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The Cold, The Ridiculous Cold, and The Storm

1/22/2011, 5:29:28 AM

Saturday, 10:30 A.M.

There's PLENTY of cold air to go around these days. Over the past 24 hours it turns much colder along the Eastern Seaboard in the wake of 1) the storm that dumped snow from the Plains to New England, and 2) the arctic front that whipped offshore in the afternoon. Much of the interior mid-Atlantic into Upstate New York and interior New England awoke to temperatures in the single digits, and where it was reasonably clear for a time, it tumbled below zero. It has stay comparatively 'mild' (NOT the term to use in this pattern!) around the Lakes, thanks to clouds and some flurries and lingering bands of Lake Effect snow.

This is cold. Then there is the RIDICULOUSLY cold. We saw that yesterday morning in International Falls, Minnesota - the nation's icebox - when the mercury dropped to 44 below. This morning the temperatures slipped into the 20s and 30s below throughout far northern Minnesota, most of Manitoba save the southwest part of the province, and most of central and northern Ontario, where I saw one reading of -48!

In between these two air masses is a little clipper-like feature that will spread some pretty light and very flurry snows across Michigan today, then Upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania tonight. The snow will more or less fall apart late tonight and tomorrow morning as they try to come into New England, but the upper level energy from that feature will feed into the storm developing off the Southeast Coast today, making it a potent system that will roll over Newfoundland tomorrow night as a gale center.

The impact of this deepening will be to pull that RIDICULOUSLY cold air from Manitoba and Ontario right through the Northeast tomorrow night and Monday. Where it clears and high pressure settles into place tomorrow night to promote perfect radiational cooling off the snow pack of upstate New York into Vermont, temperatures should get to at least 15 to 20 below, but I have to believe someone gets to 30 below up there Monday morning. It's just that cold!

Even farther south into the far northern suburbs of Philadelphia and the pine barrens of New Jersey, I believe it'll get to zero or lower. And with that high in place Monday, it will mean a steep temperature inversion that won't be broken up with much wind. Then, with clouds streaking in from the Midwest, the days' sunshine will be dimmed considerably, meaning a very, very cold day is on tap throughout the region.

That sets us up for the next storm. Two of the models I've looked at (I've not looked at all of them) are still on track for a big ticket event next week. Here's the morning video:

Once again, as you probably could have predicted, the GFS has wandered off into its own camp, as the 0z run of the model moves the system along, never brings it north, and produces only modest snows from Virginia to southern New England, and not much farther north and west. The 6z run, for what it's worth, is even farther south and east, sparing most of New England, and leaving only South Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, eastern Maryland and Delaware at risk for a heavy snow:

But why do I find this hard to believe? For one reason, the downstream blocking that had been present over the North Atlantic is not nearly as strong as it had been, and this should allow the storm more room to turn north. For another, it begins as a southern stream system, coming out of the Plains late this weekend and across the South Monday and Monday night into Tuesday morning AHEAD of the northern branch feature coming in from the Midwest and Ohio Valley. I have a hard time seeing that kind of set up push the storm out to sea, but instead should cause the upper level flow to become more southerly with time to guide the storm more northward. A third reason is that it is at odds with many other models. An 4, it is the GFS. It's just not a model that often breeds confidence in forecasting! Far too often it 'sees' the storm in the distance, then just simply 'loses' it, only to 'find' it again and join the party late. But we shall see.

Here's the upper level set up, or at least the set up as the latest 12z NAM shows it for Monday morning:

The feature coming through the Plains this weekend more or less 'disappears' from an upper level stand point. And truth be told, it isn't much to write home about at the surface this point, either! However, this will have given the atmosphere ample time to moisten up across the South. That'll start late tonight and tomorrow in South and Southeast Texas, where a return flow from off the western Gulf will spread low clouds into the region, followed by spits of rain and/or drizzle at some point tomorrow into tomorrow night. Hey! You have to start somewhere, right?

On Monday, most of the Gulf Coast region will become engulfed in clouds, but rain will still be rather hard to come by overall. But look upstream at that feature coming into the northern Plains and Midwest. There will be a weak surface low associated with it at this juncture, with some light snow spreading across portions of the Dakotas and Minnesota into Wisconsin and parts of Iowa and northern Illinois.

As this feature digs southeastward, the air aloft will cool. At the same time the low levels of the atmosphere will be attempting to warm and moisten from off the Gulf, and it's only a matter of time before low pressure not only forms, but begins to quickly deepen along the central Gulf Coast Monday night and Tuesday. At this point precipitation will blossom across the South, with rain and thunderstorms near the coast, but the potential for some ice and snow over northernmost portions of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia into Tennessee.

By the time we get to Tuesday night, the storm should be transferring to the Southeast Coast, spreading steady precipitation from the Southeast into the mid-Atlantic states, if not into southern New England. Assuming the upper level trough axis is still back west of the mountains Tuesday evening, then this storm SHOULD turn north and NOT out to sea, which implies winds turning into the east with time along the coastal plain.

And that's one of the more interesting aspects of the storm - despite the massive arctic air mass over the Northeast and mid-Atlantic in advance of the storm, it is quite conceivable there's more rain than snow along the coastal plain up into Long Island, and perhaps southern and southeastern New England!

Of course, if the storm is a slow mover, as it looks as if it will be, and it deepens as much as some of the models are suggesting, places where it remains all snow could get quite a bit of it, and right now that would seem to favor areas of central and western Virginia into eastern West Virginia, central and western Maryland, much of central and eastern Pennsylvania save the southeast corner, and all of eastern New York state into central and northern New England. Here's a quick snapshot, with more updates to follow through the weekend:

Now, if you are getting really tired of all this cold and snow, like me, then maybe a trip out West is in order! I was watching some of the coverage of the Bob Hope Desert Classic yesterday, and man did it look nice there in sunny Southern California! And it's pretty nice and mild all the way up into much of Oregon and parts of Washington, too!

Of course, you COULD do what has been suggested by MANY people to me - grab some cross-country skis and head on out to enjoy all this snow! One of these days I will, but right now in my back yard there's still not enough snow on the ground for that to be a worthwhile activity. That'll change by Wednesday, most likely, but I'm saving my hard-earned cash for some other things - like a vacation, one I'm really going to need after this cold, stormy pattern finally lets up!!!

And there are signs that may happen by Valentine's Day!

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


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