Winter Potential Next Week

Lots still to digest concerning snowfall potential next week.

The bottom line is that it is still too far in advance to make any definitive calls at this time.

Arctic air is expected to bleed into Virginia Tuesday, and there will be a disturbance moving in from the west Tuesday evening to generate a storm.  Before we can determine how much snow falls (if any) in this situation, we need to figure out the structure (pressure, wind field) of the developing storm, where it forms, where it goes, and how fast it moves.

We look at several numerical simulations of the atmosphere (models) for guidance. Weather enthusiasts have heard of them (GFS, ECMWF, CMC, FIM). There are substantial differences between them looking into next week.

While the ECMWF is the most aggressive with snowfall for Virginia, that solution is still least likely. The higher level steering winds (e.g. jet stream) do not favor the system pausing and undergoing explosive development, which is what we would need for a deep snow.  That idea also loses support in the ECMWF ensembles.  In an effort to key in on the most accurate forecast, a simulation is run numerous times with slightly different beginning conditions.  The average of those ECMWF ensembles dramatically mutes the big snow forecast.

This suggests that the storm will move from west to east through our part of the state (e.g. more progressive).  This is more in line with the GFS and CMC solutions.  This general track still can provide some snow, but something that could run as little as a dusting or as much as a few inches… again… depending on the specific track.


GFS Simulation of surface pressure (solid) and average temperature (dashed) valid 1am Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Note the area of low pressure off the Carolina coastline is not very strong. Graphic from the Penn State Electronic Map Wall.

Much admiration has been given to the ECMWF, and with good reason, it performs well. But it is not perfect.  My colleague in Raleigh, Nate Johnson, likens the ECMWF to the baseball great Ted Williams.  Williams had a lifetime batting average of .344.  Meaning, he still made an out nearly two-thirds of the time.

So, it is still best to monitor over the next few days, as it will likely be Sunday or Monday before some of the details on this situation can be attacked.  But for snow lovers, there is still room to be optimistic.

About seansublette

Meteorologist at Climate Central. Broadcast meteorologist in Virginia from 1995 to 2015. Born and raised in Richmond, VA. Penn State alumnus. Loves baseball and the rock band Rush. Views are independent of my employer. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
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