DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions only. You can read AccuWeather.com's latest maps & discussion in this story (address may change).
Today's winter storm is a mess -- both literally and meteorologically. We're 12-18 hours from its arrival here in Central Pennsylvania and the models are showing big disagreements in timing and precipitation type. Some of those who like snow will be thrilled to see the storm overperform, while others will be screaming in the Facebook comments tomorrow about how they didn't get enough. Travelers who think they can make it in some areas will end up off the road, while others who were warned of a tough commute will drive through only rain. It's a forecaster's nightmare. Here's a look at the radar at 1 p.m. ET:
The storm is causing (what TV weathermen from my childhood referred to as) "a mixed bag" of winter precipitation in the ArkLaTex region, but observations on the ground (icons) aren't matching the radar's guess of what is falling from the sky (snow=purple, pink-freezing rain, orange=mix).
Here in Central Pennsylvania, the NWS predicts the arrival of the precipitation around dinnertime, with a total of 1.8 inches of snow and 0.3 of an inch of ice for State College, the end of the storm. AccuWeather.com, meanwhile, predicts 3.1 inches of snow only (and one of our forecasters just said that up to 6 inches could fall), starting at 10 p.m.
Why all the disagreement? The storm was already complex (interacting with a trough - see tomorrow's weather map shown above - as well as a surface front), and the fact that precipitation will be mixed over many areas complicates the issue. The storm will also be up to user interpretation. You might get 3 inches of snow, followed by a half an inch of sleet that smacks it down to what would appear to be a total of 1 inch of frozen precipitation.
Take a look at these model simulated radar images, all at the time when precipitation should start here in Central Pennsylvania (5 p.m. today through 2 a.m. tomorrow, not all that helpful). Not only do the models disagree on the arrival time... what type of precipitation will be falling in Maryland at that time? It could be snow... sleet, ice or rain. To add insult to injury, the HRRR model (arguably one of the best) is half a dozen forecast runs behind due to computer problems and its prediction doesn't even match the current radar. AARGH! In conclusion, don't shoot the (meteorological) messenger on this one folks; it's a mess.
— Ryan Hoke (@RyanHoke) January 17, 2013
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