Elliot Abrams

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Big Storm Next Wednesday and Thursday

March 1, 2013; 7:24 AM ET

Friday 8AM

With a storm well of the East Coast and a large high pressure area to the west, the weekend will feature cold and primarily dry weather in the Northeast. There will be a lot of cloudiness downwind from the Lakes and in the mountains; a little less in the I-95 corridor. There will be patches of snow showers (and some rain showers in the lowest elevations). As we go into next week, a storm will be forming in the middle of the country, and it could turn into a major storm on the East Coast. There has been model wobble with the storm so far... one it looks farther south, then the next day farther north. Here is a video showing the setup for the weekend and leading up to the projected storm.

Meteorologists often remember old storms, especially when they themselves (as in yours truly) are old (and I feel that way sometimes at my Les Mills body pump class (lifting weights to music) at the gym). Anyway, when I was 15 and growing up in Philadelphia, we had the Great Storm of March 1962. The surface and 500 mb maps from March 6, 1962, are shown below. They come from the National Weather Service archive that lets you see maps from all the way back to 1871. Below those maps is the European model forecast for next Wednesday. There are many similarities: storms on both coasts, a ridge in eastern Canada with a trough to the west of the those ridges. But an important point is that while there are similarities, the maps are not identical. This means we cannot just say this storm will do exactly the same thing as the historic one.

Surface map March 6, 1962

500 mb map from March 6, 1962

Euro 500 mb forecast for next Wednesday morning.

Some other thoughts:

This is the chameleon month of March. Always searching for a sense of identity, its days stagger through punches of waning winter, dance with the sunlit caresses of coming spring, and hide behind thick clouds through the wind-swept battles between the two.

The midday sky looks brighter now, but the sun sneaks out of view before the dinner dishes can be cleared. Winter's cloak of white melts down to oozing mud and rushing streams. The crocus and daffodil bravely blossom, but wiser plants bide their time til a less treasonous season. Dark December, Jailer January and Fortress February no longer hold the keys around here. We peer out and the door to winter's dungeon creaks open.

And yet, rather than seizing this moment of weakness, rather than racing headlong into warmer times, spring prefers the test-market approach: try a hint of south wind here, a puffy cumulus there; teasing breezings between the freezings. Even the south wind has ragged, chilly edges on many a March day; subtle hints of warmth vanish all too quickly in the gathering dim of dusk.

Like a 12 year-old on Saturday morning, March is full of hope. But Mother Nature and Old Man Winter rule the household. One day, with icewater in its veins, the northwest wind can blast in from the still frozen hinterlands of the Arctic north.

But if the south wind quickens, there's usually some double agent storm waiting in the wings, a two faced wanderer of the westerlies dealing dreadful thunderstorms on its south side and freezing gales with drifting snows to its north. As storms approach, the day carries a hint of mildness, but the fading sun gives ground to a milky veil that would all too readily drop snow but for the want of a few degrees.

Through it all we mortals whose days are most surely numbered somehow yearn for them to pass... so sweet the lure of prospective spring: its meadows splashed with gold, its captivating sunshine, its renewal of earthly life. The set changes each March, and the players follow different scripts. But it's really the same show. No matter how many times we see it in life, we're always ready for it again. For as much as March means memories of dark, chilly winter, it surely means brighter and better times are just ahead.

March is national optimism month. A sense of optimism may help us remain healthy, and certainly helps us make others feel better than they would around someone who is always pessimistic. In the weather-forecasting business, we may sound optimistic or pessimistic on any given day, but we shouldn't let either emotion dictate the forecast. We might be optimistic about taking the brighter side of things, but I pessimistically add that when we are overly optimistic, things often go wrong. On the other hand, there are many times when one computer model or other atmospheric signal will suggest nasty weather is coming, but that model or signal may be an exception; the other models suggest the nasty weather will not happen and there won't be storm. If we go with that idea, are we being realistic or optimistic? The answer is simple. If we are correct, as we expect to be, then we were realistic with our optimism. If on the other hand, the pessimistic view turned out right, it is clear we were too optimistic to discard the pessimistic possibilities and thus missed the need to be realistically pessimistic. Today's computer models for the middle of next week show this clearly. The latest trend shows a storm with gale-force gusts lashing the shore from Virginia to New Jersey while heavy precipitation falls: both rain and snow possible at different times during the storm. But is this the correct trend. If we take the optimistic approach, we simply predict no big problem. But is that realistic? Is it optimistic? Is it pessimistic? It could be.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com


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About This Blog

Elliot Abrams
Elliot Abrams from AccuWeather.com offers this Northeast Weather Blog for the U.S. with regular updates on NE weather from a leading forecaster and meteorologist.