Joe Lundberg

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Foundation Period for Winter has Plenty of Ups and Downs

October 25, 2013; 11:05 AM ET

Friday, 11:50 A.M.

Now that I've made the firm commitment to some personal athletic goals for 2014, I find myself in a season. Many would describe it as the "offseason," as there are no things or events on my schedule now until the very end of April. With things such as a marathon, a half marathon, a 24-hour bike challenge, and potentially an ironman in my sights from the beginning of May through the end of August, it promises to be a busy season!

During this "offseason," or more a foundation period, particularly for my swimming and running, there will undoubtedly be some very active days, and then, for any number of reasons, there will be some inactive days. And even the active days will have some big changes. For instance, today I'll try to squeeze a swim workout in during the evening hours. Before that I'll run, but it will be with a training partner who is just starting out on the road to a half marathon, and she's never run before. So the pace will be slower, and the distance shorter than most of my normal runs at this stage of training.

On the bike, it's much the same way, as some days I'll ride solo, and do what I want - hill climbs, rolling hills, speed workouts, or just easy spinning. Sometimes that will depend on who I am riding with, or what I feel like doing on any given day by my lonesome.

Much like my workouts, the weather has many ups and downs in the foundation period for winter. The atmosphere across the Northern Hemisphere is, on average, cooling with less and less daylight. But it's not doing so uniformly, and therein lies one of the problems. To give you an example of this, look at the today's 500 mb hemispheric pattern with anomalies shaded in red (higher-than-average heights) or blue (lower-than-average heights):

The strong upper-level ridge over the northeast Pacific encompasses the Pacific Northwest and western Canada from British Columbia and Alberta back to the Yukon Territory and much of Alaska! In fact, while Anchorage has cooled a bit over the past couple of days, it's still a bit above average. And this is after an incredible stretch of 50-degree warmth that lasted 10 days! For the month they're still running more than 7 above normal, while Fairbanks checks in at 10 above average!

Typically in the cool season, when Alaska is that warm, the mid-Atlantic back to the Midwest is cold. The current pattern certainly fits the mold, with the chill encompassing much of the nation from the Plains on East. Look at the projected anomalies for Saturday:

The next shot of cold air will be aimed in a different area initially. Instead of sliding down across the Plains and Midwest into the South and East, it will instead drill southward into the Rockies behind a strong cold front later Sunday into Monday. Look at the same anomaly chart, only for Monday:

Denver will go from 70 or so on Sunday to snow Monday night and Tuesday, and that snow may be quite heavy in parts of Wyoming and Montana.

This storm will also have its own ups and downs. How so, you ask? Well, just look at the various computer forecasts that go out through next week. There are about as many solutions as there are models options. The European model for instance, takes the main feature and drills it through the Northwest, and down into California. It then spits out a piece of energy across the Plains, and then to the mid-Atlantic states Wednesday night. The main storm holds back, and doesn't really get to the East and Northeast until Friday night and Saturday, with a cold front still stretching from the Maine coast to the Southeast coast come Saturday evening.

On the other hand, the GFS holds the main storm together and brings the storm out across the Plains on Wednesday, and into the Great Lakes Thursday. The attached cold front clears the Eastern Seaboard Thursday night, allowing some of the cold air out over the Rockies early next week to move into the East by week's end.

As with any pattern, sometimes its hard to know what model to go with, as each one has its strengths and weakness. There are times when one model has a "hot hand," and you want to go with it. But then it just underperforms, and you're left with a bad forecast!

Suffice it to say the South and the East will get warmer for a time next week, especially the South, with the warmth in the East likely to be later in the week. And there will be a storm, one that will have snow on its north and west flank for a time. The timing of that storm is still not etched in stone, nor is it one or two storms when push comes to shove. More than likely, given the current setup, there will likely be a smaller piece that is spit out of the main upper-level low, with the parent storm waiting in the wings to come out and across the country at its own pace. That, of course, suggests I'm leaning more toward the camp of the European model now, even though its track record of late leaves something to be desired.

Just like the models, as I go through my foundation training I will have to listen to my body, as well as my coach in Sidney, Vancouver, British Columbia, and trust it will get me ready for what I face in the build phase, and then for all of the activity from May to August.

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

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Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran AccuWeather.com forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.