Joe Lundberg

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Looking Ahead to the Next Storm

March 7, 2013; 10:45 AM ET

Thursday, 11:30 a.m.

The large storm south of Cape Cod and well off the mid-Atlantic coast has been an interesting one, to say the least. It left behind a deep pile of heavy, wet snow over western Virginia and the mountains of West Virginia into central and western Maryland and portions of south-central and southwestern Pennsylvania. In contrast, those living along and east of the I-95 corridor from near Washington, D.C., up to New York are wanting to know what happened to all of the snow that was predicted? Even in central and eastern/southeastern Pennsylvania, the storm was more of a bust than anything else. It is making me want to reach for that brown paper bag and cut out a couple of eyeholes so I can don it and walk around as the 'unknown meteorologist,' much in the vein of the 'unknown comic' from the days of 'The Gong Show' back in the '70s.

Here's the late morning visible satellite image of the storm:

That's a classic 'comma' shape, with the outer bands of the storm still lashing southeastern New England with rain and snow and strong, gusty winds. The entire circulation still extends into eastern New York and down through New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, where there are plenty of clouds, some breaks of sun and bits of light snow or flurries here and there.

We're not entirely done with the storm, as there's another piece of energy over the northeastern Great Lakes that will slip southeastward over the next 24 hours and be pulled around the western and southwestern flank of the storm. The lowering of the heights associated with this feature will correspond to a cooling of the atmosphere as a whole. In turn, that will help to squeeze some additional moisture out of the atmosphere, and it will also have the effect of elongating the offshore storm and drawing more and more moisture westward through southern New England.

I refuse to post images of the NAM model at this point, for little else other than general principles. Its track record with this storm has been, well, how can we put it nicely? Putrid. Instead, I'll show you a graphic of total precipitation being forecast by the latest (12z Thursday) GFS model through tomorrow evening:

Where this is all snow, which will not include Cape Cod, if not portions of southern and eastern Rhode Island, that could mean 4-8 inches of snow, with local amounts over 10 inches in some of the higher terrain of northern Rhode Island, the hills going toward Worcester and the high ground of the Berkshires and northern Connecticut. It won't nearly be the lollipop of snow that western Virginia saw, nor that the SREF snowfall forecast of two days ago was implying, but it will definitely qualify as the secondary area of heavy snowfall I posited on Tuesday's post.

It's the areas in between that are left to wonder what happened and what might have been. The best explanation I can come up with is that the band of heavy precipitation that was rolling northward across Delaware yesterday never made it into southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey fully. Furthermore, the long duration of east to northeast winds across New Jersey and Delaware into southeastern Pennsylvania and eastern Maryland brought just enough warmth in from off the Atlantic to keep boundary layer temperatures well above freezing, generally between 36 and 42 degrees. It's almost impossible to maintain snow at those temperatures, let alone see it accumulate. And farther north and west, the precipitation rates were never great enough to get whatever snow was seen to come down hard enough to amount to anything - it was just too warm at the surface.

That all shrinks off the mid-Atlantic and New England coast tomorrow afternoon. By then, snow will be melting away steadily in the areas that were hammered over the past couple of days. That melting process will be hastened by sunshine and milder weather this weekend, as much of the mid-Atlantic will warm past 50 Saturday afternoon and well into the 50s Sunday. A few places in Maryland will top 60 Sunday afternoon and be awfully close on Monday as well. Under those kind of conditions, the snow doesn't stand much of a chance at this time of the year.

Look at the latest snow analysis:

Rest assure that snow analysis chart will look a lot different on Monday!

The next storm is already bringing some showers into southern California this morning. Here's the latest Pacific IR image:

Two things stand out about that image to me. One is the upper-level low itself, rolling off the central California coast. The other is the plume of moisture coming out of the tropics toward Baja California and across Mexico. These two will eventually work together to enhance precipitation ahead of the storm, but not until later this weekend.

Before then, the storm will bring rain and some higher elevation snow through central and especially southern California this afternoon and tonight, spreading into the southern Rockies tomorrow and tomorrow night. As low pressure emerges over southern Kansas Saturday, cold air north of the storm will drill into Colorado, and snow will break out up and down the Front Range, a snow that could exceed a foot in some areas before ending sometime Saturday night.

To the east across the Plains, there will be some snow across parts of Nebraska into South Dakota. Even parts of northwestern Iowa and Minnesota will get some snow on Saturday, but areas to the east and southeast are looking at more of a rain storm. There will probably be some sleet and freezing rain for a while in parts of the Midwest, but rain will end up being the preferred form of precipitation in the end.

The real concern will be later Sunday and Sunday night as the storm moves toward the Great Lakes and pulls a cold front across the central and southern Plains into a warm and increasingly moistening air mass. Some of the high-level moisture from the Pacific will get involved, too, more or less 'seeding' the air below and allowing some potent thunderstorms to fire ahead of the front. These will impact portions of eastern Texas and eastern Oklahoma into Arkansas and Louisiana, then move into the Ohio and Tennessee valleys and the Deep South Sunday night into Monday. Some severe thunderstorms could survive into the Southeast Monday night and early Tuesday before the front swings through and dries things out from west to east later Tuesday night.

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.