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Winter storm to spread heavy snow from North Dakota to Virginia

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

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

Winter Weather Saturn

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

here is my forecast from last night

502. VR46L
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


like I said before..I love that radar image, then can even tilt it sideways, cool



Have you looked around the site there is some really great stuff in it ...Its a good one to play around with .

I think its the best college based weather site IMO and if I was young like yourself it would be a school I would be considering , with the quailty of website it must be one of the best places to study weather.
First rain, then snow, then melt...
ZONE FORECAST PRODUCT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
930 AM EST TUE MAR 5 2013

DCZ001-VAZ054-051800-
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA-ARLINGTON/FALLS CHURCH/ALEXANDRIA-INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...WASHINGTON...ALEXANDRIA...FALLS CHURCH
930 AM EST TUE MAR 5 2013
...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM 6 PM EST THIS EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING...
.REST OF TODAY...SUNNY LATE THIS MORNING...THEN MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF RAIN THIS AFTERNOON. HIGHS IN THE MID 40S. NORTH WINDS
5 TO 10 MPH...BECOMING SOUTHEAST THIS AFTERNOON. CHANCE OF RAIN 40 PERCENT.

.TONIGHT...RAIN AND SNOW. SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 1 TO 3 INCHES. LOWS IN THE LOWER 30S. EAST WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH...INCREASING TO 15 TO
20 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION NEAR 100 PERCENT.

.WEDNESDAY...SNOW AND RAIN IN THE MORNING...THEN SNOW IN THE AFTERNOON. ADDITIONAL SNOW ACCUMULATION OF 3 TO 5 INCHES. BREEZY WITH HIGHS IN THE MID 30S. NORTHEAST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH. CHANCE OF
PRECIPITATION NEAR 100 PERCENT.

.WEDNESDAY NIGHT
...CLOUDY...SNOW...MAINLY IN THE EVENING. LOWS IN THE LOWER 30S. NORTH WINDS 15 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH.
CHANCE OF SNOW 90 PERCENT.

.THURSDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SNOW AND RAIN IN THE MORNING...THEN PARTLY SUNNY IN THE AFTERNOON. HIGHS AROUND 40.
NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 40 PERCENT.

.THURSDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE UPPER 20S.
.FRIDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE MID 40S.
.FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. LOWS IN THE LOWER 30S.
.SATURDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE MID 40S.
.SATURDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE UPPER 30S.
.SUNDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE MID 50S.
.SUNDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. LOWS IN THE UPPER 30S.
.MONDAY...PARTLY SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE MID 50S.
$$

Quoting VR46L:



Have you looked around the site there is some really great stuff in it ...Its a good one to play around with .

I think its the best college based weather site IMO and if I was young like yourself it would be a school I would be considering , with the quailty of website it must be one of the best places to study weather.


yes I have gone there..its very cool

GFS shows a potentially destructive squall line in 1 week. wicked jet stream and llj, and great forcing.

Im not buying the GFS trough representation though..we'll see.
Just checked soil temperatures...30-40F across all of Virginia and Maryland, with D.C. on the edge of the freezing soil temperature line.

No issues regarding warm ground temperatures interfering with accumulations.
Would definitely avoid driving in that area tonight and tomorrow through Thursday TAX13.
Chicago is ready...bring on the snow!

284 snow plows, 26 smaller four-wheel drive plows to clear side streets.
Issued by The National Weather Service
Baltimore/Washington, MD
Tue, Mar 5, 2013, 9:23 AMEST
Local Radar Map
Updated Mar 5, 2013, 10:50am 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 6 PM EST THIS EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING...

* PRECIPITATION TYPE... SNOW.

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

* TIMING... RAIN MIXING WITH AND CHANGING TO SNOW FROM WEST TO EAST TONIGHT AND WEDNESDAY MORNING. SNOW CONTINUING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING... POSSIBLY HEAVY AT TIMES.

* TEMPERATURES... IN THE MID 30S.

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

* IMPACTS... HEAVY WET SNOW AND GUSTY WINDS COULD LEAD TO POWER OUTAGES AND DIFFICULT DRIVING CONDITIONS.
STP is increasing across MS/AL
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Yikes! The local market is already sold out of milk :)


THROUGH TODAY...THE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM MOVING INTO THE OHIO RIVER
VALLEY WILL MOVE EASTWARD THROUGH THIS REGION DURING TUESDAY.
LIGHT TO MODERATE SNOW...WITH AREAS OF HEAVY SNOW...WILL SPREAD
EASTWARD THROUGH THE UPPER AND MIDDLE MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY AND
INTO THE OHIO RIVER VALLEY AND SOUTHERN GREAT LAKES BY TUESDAY
AFTERNOON AND INTO THE EVENING. ANOTHER WAVE OF LOW PRESSURE WILL
DEVELOP ALONG THE FRONT TONIGHT AROUND THE NORTH CAROLINA-VIRGINIA
BORDER AND MOVE NORTHEASTWARD OFF THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST BY
WEDNESDAY MORNING. SNOW WILL SPREAD INTO THE CENTRAL APPALACHIANS
AND MID-ATLANTIC STATES INTO TUESDAY NIGHT AND EARLY WEDNESDAY
MORNING...WITH HEAVY SNOW POSSIBLE ACROSS THE MID-ATLANTIC DURING
THE DAY WEDNESDAY. THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING...UPWARDS OF 4 TO 9
INCHES OF SNOW WILL BE POSSIBLE FROM PORTIONS OF THE UPPER AND
MIDDLE MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY INTO THE OHIO RIVER VALLEY.
WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT...8 TO 12 INCHES OF SNOW WILL BE
POSSIBLE ACROSS PORTIONS OF THE MID-ATLANTIC STATES...WITH HIGHER
AMOUNTS POSSIBLY EXCEEDING 18 INCHES IN THE HIGHER TERRAIN OF WEST
VIRGINIA. CLOSER TO THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST...PRECIPITATION WILL
FALL IN THE FORM OF RAIN...WITH 1 TO 2 INCHES OF RAIN POSSIBLE.
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Just checked soil temperatures...30-40F across all of Virginia and Maryland, with D.C. on the edge of the freezing soil temperature line.

No issues regarding warm ground temperatures interfering with accumulations.


The biggest issue that will limit accumulations will be the higher sun angle now that is is March. Even though the sky will be overcast, still there will be some boundary layer warming from the sun. For the snow lovers up there, the heavier bursts of snow will temporarily offset the insolation. This is why so many forecasters are having issues with total snowfall. Plus, a decent amount of precip will be "sacrificed" to cool the column, especially around the metro areas. This is why the highest snow totals will be found in areas with some elevation and away from the cities. Still, the greatest accumulations will occur tomorrow night.
Quoting Chucktown:


Spring will never come earlier, the equinox will never change. Anyway, that article is just another climate change talking head paid to "follow the lemmings".


It appears like you didn't read the first couple sentences of the article. The article was discussing biological spring, which is different from meteorological spring and astronomical spring. If climate were to change such that the environmental conditions required for spring blooming occurred earlier, then yes, biological spring would change.

Quoting Chucktown:
Also, Bastardi found this info on tree ring data and how there has been no big change to the climate for quite a while.
Link
Go ahead Nea, spin it.

So, let me get this right. You are trusting proxy data for one location in China over the current estimates for global temperature that cover the globe? It seems like you have a very different understanding of how certain sources of scientific data are ranked... at least compared to climate scientists.
There isn't much spin to it... someone found a graph on the internet and is like "oh look what I found! this disproves everything!" and just like clockwork gullible people fall for it without any shred of scientific skepticism.

What you have done is provide a red herring. A distraction. Of course actual climate scientists are using satellite data and land-based thermometers to estimate global temperature for the modern period. Such data is more globally-representative than one area of China, and is a much better corollary to temperature than tree growth patterns.