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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Possible big storm next week provides a chance for some redemption

I know there is some frustration out there with MRG sitting idle thanks to a New England-style 60 degree temperature fluctuation. It is always very easy to attribute larger scale trends in climate to anomalous weather. There is some precedent for that as well since some well respected individuals on the subject have selectively drawn some connections, especially when it comes to tropical weather activity. In my opinion however, many are guilty of going way overboard attributing anomalous weather or a singular historic event to global climate change.  Weather by definition is chaotic and there is seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily and geographical variability that trumps those larger scale trends in climate by a huge margin. There are also factors such as El Nino or the PDO which contribute to the behavior of a season and also carry more weight. I don't want to minimize the importance of global climate change as an issue. I am a big proponent of proactive action on this and many other environmental issues. That being said, El Nino and piss poor luck has been the biggest determinant.

With that out of the way, we have two potentially very exciting weeks of weather ahead of us. Warm weather will make another push at us this weekend and temperatures will creep above freezing by a few degrees Saturday. This after some snow Friday night as a weather system well to our north provides us with a nice overrunning boundary. Accumulations will only be on the order of a few inches and some of that will turn rather wet on Saturday with the warmer temperatures. Temperatures will hover around the freezing mark on Sunday with additional snow showers. There is a weather system that will approach later Sunday that will try and focus some of that precipitation somewhere but there is some disagreement on the "where".  None of this is really that significant compared to the power of next week's potential weather (and yes that sounded dangerously close to a line from the original Star Wars).

Next week's potential monster storm (Wednesday into Thursday Feb 24th and 25th) is one of the benefits of El Nino and none of those benefits have done MRG any real favors this year. Another big southern streamer gets organized early next week and seems destined to explode somewhere along the Atlantic coast and ride north along the frontside of an amplifying east coast jet stream. There are a lot of things to like about this system including the possibility of heavy snow and multiple days of powder thanks to a possible maritime occlusion later in the week. There are also risks with this storm. The recent American GFS model did take the system way too far west for our liking with the result thus being less snow and more non-snow. As of now however there has been some healthy support from the various ensemble means for a big hit. I can hear that "here we go again" from the other side of this computer but to quantify, we have never had this kind of support for a big storm. We have had possibilities and the blog has discussed all those possibilities and we have more or less struck out on most of our possibilities.

We also have every reason to believe that the generally favorable pattern will continue thanks to a weakened jet in the Pacific and a large ridge over western Canada. More on that in the coming days.


Daryl Cronin said...

Hi Josh, just want to reiterate there is nothing like this blog for us snow-lovers, the Valley is lucky to have you based here considering the regional microclimate variances that exist even within our small state. I hit refresh more times than I'd like to admit during the day when there hasn't been an update in a couple days. Always wondering what has shifted in the models as time passes closer toward a potential event. Of course the outcomes have been poor save the unexpected terrain inducer last week. It's still better to have the inside info even when it isn't happening for us.

I was wondering about a couple slang-ish expressions...Years past a common term we heard was Evil Empire that seemed to accompany cycles between cold dry weather and warm wet weather. Haven't really heard that much this year, so maybe this El Nino pattern is a different dynamic but with similar results.

Also, Southern Streamer...This apparently rides along the southern branch of the Jet Stream. It seems that for one of these to really work for us, it would need to basically merge into the traditional Nor'easter track, so I'm wondering if the difference between the two might be that a Nor'easter typically is on the Northern branch of the jet stream that has dropped into the South. Just a guess.

Daryl Cronin said...

Correction: Unexpectedly HEAVY terrain induced last week...

jim buni said...

Hi Josh, I'm an avid NE skier whose home Mt is over at Wildcat. Just wanted to thank you for your blog. It's a great read for the snow obsessed.. Keep up the good work!
My only hope here seems to be Spring temps thawing the man made snow turned cement. Seems like a a fantasy hat last year we were brook skiing. There are flocks of refugee BC skiers from across the street with nowhere to turn, skinning up the mountain and taking any turns they can get.
I like your perspective on how this season does or dos not re;ate to bigger climate trends.
Jim in the WMV

Joshua Fox said...

Daryl, that is a very good question actually. Southern streamer is short for a system that typically passes through lower U.S. latitudes before interacting with forces along the east coast. As you said, sometimes they get a big boost from polar energy and explode and sometimes they don't. It's always best to get a direct hit from a phased system but it isn't required. Unfortunately, many of the "southern streamers" that have not phased have done nothing for us. Either we lack the cold air or we lack a favorable storm track. The big El Nino winter of 97-98 saw some "un-phased" southern streamers deliver in a big way for Vermont. We did half way decent that year in spite of some big icing in January and a big March thaw. I was hoping for a repeat of that but it just hasn't materialized as of yet.