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Will the East Coast Be Snowed In or Washed Out Next Week?

By: Bob Henson 5:45 PM GMT on March 10, 2017

A big nor’easter is heading for the Eastern Seaboard early next week, but it’s still too soon to tell whether the urban corridor from Washington to Boston will be doing more digging versus more wading. The timing and location of rain/snow transition is a perennial forecast challenge with Northeast snowstorms, especially in late-winter and early-spring storms like this one. What we do know is that this storm at least has the potential to be a prodigious snow-maker.

The thermal foundation for next week’s big storm is a sharply frigid air mass for early March that’s now descending on the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. This air mass can be traced back to Canada’s Northwest Territories, and it feels that way. Readings were a few degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Friday morning across North Dakota and northern Minnesota. This is far from record cold for the region—Grand Forks, ND, has dipped below –30°F in mid-Marches past—but it’s a distinct change from the record warmth that’s enveloped much of the eastern U.S. in recent weeks. Temperatures will be 20°F to 30°F below average in many places east of the Mississippi by Sunday, with a light freeze possible as far south as Columbia, SC. Some daily record lows are possible across the Northeast as temperatures drop into the single digits in Boston, teens in New York City, and low 20s in Washington.

Another lobe of the polar jet stream will push down a second dose of chilly air across the East early next week. That lobe will also dig more sharply, pulling in subtropical energy and moisture and cutting off as a strong upper low around New York and New England by Wednesday. Energy will be transferred from a surface low in the Ohio Valley to another surface low predicted to strengthen rapidly near the mid-Atlantic coast on Tuesday. Meteorology buffs will recognize this as a classic Miller Type B set-up. Because Type B lows are usually located closer to shore than their more straightforward Type A counterparts, they typically bring more warm, moist air inland and produce a messy, hard-to-predict array of precipitation types. Whether the low tracks well offshore, near the coast, or just inland will largely determine who gets snow or sleet as opposed to rain. Model trends have leaned in the direction of snow for the urban corridor, and I’m leaning that way as well, given the intense dynamics associated with this storm and the cold air masses that will both precede and follow it.


Figure 1. Locations of the nor’easter surface low predicted by the 06Z Friday run of the 20-member GFS model ensemble (GEFS) for 7:00 am EST Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Numbers show the last two digits of the surface pressure in millibars (e.g., “91” = 991 millibars). The map shows how much uncertainty remains in the forecast. The ensemble members agree that a surface low will be intensifying along or off the mid-Atlantic coast, but the locations differ by hundreds of miles—enough to produce vastly different outcomes along the East Coast. The European model ensemble is trending a bit further offshore, which would result in higher odds for a major snowfall from Washington to New York. Image credit: tropicaltidbits.com.

Whatever form it takes, the precipitation from this storm could be quite heavy across the Northeast’s urban core. The 12Z Friday run of the GFS model, consistent with runs from late Thursday, is dumping more than 2” of liquid equivalent from just east of Washington, D.C., across the New York metro area, with another two-inch-plus stripe over eastern Massachusetts. The heaviest snows are projected to be just northwest of these corridors. The 12Z GFS run shows snow amounts of more than a foot possible close to the D.C.–New York corridor, with potential totals approaching two feet over eastern Pennsylvania and the Hudson Valley of New York. Again, everything will hinge on the exact placement of warmer vs. colder air and the precise configuration of the upper and surface lows, and it’s far too soon to know these with confidence.

Late Friday morning, Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow gave 55% odds that central D.C. would get at least an inch of snow, with a 30% chance of at least eight inches. The latter would be among the heaviest March snows on record for the city, he noted.

“While we want folks to be aware of this possibility, for it to materialize in the immediate area would require all of the storm ingredients coming together just right — which has a low likelihood — maybe one-in-three,” wrote Samenow.

Mid-March can produce memorable Northeast snowstorms
Some of the most epic nor’easters on record have occurred at the tail end of the winter snow season, even as far south as Washington, D.C. On March 12-15, 1993, the “Storm of the Century” dropped incredible snows all the way from the Florida Panhandle (4”) and Birmingham, AL (13”) to Pittsburgh, PA (25.2”) and Syracuse, NY (43”). Along the urban corridor, where sleet mixed with the snow in some areas, Dulles International Airport notched 14.1” and LaGuardia International Airport racked up 12.3”, with winds gusting to 71 mph. This was the first weather event to trigger the closure of every major East Coast airport. Some 270 deaths were attributed to the storm.


Figure 2. Meteosat-3 infrared image of the 1993 Storm of the Century at 1200Z (7:00 am EST) Saturday, March 13, 1993. Along with huge amounts of snow, the storm pushed a major storm surge into Florida’s west coast and a destructive squall line across the peninsula. Image credit: CIMMS Satellite Blog.

Another famed mid-March storm is the Great Blizzard of 1888 (March 11-14), which focused its snowy wrath on eastern New York and New England. The Smithsonian Institution called it “a weather event so fierce that it's still a storm by which other East Coast storms are measured.” Mildness gave way to brutal cold as this ferocious system moved in, dumping snow so heavy and wind-drifted that we still don’t know exactly how much fell in some places. Measured totals included 22” in New York City; 45” in New Haven, CT; 48” in Albany, NY; and 58” in Saratoga Springs, NY. New York’s Central Park recorded a low of 6°F and a high of 9°F on March 13; these remain the coldest values ever recorded at Central Park so late in the season.

More than 400 people are believed to have perished in the Blizzard of 1888, including some 200 in New York City. The storm’s impact on elevated train lines prompted the city to begin planning its now-iconic subway system.

We’ll be back with a new post by Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Bob Henson


Figure 3. A scene from Northampton, MA, on March 13, 1888. Image credit: Forbes Library, Northampton, via Smithsonian Institution.

Winter Weather

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

That picture from 1888, its just awesome to see that far back on weather events visually.

Thanks Bob!
Thanks for the post Mr. Henson; I am curious to see how baroclinic interaction between the low and the warmer Gulf Stream corridor might help generate some more precipitation on the East side that would be drawn across towards the NE as well.




"Have a great weekend, everyone!"

Forecasting a major nor'easer, and wishing a great weekend for everyone? Something contradictory about that ;).
Quoting 4. daddyjames:

"Have a great weekend, everyone!"

Forecasting a major nor'easer, and wishing a great weekend for everyone? Something contradictory about that ;).


Well, the storm shouldn't arrive till at least Monday, so we have a weekend to breathe!
Quoting 5. BobHenson:



Well, the storm shouldn't arrive till at least Monday, so we have a weekend to breathe!


Or completely freak out ;)

Have a fantastic weekend (Not so Silent) Bob!
good read and something too watch over the weekend on the models

thanks
have a great weekend
EC seems to have a bigger more coherent storm, also starting out far south. Wish they have more forecast points, since it would be nice to know the estimated position between these two.

Compare with GFS 96 hour position
So, WunderAlertBot has been dismantled. I'm wondering, how people can be made aware of new blog entry in the Disqus system. Does somebody (or some bot) need to write a reply to every commentator, so it shows up in notifications? Anyway, great weekend to you too, Mr. Henson!


Northeastern WU-members, watching the models over the weekend :-)

Thanks for the new entry, Bob. Get some rest, too.
Quoting 10. elioe:

So, WunderAlertBot has been dismantled. I'm wondering, how people can be made aware of new blog entry in the Disqus system. Does somebody (or some bot) need to write a reply to every commentator, so it shows up in notifications? Anyway, great weekend to you too, Mr. Henson!
its the unknown known we will know when the time comes to know
Quoting 8. bwi:

EC seems to have a bigger more coherent storm, also starting out far south. Wish they have more forecast points, since it would be nice to know the estimated position between these two.

Here some maps from 12z inbetween, for Tuesday :-) Hope they show up?

102h



108h



114h:



Source: wetteronline.de (probably membership only, but you may try).
We were in Northhampton over the Christmas Holidays and it is possible, from my memory, that those buildings from 1888 might actually still be there; reminds me of the buildings near the Hotel Northhampton on King Street.


Euro gives me between 17-20 inches of snow.The models are now converging on a wetter storm.


Tornado count almost at a record high for this time of year. There were a few reports from yesterday as well.



So will likely be higher once those reports are confirmed.
17. bwi
13. barbamz thank you -- it looks like the EC has prime position for heavy snow in the eastern cities, whereas GFS has heaviest snow west of the cities and rain more likely DC and NYC.
Sneaux is of the Devil, so I avoid it like Confession, always.



Quoting 14. weathermanwannabe:

We were in Northhampton over the Christmas Holidays and it is possible, from my memory, that those buildings from 1888 might actually still be there; reminds me of the buildings near the Hotel Northhampton on King Street.


You are correct, all the Main St. buildings in the 1888 photo are still there.
Quoting 14. weathermanwannabe:

We were in Northhampton over the Christmas Holidays and it is possible, from my memory, that those buildings from 1888 might actually still be there; reminds me of the buildings near the Hotel Northhampton on King Street.





The picture in the blog is the old hardware store on Main street. It closed around 1902. I used to buy my hammers there. :):)
Quoting 19. no1der:




You are correct, all the Main St. buildings in the 1888 photo are still there.


Looked that way; my Daughter is teaching at Smith College in Northhampton at the moment......Beautiful Old Downtown.
Quoting 15. washingtonian115:

Euro gives me between 17-20 inches of snow.The models are now converging on a wetter storm.


We could really use the water in the DC area.

Quoting 21. weathermanwannabe:



Looked that way; my Daughter is teaching at Smith College in Northhampton at the moment......Beautiful Old Downtown.
I grew up in the area and still live nearby. Also taught at Smith for a time. Northampton is one of my favorite small cities in the country, even if it has never been able to keep a truly good restaurant for long.
Quoting 18. Patrap:

Sneaux is of the Devil, so I avoid it like Confession, always.


Well you live in a good place to avoid it most years.

Avoiding confession is like avoiding the dentist. It's just worse when u finally go :-)
Quoting 23. no1der:


I grew up in the area and still live nearby. Also taught at Smith for a time. Northampton is one of my favorite small cities in the country, even if it has never been able to keep a truly good restaurant for long.



But it has that local "Steals and Deals" store in one of those old buildings where I got some nice Winter gloves for a steal..................
Quoting 24. georgevandenberghe:



Well you live in a good place to avoid it most years.

Avoiding confession is like avoiding the dentist. It's just worse when u finally go :-)


This Human Being needs no middleman when communing with His Creator.

But thanks for the thought.

Quoting 15. washingtonian115:

Euro gives me between 17-20 inches of snow.The models are now converging on a wetter storm.

How does it look for South-West of DC? I'm in Fairfax and most models seem to have less snow this way so far.
Record warm Winter for Miami.
"Miami International Airport: The highest temperature recorded was 87 degrees set on
six different days (December 6th, 14th and 19th, January 7th and 22nd and February 8th) and
the lowest temperature recorded was 51 degrees on January 8th and 30th. The
temperature reached or exceeded 80 degrees on 69 days, a record for Miami. The
temperature failed to drop below 50 degrees for the first winter on record in Miami.
"
Link
Unbelievable. I don't think any plant or person is psychologically ready for this.
Here are PM runs posted on the WPC cite for Tuesday and Wednesday:

Day 4 Fronts and Pressures

Day 5 Fronts and Pressures

just hit a wind gust of 64 kmh here as per pws chills are -5 f
Quoting 33. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

just hit a wind gust of 64 kmh here as per pws chills are -5 f


Your PWS still working good?
35. bwi
WPC pretty ideal position for cities to get snow in my opinion. If the cold air is place.
Why do you need more than one hammer? Everything look like a nail j
Quoting 20. Grothar:



The picture in the blog is the old hardware store on Main street. It closed around 1902. I used to buy my hammers there. :):)
WU member Plazared has told us yesterday about an early heatwave in Spain. Today temps at the airport Elche in Alicante (southeastern Spain) reached 34.8C = 94.64F which is a heat record not only for the month of March but for the month of April as well - even for the whole period from October to April. Records at this airport go back to 1967. Source: Twitterfeed from official weather service in Valencia.

Article from earlier today.
Summer arrives early in Spain (But it won't last beyond the weekend)
The Local (Spain), 10 March 2017, 13:23 CET+01:00
Quoting 34. PedleyCA:



Your PWS still working good?
yeah its not the same station it is the same location I got the acc rite pro 5 in 1 now with colored display nice unit been up and running sine march 3rd

the other station the sensor base on roof still works but the base station inside failed back in august
to replace just the color display would of cost me the same as the new station so I went with new station
Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport
Date:
3:00 PM EST Friday 10 March 2017
Condition:
Mostly Cloudy
Pressure:
30.1 inches
Tendency:
Rising
Temperature:
18.7°F
Dew point:
-3.6°F
Humidity:
37%
Wind:
NW 35 gust 44 mph
Wind Chill:
-2
Visibility:
15 miles

pws now time
15.1 °F
Feels Like -3 °F

N
17.1
Wind from SW
Gusts 41.8 mph
Pressure
29.5 in
Visibility
15.0 miles
Clouds
Mostly Cloudy 4000 ft
Windchill
0 °F
Dew Point
°F
Humidity
55%
Rainfall
0.00 in
Snow Depth
Not available
Quoting 31. wxgeek723:

Unbelievable. I don't think any plant or person is psychologically ready for this.


BRING IT ON! I'm ready for winter. This is January, correct?

Unfortunately, it falls on my spring break...so I get no added vacation days. :'(
Quoting 41. Astrometeor:



BRING IT ON! I'm ready for winter. This is January, correct?

Unfortunately, it falls on my spring break...so I get no added vacation days. :'(
you mean the winter/spring break
Quoting 29. Sfloridacat5:

Record warm Winter for Miami.
"Miami International Airport: The highest temperature recorded was 87 degrees set on
six different days (December 6th, 14th and 19th, January 7th and 22nd and February 8th) and
the lowest temperature recorded was 51 degrees on January 8th and 30th. The
temperature reached or exceeded 80 degrees on 69 days, a record for Miami. The
temperature failed to drop below 50 degrees for the first winter on record in Miami.
"
Link


Wouldn't it be wild if Miami finally got below 50 next week?
Quoting 27. 1Zach1:


How does it look for South-West of DC? I'm in Fairfax and most models seem to have less snow this way so far.


I'm in southern Fairfax County south of Springfield about five miles and been here for 30+ years. I will be getting my snow shovel out and handy. If I wait, I won't be able to open the shed door. Guess that important meeting I was "invited" to earlier this afternoon won't happen.
" Meteorology buffs will recognize this as a classic Miller Type B set-up. Because Type B lows are usually located closer to shore than their more straightforward Type A counterparts, they typically bring more warm, moist air inland and produce a messy, hard-to-predict array of precipitation types."

On the earlier GFS run, it looked like a hybrid Miller A / Miller B system, with a low off the FL/GA border as well as the low in the Ohio Valley.

No
No
No
The window so snow in Baltimore has closed and I'm done.
#notmyweather
clouds from yesterdays storms, moving like the fluid they are

JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Quoting 20. Grothar:



The picture in the blog is the old hardware store on Main street. It closed around 1902. I used to buy my hammers there. :):)


Did you finally update this one with a comfort grip handle?
Quoting 37. barbamz:

WU member Plazared has told us yesterday about an early heatwave in Spain. Today temps at the airport Elche in Alicante (southeastern Spain) reached 34.8C = 94.64F which is a heat record not only for the month of March but for the month of April as well - even for the whole period from October to April. Records at this airport go back to 1967. Source: Twitterfeed from official weather service in Valencia.

Article from earlier today.
Summer arrives early in Spain (But it won't last beyond the weekend)
The Local (Spain), 10 March 2017, 13:23 CET 01:00



The Global Warming from Humans burning fossil fuels to power our societies continues..

....unabated.



Quoting 36. ekogaia:

Why do you need more than one hammer? Everything look like a nail j

If you throw them, to keep people in line, you need a LOT of hammers! :-)