Winter storm to spread heavy snow from North Dakota to Virginia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:44 PM GMT on March 04, 2013

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The flakes are flying in Minnesota and North Dakota, where up to 10" of snow has fallen from an "Alberta Clipper" that is barreling southeastwards across the U.S. These type of storms, so-named because they originate in Alberta and clip along at a fast forward speed, typically bring the Midwest moderate amounts of fluffy snow that is relatively easy to shovel. The storm, dubbed Winter Storm Saturn by The Weather Channel and "Snowquester" by The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, is expected to bring a swath of 6 - 10" of snow from Minnesota to Virginia Monday through Wednesday, with Chicago expected to get 6 - 9", their biggest snow of the season. Once the storm moves off the coast on Wednesday, its strong winds will make coastal flooding a major concern for the Mid-Atlantic coast, particularly Delaware, on Wednesday and Thursday. The computer models are still showing quite a bit of disagreement on what the storm might do on Wednesday. The European model has been the most consistent model, and maintains that the storm will not bring heavy snow to New England. I would lean towards this solution at present. However, keep in mind that the latest run of the GFS model shows a more northerly track, with heavy snow falling along a swath of coast from Long Island, NY, to Boston, MA, Wednesday through Thursday. The exact position of the rain/snow boundary along the Mid-Atlantic coast is also quite uncertain. Washington D.C. could end up with mostly rain, and just 1 - 2" of snow, or get a 6+ inch dumping, picking up more snow from one storm than from the all the snowstorms from the past two winters, combined:

Reagan Nat'l Airport (DCA):
- Snowfall this season-to-date:  1.5"
- Snowfall all last season:  2"
- Last 5"+ snow event:  Jan. 26, 2011 (5")
- Last 10"+ snow event:  Feb. 9-10, 2010 (10.8")

Dulles Airport, Virginia (IAD)
- Snowfall this season-to-date:  5.3"
- Snowfall all last season:  3.7"
- Last 5"+ snow event:  Jan. 26, 2011 (7.3")
- Last 10"+ snow event:  Feb. 9-10, 2010 (9.3")

(Thanks go to Jonathan Erdman of TWC for these stats.) The Capital Weather Gang has an interesting article on historical March snowstorms in Washington D.C. In order for Winter Storm Saturn to crack the top-ten, it would have to dump at least 6.6" of snow on the nation's capital.



Coastal flooding a concern in the Mid-Atlantic
As the storm moves off the coast on Wednesday night, winds gusting to 50 mph will build waves of up to 15' and a 3 - 4' storm surge along the coast to the north of the center. Heavy rains will bring runoff down rivers that will act to increase water levels along the coast. The latest Forecast Discussion from the Mount Holly, NJ NWS office highlights the likelihood of at least moderate coastal flooding in Delaware during the high tide cycles on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, with the possibility of major flooding. The latest storm surge forecast from the GFS model calls for a storm surge of around 3' at Lewes, Delaware on Thursday morning, which would bring the 8th highest water level on record to the coast. This is of concern due to the damage Hurricane Sandy brought in October, which weakened the dunes and left the coast more vulnerable to erosion. Sandy brought the 3rd highest water level on record to Lewes.

We'll have ongoing coverage this week of Winter Storm Saturn in our Winter Storm Section.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MrMixon:


Saint-Jean-Vianney,Quebec, May 1971.







"Saint-Jean-Vianney was a village in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, which was abandoned after it was partially destroyed in a landslide on May 4, 1971."


Wow, MrMixon. That was fast. I think I will post the links and you can post the images. That really was something. Those poor people never had a chance.
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Quoting vdb0422:
Thanks a lot for helping me. I really want a snowstorm badly and the temps for preventing me from becoming excited. But I have a little more confidence now. IDK the last time we received more than 4in of snow in DC


It looks like you may receive more than that with this one. Depending on how close the low stay on the coast
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Quoting vdb0422:
Thanks a lot for helping me. I really want a snowstorm badly and the temps for preventing me from becoming excited. But I have a little more confidence now. IDK the last time we received more than 4in of snow in DC


temperatures are only slowing down the snow accumulations, you could have been up for nearly 2' if it was cold enough..
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting Grothar:
I remember when this happened. It was really a tragedy

Link


Saint-Jean-Vianney,Quebec, May 1971.







"Saint-Jean-Vianney was a village in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, which was abandoned after it was partially destroyed in a landslide on May 4, 1971."
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Quoting wxchaser97:
Once again here is my snowfall map with a link to the blog I just wrote,


Why do you include rain in your key if there isn't anything marked on your map?
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Thanks a lot for helping me. I really want a snowstorm badly and the temps for preventing me from becoming excited. But I have a little more confidence now. IDK the last time we received more than 4in of snow in DC
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Once again here is my snowfall map with a link to the blog I just wrote, link.
I am very tired and I'm going to bed, good night everyone.
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Not sure if the term "cold seclusion" has ever been used before (my guess is no), but that's essentially what the 00Z GFS shows 48 hours out. With a closed contour of lower 1000-500 mb thickness surrounding the surface low, it means that a pocket of colder air through that portion of the atmosphere became surrounded by warmer air, which is precisely the opposite of what happens with a warm seclusion.





Looks like a classic occlusion as drawn up by the Norwegian cyclone model.
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Quoting vdb0422:
Ok I am new to reading weather/radar..etc..I just want to know why the snow will accumulate in the D.C. if the temperature is above freezing? How much will we get and why? Thanks.


Think of having a cup of hot water u slowly drop a few small ice cubes in they will quickly melt away. But if u drop a lot of ice cubes in then all the cubes will work together to cool the hot water faster and the cubes will last longer.. Same concept on the ground.. The faster the snowflakes fall the more quickly the ground cools.. And before you know it the snow is stacking on top of each other. I wish I could explain it better. It's the snow rate that is the key factor. Because on top of all that as snow falls through the atmosphere.. It cools all the layers on the way down.. The harder it falls the more quickly it cools the more quickly the change over occurs. DC should get a nice little storm. Remember STRONG coastal lows like to pull in colder air from the north west.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


We haven't had more than 2" in more than 2 years. We have a massive snow drought, and the fact that we have such a juicy storm right in front of us is driving us mad with excitement.


this is the snow you want!!!
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
I remember when this happened. It was really a tragedy

Link
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if the upper atmosphere is cold, snow falls and reaches the ground even if it's above 32F, that's because the layer of warmer air at the surface is not big/high enough to cause the snowflake to fall as rain. The cold layer above is way larger.

The snow doesn't have time to change over to rain, however, the accumulation pace is much slower than if the surface temperature was below freezing.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
353. DrewE
Quoting vdb0422:
Ok I am new to reading weather/radar..etc..I just want to know why the snow will accumulate in the D.C. if the temperature is above freezing? How much will we get and why? Thanks.


The ground and surface temperatures may be above freezing, but a thousand or so feet up, temps are well below freezing. If the snowfall rate is quick enough, it will bring down the cooler air aloft to the surface.

Current maps are showing anywhere from 6inches to over a foot in the D.C metro area.
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Quoting vdb0422:
Ok I am new to reading weather/radar..etc..I just want to know why the snow will accumulate in the D.C. if the temperature is above freezing? How much will we get and why? Thanks.


DC could get big snow... check my map on post 307. They could get over a half a foot of snow..

Even if the temperature forecast around above freezing, the storm is expected to generate cold air aloft that when the snow falls it won't have time to change to rain as it reaches warmer ground therefore being wet snow. Eventually when cooling down at night snow is able to fall and stick. Watch out for big snowballs, that is what might happen wich could lead to somewhat high snowfall rates there.

Heavy snow is expected across your area. Also there is rain expected during the day as the sun heats up the snow falling (temps above freezing) becoming rain.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
351. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting wxmod:


Here's an image showing heavy aerosols in the open Pacific off Mexico. Either there is a volcano erupting nearby, or someone is burning barges filled with garbage, out of sight and out of mind; except, of course, for the smell and health effects.


Anomalously large temperature changes associated with historic methane releases are expected....especially if aerosols are in the area.

Buoy in the bay, near the land...temps stayed within 5º for the last 24hrs..
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Ok I am new to reading weather/radar..etc..I just want to know why the snow will accumulate in the D.C. if the temperature is above freezing? How much will we get and why? Thanks.
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Grothar, the first word: sued.

Sued? Who is suing here and why have I not heard of it yet? lol
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Quoting redux:
with all do respect....why all the infatuation with snow in washington dc?



We haven't had more than 2" in more than 2 years. We have a massive snow drought, and the fact that we have such a juicy storm right in front of us is driving us mad with excitement.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Now unless thundersnow occurs that is the only way Incan see us reaching those high end totals here.If rain is mixing into the system a lot it's not going to help.It would be a huge slushy mess outside and the children will be disappointed.


Issued by The National Weather Service
Baltimore/Washington, MD
Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 8:56 PMEST
Local Radar Map
Updated Mar 5, 2013, 12:15am EST
Weather in Motion | Enlarge Map
Get WeatherReady

Prepare for Winter Storms
Keep Safe During the Storm
Driving in Snow & Ice
Are You at Risk For Winter Storms?
Get Live Traffic Reports

... WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING...

* PRECIPITATION TYPE... SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS... 5 OR MORE INCHES ARE POSSIBLE.

* TIMING... RAIN MIXING WITH AND CHANGING TO SNOW TUESDAY NIGHT. SNOW CONTINUING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING... HEAVY AT TIMES.

* TEMPERATURES... IN THE MID 30S.

* WINDS... NORTHEAST 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 35 MPH.
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Quoting Astrometeor:


Bit of a slippery slope there, eh? How did you go from winter lows to Japan to hurricane season like that? There isn't much correlation between the two.

Just saying the weather is continuing to get extreme everywhere around the globe!
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344. redux
with all do respect....why all the infatuation with snow in washington dc?

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343. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Brisbane
Tropical Cyclone Outlook
2:37 PM EST March 5 2013
=====================================

The monsoon trough extends across the northern Coral Sea to a low near 18.5S 150.5E, about 400 km east northeast of Townsville. The low is forecast to move northeast for the next 2 to 3 days while intensifying and is likely to reach tropical cyclone strength either late Thursday or on Friday. From Friday the system is forecast to move southeast and remain well offshore over the Coral Sea. This system is not expected to affect the Queensland coast during the outlook period.

Tropical Cyclone Formation Potential
=====================================
Wednesday: Low
Thursday: High
Friday: High
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Quoting HurricaneLovr75:
Did the lows merge yet? This is going to depend on the location of that merge and strength? Who knows? Look at what happened in Japan? Crazy things are happening? Look for a very active Atlantic Hurricane season!


Bit of a slippery slope there, eh? How did you go from winter lows to Japan to hurricane season like that? There isn't much correlation between the two.
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Hopefully the GFS NE snow doesn't turn out like the Euro forecast for Debby.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmW3WLfbYNM&sns=em
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http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=m-ch-fea&v=DmW3W LfbYNM" target="_blank">Link
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Did the lows merge yet? This is going to depend on the location of that merge and strength? Who knows? Look at what happened in Japan? Crazy things are happening? Look for a very active Atlantic Hurricane season!
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Quoting JNCali:
We got almost double the snow that was forecast on Fri-Sat.. hopefully you will have the same luck!


This storm might give us more snow flurries! WOO!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'am prepared in case of anything.Its just that the models are showing more warm air feeding into the storm now.And as of late the warm air has been winning with these storms.It's a D.C thing.
We got almost double the snow that was forecast on Fri-Sat.. hopefully you will have the same luck!
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Quoting Astrometeor:


I have the same feeling with snow storms. Even worse or better depending on your POV, tornado approaches county, lifts up, touches down on other side of county. Nature must hate me...
Now unless thundersnow occurs that is the only way Incan see us reaching those high end totals here.If rain is mixing into the system a lot it's not going to help.It would be a huge slushy mess outside and the children will be disappointed.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
...and now a message from our, uh, president:

....nevermind...
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'am prepared in case of anything.Its just that the models are showing more warm air feeding into the storm now.And as of late the warm air has been winning with these storms.It's a D.C thing.


I have the same feeling with snow storms. Even worse or better depending on your POV, tornado approaches county, lifts up, touches down on other side of county. Nature must hate me...
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...and now a message from our, uh, president:

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862


According to the new GFS it looks like 6-7 inches in the western edges of DC and slightly east towards places like Anacostia. Thought the gradient is very sharp which is probably part of the reason the official forecast is being conservative. I hope the 00z euro can help clean this up.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well, better to get more than expected than have a low bust they say...
I'am prepared in case of anything.Its just that the models are showing more warm air feeding into the storm now.And as of late the warm air has been winning with these storms.It's a D.C thing.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
If I am wrong then I will gladly eat crow.I'm very skeptical at this point and if the rain/snow line sticks around D.C then that will defentially have a effect on the totals.


Well, better to get more than expected than have a low bust they say...
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If I am wrong then I will gladly eat crow.I'm very skeptical at this point and if the rain/snow line sticks around D.C then that will defentially have a effect on the totals.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
All the models I saw have us on the rain/snow line and has it meandering around the D.C metro area for awhile.Which is why I believe that if that happens e won't be getting much accumalation.Marginal cold doesn't help either.


Either way, the rates of precip will overcome warmth. Seriously, the local mets are behind on this one.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Out of 22 ensemble members, 21 give you half a foot and 10 of those 21 give you over a foot. The GFS and NAM give you similar snow totals. I don't know why you're so pessimistic about this storm.
All the models I saw have us on the rain/snow line and has it meandering around the D.C metro area for awhile.Which is why I believe that if that happens e won't be getting much accumalation.Marginal cold doesn't help either.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Local mets only give me 2-4 inches.They're being very generous.I told people that we'll hardly see much of anything in D.C and bam!.Dont believe the Internet hype.Hopefully next winter won't suck so hard.


you are being somewhat too conservative, lean a little bit more towards the generous side and say "Im up for a foot of snow"
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting washingtonian115:
Local mets only give me 2-4 inches.They're being very generous.I told people that we'll hardly see much of anything in D.C and bam!.Dont believe the Internet hype.Hopefully next winter won't suck so hard.


Well, they're really wrong. Expect a foot. Get bread and milk ASAP. Seriously, on AMWX they are laughing at the local mets.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Local mets only give me 2-4 inches.They're being very generous.I told people that we'll hardly see much of anything in D.C and bam!.Dont believe the Internet hype.Hopefully next winter won't suck so hard.


D.C. NWS mets say winter storm watch of at least 5+ inches of snow. Water amount being 2-4 inches. If the air is cold enough, you will get your big snow, trust us.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Local mets only give me 2-4 inches.They're being very generous.I told people that we'll hardly see much of anything in D.C and bam!.Dont believe the Internet hype.Hopefully next winter won't suck so hard.

Out of 22 ensemble members, 21 give you half a foot and 10 of those 21 give you over a foot. The GFS and NAM give you similar snow totals. I don't know why you're so pessimistic about this storm.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32862
321. wxmod
Quoting Skyepony:
Authorities say a foul odor that spurred calls to fire departments throughout the city on Sunday is possibly the result of the large release of methane in the Santa Monica Bay. Santa Monica Fire said in a department statement that they believe the strong odor was caused by a naturally occurring methane leak below the ocean floor. "This morning there was a large release of natural ocean floor methane released in the Santa Monica Bay," the statement said. "This methane is not toxic and dissipates quickly." Sam Atwood, a spokesman for the Air Quality Management District (AQMD), said his agency has not confirmed that theory. Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Fire Department, said the odor was noted inland from the Santa Monica Bay. Last September, a widespread sulfurous stench that blanketed parts of the Southland was apparently traced back to a biological occurrence on the landlocked Salton Sea.


Here's an image showing heavy aerosols in the open Pacific off Mexico. Either there is a volcano erupting nearby, or someone is burning barges filled with garbage, out of sight and out of mind; except, of course, for the smell and health effects.
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The Bells are Tolling and it is my Bedtime..Sleep Well All - Stay Safe and Warm
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Local mets only give me 2-4 inches.They're being very generous.I told people that we'll hardly see much of anything in D.C and bam!.Dont believe the Internet hype.Hopefully next winter won't suck so hard.
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Quoting JNCali:
waiting for the 80% T-storms scheduled for mid TN area tonite.. I'm researching online in preparation for a photo shoot for a new steakhouse website I'm building this week... last time I did a restaurant shoot I wound up bringing 9 to go containers home filled with BBQ goodies.. here's hoping!


Makes what I had for dinner look like %^&*....
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Weekly Tropical Climate Note
Issued on Tuesday 5 March 2013


North Australian Monsoon stays active

Over the past week the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) slowly progressed into the western Pacific, but the Maritime Continent is still seeing the influence of the MJO as enhanced westerlies boost the monsoon. The slow progression of the MJO has prolonged the opportunity for the monsoon trough to form over northern Australia. Thus far, this has been the longest active period in the North Australian Monsoon this wet season.
This week, the MJO is expected to stall in the western Pacific Ocean before continuing eastward. Next week, northern Australia may still remain under monsoonal flow, but the likelihood of above average rainfall will decrease with the progression of the MJO.
As the MJO moves east, this week and next, the risk of tropical cyclone development will remain high over the South Pacific, including Coral Sea.
See the Bureau's MJO Monitoring for more information on location and tracking of the MJO.



El Niño-Southern Oscillation update

The tropical Pacific remains within neutral ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) levels. The latest weekly NINO3.4 index anomaly is −0.1°C which is within the neutral range. The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) has shown some large variability recently, but remains neutral. The latest 30 day SOI to 3 March 2013 is -3.0.
See the Bureau's ENSO Wrap-Up which includes a compilation of ENSO computer model predictions.

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Quoting JNCali:
waiting for the 80% T-storms scheduled for mid TN area tonite.. I'm researching online in preparation for a photo shoot for a new steakhouse website I'm building this week... last time I did a restaurant shoot I wound up bringing 9 to go containers home filled with BBQ goodies.. here's hoping!


I had dinner, and I still froth at the mouth staring at that...looks SOOO delicious.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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