Happy 2016 ! With the new year comes a snowier pattern and it will come right away. Much of New Years Day and into the 2nd will feature snow flurries and the occasional heavier snow shower. The mountain should receive a fluffy few inches from all this, but a rather dynamic upper level impulse will bring the polar jet into play. Snow showers will become heavier and squallier on Sunday bringing 3-6 additional inches to the mountain before drier and colder air settles into the region Sunday night.
The quick burst of arctic chill has looked more impressive the last few days and will send readings toward the single numbers Monday morning and below zero by early morning Tuesday. If I am not mistaken, it would be the first sub-zero temps of the season. Temperatures will moderate over the course of the rest of the week but only modestly and no significant thaw is expected. It is expected to stay dry through Friday although the sub-tropical jet will not go dormant.
The last few days has been a rocky period for some of the medium range computer models. Cold weather mongers and snow lovers alike (such as myself) received a scare as a cycle of model runs weakened the upcoming cold pattern substantially. The trend was short lived however as models have recreated the consensus from a few days ago by establishing a solid negative AO / positive PNA combination beginning around January 9th and continuing through mid month. There has been an interesting story regarding the storm in Iceland that became so wound up, warm air was sucked deep into the Arctic region sending temperatures near the north pole toward the freezing mark. This is 50 degrees above average which is an incredible event so far as anomalous weather is concerned. The other interesting caveat was that the last time we saw a storm such as this was late December of 1986, also an El Nino year. Yes, Penn State football and NY Giants football both proceeded to win championships in the month that followed (this will assuredly not be duplicated) but the month was a fascinatingly stormy one, with a succession of winter storms that impacted the eastern seaboard. Warmth near the poles is certainly something that needs to happen to start moving the AO in a negative direction and such a storm has certainly resulted in that. Time will tell if this January turns into a similarly stormy one, but the pattern suggests it's possible.
As for storminess in 2016, it appears as if it may begin around the time of January 9th. If the ridge west/trough east pattern becomes too pronounced, some of the storminess could be suppressed. With the present strength of the El Nino, I doubt the pattern will become "arctic" but rather "stormy" including a few chances for big snow starting around the 9th but also continuing well beyond. We will try to provide some better detail on this in the coming days.