shows all layers of the atmosphere in maps determining positioning and speed of the jet stream, surface precipitation amounts (quantitive precipitation forecast QPF), temperatures throughout the entire core of the atmosphere, convective indices, simulated radars, etc. Due to the higher resolution of the NAM, several problems do exist. It often produces convective elements in many middle latitude cyclones and these are known as convective feedback problems. This is where it developed these unstable regions and often associates them as surface lows causing the surface depiction to be distorted. This was a problem in the recent prediction of the January 26-27 winter storm and will be noted below. Also the NAM has a tendency to produce higher than normal precipitation amounts. I typically find myself cutting totals nearly by 30% as shown on the NAM. Finally the NAM has a bias to overamplify a low pressure and close them off to early particularily on eastern United States cyclogenesis off the coast.

The January 26-27 winter storm featured many model headaches do to some interesting variables. Early on it appeared likely for a low pressure to track up inland along the coastal plain. There was a lacking 50/50 low, unfavorable position of the western trough axis, neutral NAO, natural baroclinicity along the coastline, and stale antecedent cold air mass. This would produce rain along I-95 with heavy snows inland. The 500mb synoptic pattern showed very strong signals for this time of setup with most computer model guidance also in support. The GGEM and ECMWF led the pack with the heavy snows from I-81 on westward. The GFS suffered major problems with varying solutions for each run. But then the computer models began to delay the storm. In fact it was delayed nearly 48-60 hours from the original starting time. This caused a different scenario to unfold. The lacking high pressure to the north was still a problem as the anticyclone zoomed east-northeast, but now a high pressure and associated shortwave out ahead of it allowed sunk east-southeast across the Midwest and western Great Lakes. This acted as a 'kicker' helping to push the cyclonegenesis farther off the coast. This in turn allowed for a colder scenario along with precipitation to occur farther east. Therefore a turn of events allowed for a major I-95 snowstorm with 6in+ totals from Washington DC to Boston. This was very fortunate for snow lovers in that corridor due to pure luck given the poor synoptic setup.

Given the NAM's high resolution, it often overanalyzes prognostics post hour 60. It tends to enhance QPF, overamplify lows, and pick up on mesoscale features that really do not exist. Therefore I typically throw out hours 60-84. It would be a rare event where you would find the NAM 84 hour verifying anywhere close to accurate. But in the near term range, the NAM does an excellent job locating temperature thermals, QPF ranges, and picking up on mesoscale features; coastal fronts, enhanced convection, deformation bands, etc. But in this recent storm, it suffered a plethora of problems and even the 6 and 12 hour surface maps had poor verification especially in the QPF department.

Let us first look at the actual accumulated precipitation totals for the storm.

Given this is a 24 hour accumulated precipitation amount, about .01-.1in of additional precipitation fell south of the Mason-Dixon line in the previous 24 hours.

Here are the preceeding NAM total QPF forecasts...


(January 24; 18z) (January 25; 6z)


(January 25; 12z) (January 25; 18z)


(January 26; 0z) (January 26; 6z)

As you can see, the NAM had a lot of variance with the northwestern sharp precipitation gradients. These tight gradients this year have been caused by the rapid intensification of the coastal lows allowing the heaviest moisture to be confined closer to the center of circulation. Also in this instance, a very cold and dry air mass along with associated cold front was quickly advancing southeast across the Great Lakes and was even picked up on by the 700mb RH charts. This allowed the flow out of the northwest to dry up some moisture for areas more inland.

The NAM simulated radar vs. the forecast QPF did not match up. Often the NAM simulated radar showed the heavier mesoscale bands lining up in northern Maryland and southern Pennsylvania where as it only showed total QPF to be .25in-.5in. In fact looking at total verification, the NAM did very well for its simulated radar.


(Actual NEXRAD National Radar) (6z NAM January 26 Simulated Radar)

The NAM did seem to have a hold on the 500mb map showing the negatively tilted trough producing the coastal low along with the placement of the upper level low and associated shortwave kicker just to the west.


(18z NAM January 24; 500mb) (0z NAM January 26; 500mb)

In general the differences in the 500mb maps were very subtle with just a general strengthening in the closed 500mb low, which verified a tad north of the January 24 18z model run.

The NAM did a very excellent job in identifying mesoscale band using the UUV/700mb RH charts.

(6z NAM January 26; 700mb)

It indentifed the enhanced snow growth over southeastern Pennsylvania up through New Jersey and New York City. The problems with the NAM generally existed in the QPF fields. The model likely suffered a very convective feedback issues in QPF totals. This is why it is important to note other maps than surface maps to help locate the heaviest precipitation. The 700mb map screamed that snow totals would be farther inland with the enhanced deformation band and UUV rates. In general the high resolution models handled this the best with the HRR scoring an amazing victory for QPF along with the ECMWF. The GFS/NAM did a very poor job for QPF, but as noted above QPF does not always tell the story. Sometimes it is important to note other layers of the atmosphere to help make a forecast. This point is why many forecasters missed the boat. Many forecasters (especially broadcoast meteorologists) are drawn to the easy to understand QPF/surface maps, but one has to look at all layers of the atmosphere to make a prediction.

Lower Susquehanna Valley Doppler...

(Courtesy of WGAL)

"Here northeast of Harrisburg 2010-2011 winter statistics"
(Snow Stats)
Current Snow Cover- 0-3in
Monthly Total (November)- Trace
Monthly Total (December)- 0.6in
Monthly Total (January)- 18.90in
Monthly Total (February)- 1.35in
Seasonal Total- 20.85in
Winter Weather Advisories- 7
Winter Storm Warnings- 2
Ice Storm Warnings- 0
Blizzard Warnings- 0
Freezing Rain Advisories- 1
Winter Storm Watches- 2

(Temperature Stats)
Lowest High Temperature- 23.7F
Lowest Low Temperature- -1.7F
Wind Chill Advisories- 0
Wind Chill Warnings- 0

(Snow Storms Stats)
First accumulating snow - December 10 - 0.50in of snow
Clipper light snow - January 7-8 - 2.25in then another 1in of snow
Double Barrel Low - January 11 - 4.5in of snow
Coastal Low - January 17-17 - 1.8in of snow/sleet
Arctic Front - January 20-21 - 2.1in of snow
Upper level/coastal low - January 26 - 5.75in of snow
Two clippers - January 28-29 - 1.5in of snow

Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011... (Blizzard92)
.4-.5in of freezing rain
Ice Storm 2011...
Ice Storm 2011 (Blizzard92)
Melting begins...
Ice Storm 2011
Ice Storm 2011 (Blizzard92)
Melting begins...
Ice Storm 2011

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167. bwi
I'm hoping we don't get the freezing rain in DC. Sleet would be OK -- rain I can deal with. Freezing rain is tough though. Even a light glaze makes my commute near impossible, and I've used up all my work-at-home days. There's a lot of cold air to the north waiting to be dragged down into a cold air damming situation. Highs in the single digits and lows below zero in upstate NY, SW Quebec, E Ontario.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1407
Thanks, Mason! The picture and map are just amazing. It sure is beautiful after an ice storm but they can be so deadly.
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The Montreal ice storm is always one that I immediately point back to when I hear about ice storms. They got 3.75 inches of frozen liquid and it shut everything down, downed trees, lines, etc etc etc. Then everything caught on fire. A real disaster.
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BTW, one storm at a time, but the 18Z GFS has another huge hit for I-95 a week from now. Tracks from the Gulf of Mexico well south of Mississippi, right through the NC Capes, parralels I-95 just inside of benchmark from NC to Maine.

Sorry, long way out, one thing at a time.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
I am in no means calling for a catastropic ice storm, but I just am pointing out that it has happened before. Thanks, it was 1998!
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Quoting Blizzard92:

For our area, I am not sure about the most freezing rain. But there have been several terrible and horrific ice storms with accretions well over 1in. Remember how bad it was in northern Kentucky last year. I think that terrible ice storm in Canada and northern Maine (I forget the year) had ice accretions of nearly 4in.


That just boggles the mind. I guess my son and husband picked a bad time to replace the valve cover gasket on my van. While it sits toasty in the garage awaiting the replacement piece that my son broke, our 1982 Porsche 928 will have to endure this storm out in the elements. My son is gonna be very worried about his baby if we get ice.
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Quoting Blizzard92:

For our area, I am not sure about the most freezing rain. But there have been several terrible and horrific ice storms with accretions well over 1in. Remember how bad it was in northern Kentucky last year. I think that terrible ice storm in Canada and northern Maine (I forget the year) had ice accretions of nearly 4in.

The Canadian one was in 1998. Also, here's an interesting fact: the ice storm in Kentucky actually had flash flood warnings on it too!
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Quoting Blizzard92:

For our area, I am not sure about the most freezing rain. But there have been several terrible and horrific ice storms with accretions well over 1in. Remember how bad it was in northern Kentucky last year. I think that terrible ice storm in Canada and northern Maine (I forget the year) had ice accretions of nearly 4in.


Didn't they get hammered up in Montreal like a decade ago?
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Quoting 717WeatherLover:


That makes me wonder...what is the highest qpf that has ever fallen as all freezing rain. I just can't fathom an inch of frozen rain.

For our area, I am not sure about the most freezing rain. But there have been several terrible and horrific ice storms with accretions well over 1in. Remember how bad it was in northern Kentucky last year. I think that terrible ice storm in Canada and northern Maine (I forget the year) had ice accretions of nearly 4in.
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Snowlover2010- The GFS/NAM thermals point towards sleet for State College. That may change though.

danielb1023- Given your proximity a bit closer to the coast, that will help you a bit dislodging the cold air and avoiding a more severe ice storm at least. Areas just to your northwest will definitely get hit a lot worse. Although if this coastal develops, you may be able to squeeze out some more sleet/snow.
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Quoting PalmyraPunishment:


1.217 inches of freezing rain would be catastrophic. let's hope it doesn't come to that.


That makes me wonder...what is the highest qpf that has ever fallen as all freezing rain. I just can't fathom an inch of frozen rain.
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Quoting Blizzard92:

Gosh, that would be horrific and unpresidented. Therefore is it probably unlikely.

danielb1023- This is sort of a west to east storm. Therefore latitude is important and areas with similar latitudes will have similar temperature profiles and precipitation. This excludes though the immediate coast which should warm up.


Yeah I'm about 60 or 70 miles north of you. My high for the 48 hrs says 33 right now. If this trends any further south and or the coastal takes over sooner and south then I could be looking at a big mess along with you!
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Quoting pittsburghnurse:


Calling for up to half inch of ice here too. Very concerned, especially as a new homeowner. How do you prepare for an ice storm?

Cold air typically does not hold well in your area. I would not expect the ice to get too bad like it will for the cold air damming spots east of the mountains. But an ice storm is bad and can cause major problems both for transportation and communication.
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Quoting Snowlover2010:


Any early estimates for Central PA?


NWS Forecast up here at University Park
Monday Night: Snow. Low around 16. Calm wind becoming east around 6 mph. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

Tuesday: Snow before 1pm, then snow and freezing rain. High near 28. East wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Tuesday Night: Freezing rain. Low around 22. East wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a half and three quarters of an inch possible.

Wednesday: Freezing rain before 1pm, then snow and freezing rain likely, possibly mixed with sleet. High near 33. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Wednesday Night: A chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 11. Chance of precipitation is 40%.
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Quoting Blizzard92:
We should be looking for a few things on tonight's model runs. What remains most important as far as precipitation types is when the secondary/coastal low develops. If it develops farther south, colder air will be drawn south into the precipitation pushing the heavier snow lines south and freezing rain lines south. Looking off the GFS/NAM with the 18z runs, it appears the coastal popped a bit quicker therefore with the colder solutions. Stay tuned!


Any early estimates for Central PA?
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Quoting Blizzard92:
I have extremely concerned for the potential of a crippling ice storm across central Pennsylvania.


Calling for up to half inch of ice here too. Very concerned, especially as a new homeowner. How do you prepare for an ice storm?
Member Since: October 14, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 639
Quoting PalmyraPunishment:


1.217 inches of freezing rain would be catastrophic. let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Gosh, that would be horrific and unpresidented. Therefore is it probably unlikely.

danielb1023- This is sort of a west to east storm. Therefore latitude is important and areas with similar latitudes will have similar temperature profiles and precipitation. This excludes though the immediate coast which should warm up.
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
We should be looking for a few things on tonight's model runs. What remains most important as far as precipitation types is when the secondary/coastal low develops. If it develops farther south, colder air will be drawn south into the precipitation pushing the heavier snow lines south and freezing rain lines south. Looking off the GFS/NAM with the 18z runs, it appears the coastal popped a bit quicker therefore with the colder solutions. Stay tuned!
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Quoting Blizzard92:
I have extremely concerned for the potential of a crippling ice storm across central Pennsylvania.


Blizz, how far east will the ice go? My high in roseland, nj is still just 33 Wednesday. Starting to think I could stay at or below freezing for the duration
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Quoting Blizzard92:
I have extremely concerned for the potential of a crippling ice storm across central Pennsylvania.


1.217 inches of freezing rain would be catastrophic. let's hope it doesn't come to that.
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Quoting Blizzard92:
I have extremely concerned for the potential of a crippling ice storm across central Pennsylvania.


threat is increasing. i would like to see the models hold tight the next run though. south mountain area usually does well with cad situations. blue mountain does well for you too
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sitting here between bos and prov i guess im once again sitting on the fence
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Quoting shipweather:
where the hell is Blizz? This is a monster storm...

He just got on facebook, so he should be here soon.

*EDIT: Hey look, there he is!
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I have extremely concerned for the potential of a crippling ice storm across central Pennsylvania.
Member Since: December 14, 2007 Posts: 285 Comments: 15140
Winter Storm Watch:

Issued at: 7:18 PM EST 1/30/11, expires at: 3:30 AM EST 1/31/11
Winter storm watch in effect from late Monday night through wednesday afternoon,
The NWS in state college has issued a winter storm watch, which is in effect from late Monday night through wednesday afternoon.
Location, central Pennsylvania.
Precipitation type, a wintry mix, starting out as snow, changing to sleet and freezing rain Tuesday.
Accumulations, several inches of snow possible before mixing with or changing to sleet and freezing rain.
Timing, beginning Monday night, lasting into Wednesday.
Impacts, could significantly impact travel due to snow and ice covered roads. Power outages also possible due to accretions of freezing rain on tree limbs which could knock down power lines.
Precautionary/preparedness actions,
A winter storm watch means there is a potential for significant snow, sleet, or ice accumulations that may impact travel. Stay tuned to noaa weather radio or your favorite source of weather information for the latest updates. Additional details can also be found at, weather.gov/statecollege.
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Quoting GTOSnow:
Our local mets have us slated for 15-20" between Tues and Thurs. No talk of mixing for us in the worcester area, which seems to go against what I am seeing here on the underground. Usually its the other way around.

Glad I got my roof to stop leaking, but it looks like I'll be up there all over again!!


That's good news for me over in Springfield!
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
139. zotty

Quoting PalmyraPunishment:
Okay, who's going around telling the idiots in Philadelphia they're going to get 36-40 inches of snow?!?!?!
haha, okay, you got me.  who?
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Just read the NWS Upton discussion, same thing was said last week when the first southeastern shifts occured in guidance and were considered outliers and/or being discounted at the time.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Our local mets have us slated for 15-20" between Tues and Thurs. No talk of mixing for us in the worcester area, which seems to go against what I am seeing here on the underground. Usually its the other way around.

Glad I got my roof to stop leaking, but it looks like I'll be up there all over again!!
Member Since: February 10, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 235
Quoting breald:


I don't think anybody on the East coast is getting 30 inches. Maybe Northern New Englan, but the rest of us will be getting a wintry mix which will keep the totals down. Right?


I wouldn't rule it out. Midwest is going to get hit hard this time, as is upstate New York and points east. And I also wouldn't say the rest of us are going to get a wintry mix. Some people will have very heavy snow and very little changeover. Others will get all rain and yet others everything in between. This is going to be a messy storm and the rain/snow line looks even harder to decipher than the last one. Not to mention there will be more ice this time...a lot of it.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Quoting Mason803:
winter storm watch for all of central pa


WOW
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where the hell is Blizz? This is a monster storm...
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winter storm watch for all of central pa
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I'm wondering if I should cover my car because of the ice pellets? It sounds like it would be bad for my car's paint job :(
Member Since: May 28, 2008 Posts: 38 Comments: 5303
Quoting breald:


I don't think anybody on the East coast is getting 30 inches. Maybe Northern New Englan, but the rest of us will be getting a wintry mix which will keep the totals down. Right?


Still have to keep an eye out for southern New England / New York state / Mid-Atlantic northern tier for big totals. I don't know about 30" this far out, but 18"-24" likely somewhere.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
The New York scientific forecast has a pretty good break down. So much better than Albany.

http://www.wunderground.com/DisplayDisc.asp?DiscussionCode=OKX&StateCode=NY&SafeCityName=New_York
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As of 5:30pm, NWS has me at...

1am Tue - 2pm Tue: 2.2" Snow, High 34F

3pm Tue - 8am Wed: 0.41" QPF Sleet/Frz RN, Low 29F

9am Wed - 8pm Wed: 0.46" Rain, High 40F

9pm Wed - 11pm Wed: Snow Showers, Low 21F
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Quoting TrentonThunder:


Yeah, somebody is! People have hit me up on facebook saying they heard 30".


I don't think anybody on the East coast is getting 30 inches. Maybe Northern New Englan, but the rest of us will be getting a wintry mix which will keep the totals down. Right?
Member Since: May 28, 2008 Posts: 38 Comments: 5303
The Panic is on for Jersey Shore once again, hearing tons of ice, power loss with significant accumulation.
I am just a lurker here and so appreciate and admire everyones input.
Will this winter ever end?
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Hey LT News Channel 8 put an early prediction of 3-6 inches out for SW CT. Usually they don't even give numbers this early...
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
Quoting originalLT:
TT just said that everything is trending more NW with every run(post#72) but Matlack just said the 18Z is 200 miles further SE, what gives?


Every model had shifted gradually northwest through 12Z today.

Both the 18Z GFS and 18Z NAM have initiated coastal redevelopment a little earlier and a little farther southwest which is why we're seeing a colder / snowier / icier shift for the Mid-Atlantic / southern New England. GFS has the transfer of energy to the coast between Long Island and Mass, NAM has it between north Jersey and Long Island.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Quoting TrentonThunder:


Yeah, somebody is! People have hit me up on facebook saying they heard 30".


I think there will be some areas receiving at least 2 feet, who knows, maybe even 3, but it certainly won't be Philadelphia.
Member Since: January 20, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1521
Quoting PalmyraPunishment:
Okay, who's going around telling the idiots in Philadelphia they're going to get 36-40 inches of snow?!?!?!


Yeah, somebody is! People have hit me up on facebook saying they heard 30".
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Looks like another tough call 2-3 days out like usual
Member Since: February 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 685
The 18Z NAM has shifted southeast of its previous 12Z run, primarily over the northeast section of the country.

The 18Z NAM paints an 18"+ bullzeye from extreme northeast PA, southeastern central New York, most of Mass, extreme southern Vermont and New Hampshire and extreme northwestern Connecticut.

12"+ for the northern half of central and northeastern PA, extreme northern New Jersey and eastward off Mass. 12"+ also for the remainder of central New York, the southern half of Vermont & New Hampshire and extreme southern Maine.

Sharp cutoff in central and east central PA and north Jersey. A more relaxed cutoff in northern New England.
Member Since: December 17, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 796
Quoting PalmyraPunishment:
Okay, who's going around telling the idiots in Philadelphia they're going to get 36-40 inches of snow?!?!?!



Huh?!?!
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Okay, who's going around telling the idiots in Philadelphia they're going to get 36-40 inches of snow?!?!?!
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Hope you are right CTWXGUY, that would make it very interesting for us. You being located about 40 miles NE of me and further inland, should do better than me in any case with this storm. I'll check back in later, off to dinner now LT
Member Since: January 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 8010

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Cornell University- Atmospheric Sciences Undergrad; Research Assist.- Onset of Spring Indices Toolbox; Interests- Small spatial scale climatolology

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