January Forecaster of the Month

I know, I know, you think Adam Claibon should be the forecaster of the month, but he appeared on this site in February, not January. Tell you what though, since he did appear on THIS site, it’s only right that Victoria-Weather IS the forecaster of the month. I mean, it took more than just a guest appearance, we actually were near the top on every forecast that was put out in the first month of the year. Congrats, us!

OutletForecast Wins
The Weather Channel1
Victoria-Weather1
Accuweather1
WeatherNation
Weatherbug
National Weather Service
Forecast.io

The mid-Atlantic braces for a sloppy beginning to February

There is fairly nasty system moving through the middle of the country tonight, bringing a lot of snow to the southern Great Lakes and some rain and thunderstorms to the Tennessee Valley. While that’s a big deal for people currently caught in the storm, it will become a bigger news storm tomorrow and on Monday.

The feature is very well organized right now, but as it approaches the Appalachians, the primary surface low will stall over Ohio, with the primary thrust of moisture shifting offshore through early Monday morning. While snow will begin Sunday, the really pivotal point in the life cycle of this storm, and the story this feature will tell will come on Monday morning.

The leading batch of moisture will start to reorganize in the open waters of the Gulf Stream. Most guidance suspects that the center of circulation will organize south of the eastern end of Long Island. This will mean a boatload of heavy wet snow for southern New England.

Image from Pivotal Weather

That is the common consensus for Monday evening. Heavy snow falling over the entirety of southern New England, except over Cape Cod, where heavy rain is likely. One prominent model, however, is changing things up just a little bit. It organizes this redeveloping low off the coast of southern New Jersey. It’s just far enough west that a little bit warmer air aloft infiltrates, and then we get this:

Image from Pivotal Weather

Because most of the models agree on what will happen, the forecast from the National Weather Service calls for a likely total of 11″ in New York City, with a maximum of 12″. There aren’t many things that can make this storm snow more than what appears likely right now. The uncertainty lies in that Euro, which brings in just enough warm air to reduce the potential snow down to 4″.

We’ll know a lot more by Monday morning, but it looks like a snowy start to the week and month for the Mid-Atlantic.

NOAA updates their forecast services

As I’ve noted before, every forecast outlet pulls their model data from the same source material. The GFS and the NAM are the big models in the US, but the European, UK and Canadian model provide coverage, along with a slew of short range models, and even some created in house for smaller time frames and smaller geographies.

Larger weather companies have created their own methodology for extracting data from the models, and applying formulas to produce forecasts for a broader geographic region without necessarily requiring human involvement at every point in the country. These are called “blends” because they take bits of particular models and create their output.

Recently, the National Weather Service has done away with their former MOS (Model Output Statistics) page, which allowed users to see the raw text output from the GFS and NAM for hundreds of sites across the country, instead replacing it with a page offering the National Blend of Models (NBM) which is all the text forecasts after they have been processed by the National Weather Service using their blending formula (but before they have been processed by local meteorologists and placed on the NWS site).

Since the GFS and NAM are still available for meteorologists, this is really a lift for weather persons without the backing for a company to pay for a whole lot of model data, as it suggests the trends of all the guidance, and not just that which is available for free to the American masses.

It may not lead to better forecasts from everyone, but it definitely sweeps the curtain aside for more curious eyes.

A chill in the air for Inauguration Day

All eyes will be on the US Capitol on Wednesday, not only in the United States, but across he world. Given the events at the capital on January 6th (and indeed, the tenor of the nation and world politics in recent years) there will be special attention given to an event that usually engenders a lot of headlines in normal times.

If the weather is discussed during those headlines, it will be to discuss the chill in the air during the ceremony. Temperatures in the morning will be hovering at or just below freezing, meaning that anyone around the capital before the ceremony commences better bundle up.

Mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to upper 30s should be in the offing when Kamala Harris, followed by Joe Biden are sworn into their new roles atop the United States government.

There will be a bit of northwest flow thanks to an inverted trough trailing low pressure in the Canadian Maritimes. This may lead to a bit of briskness, but any associated precipitation will remain in the Appalachians west of D.C. Of all the many things that could happen on Wednesday, weather is not something that should raise too many concerns.

2020 Forecaster of the Year

Who could have predicted all that happened in 2020? If anyone could have predicted it, I’m sure a lot of people would have chosen to skip it. A dark December ended brightly, at least in terms of plaudits for The Weather Channel and Accuweather, who tied atop of the leaderboard for forecasters of the month.

It didn’t help put them over the top for forecaster of the year, however. That prize belonged to…. us! Victoria-Weather was he most consistent throughout the year, and ended up with the best scores on aggregate (TWC and AW were 2 and 3, respectively) for the year. Interestingly, The Weather Channel was very good when they were good, but had some stinkers mixed in. They had he most individual forecast wins for 2020, while Accuweather was never at the paramount, but never really had major rough streaks, and are at the bottom of this table.

OutletForecast Wins
The Weather Channel13
Victoria-Weather11.41
WeatherNation7.08
Weatherbug6.82
Accuweather5.58
National Weather Service4.91
Forecast.io4.16

Victoria-Weather was consistent, and had moments of brilliance as well. Just the way we want it. To 2021, hopefully it goes better than 2020.

The New Year looks to start with a bang

As is often the cast with mid-winter systems, a deep upper level trough will feature two iterations. The first will be a fast moving area of low pressure moving through the upper Midwest with a burst of snow in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. The second will emerge as the base of the upper trough pivots further south into warmer air, a stronger feature will develop.

In this case, the deep, secondary low will really emerge over east Texas. Tightly wound and with the clash of air masses one needs to generate some convection.

The storm will quickly shift to the northeast and get more organized as it does so, introducing a threat for severe weather in the Lower Mississippi Valley as it does so.

Here is the risk for severe weather on New Years Day, or Day 4 in the SPC parlance.

If there is one good thing about the timing of these storms, it is that their intensity will require day time heating, and overnight severe weather is not expected. Still, as the storm continues to lift to the north-northeast, severe weather is already on the agenda for January 2nd as well.

The back end of the storm isn’t going to be nearly as moisture rich as the warm sector, in good spring fashion, but there will still be snow associated with the feature, particularly through the Great Lakes.

2020 is finally almost over, but 2021 really wants to give us it’s best shot right out of the gate.

November Forecaster of the Month/ A look at New York’s pending blizzard

I’m going to be pretty quick with the forecaster of the month: It was WeatherNation. They don’t get many titles so it’s too bad we don’t get to spend too much time discussing it. Residents of the mid Atlantic, particularly in downstate New York might be particularly miffed that we don’t get a chance to really dive into WeatherNation’s month.

Starting early tomorrow afternoon, a mix of rain and snow, depending on how near the coast you live, will start in Long Island and southern New York (sooner in the DC and Philadelphia areas) and intensify into the evening, until we can look at something like this after sunset through midnight.

Precipitation from the Big Apple northward is likely to be snow, while Long Island may see quite a bit of mixed snow, sleet and rain. Where it is all snow, including in New York, over a foot of accumulation is in the forecast.

Long Island doesn’t necessarily get the best of the weather however. In addition to whatever sloppy accumulations they get in Long Island, residents of the area can also look forward to wind gusts approaching 50mph. What’s worse? That’s a matter of personal opinion.

It will still be over a week, but this gives the mid-Atlantic a good shot at a White Christmas.

East Coast getting pounded

As a lot of people south and west of a line from Virginia Beach to Toledo can tell you, it’s raining in buckets out there. At least it is happening at the end of the long Holiday weekend, and surely sets the mood for a lot of us as we log back into work on Monday.

The satellite imagery belies the prolific nature of the rain. There isn’t much apparent rotation, no puffs of cumulonimbus across most of the band of clouds, with only a few apparent thunderstorms in the Florida Panhandle.

Now that I’ve warned you, perhaps you looked a little more closely, and found the circulation futher to the west of the erupting thunderstorms and swath of white clouds running from the Mid-Atlantic to north Florida.

Indeed, the bulk of the rain so far is the result of warm frontal passage over the undulating Appalachian terrain. That boundary currently runs from eastern Kentucky through eastern North Carolina, has proven to be quite rainy. The warm sector south of the boundary and ahead of the cold front, which is setting off thunderstorms through the Panhandle, is also rife with showers and a few rumbles of thunder.

Perhaps the most winter like element to this storm imagery is the glut of water on the back side of the center of circulation, which is around Florence, Alabama. Usually, temperatures don’t allow for much condensation on the inverted trough during the summer, let alone torrential rain. Temperatures are chilly aloft, and this feature is pulling in more cold air into it. Not enough for snow in southern Indiana, but getting colder.

This feature has a great deal of support at the upper levels, an will continue to wind up. Away from the moisture rich southeast, and interference of the Appalachians, the cold front will become more evident, but by that time, the warm sector will be off shore. The low itself will barrel north, just like a winter nor’easter. It will have the wind of a nor’easter, and by the time the storm has shifted out of the Mid-Atlantic by Tuesday morning, Lake effect snow is anticipated for the eastern Great Lakes.

The heavy rain, along with some gusty wind and a rogue rumble of thunder will continue in coastal New England on Tuesday, but should shift off shore before Wednesday rolls around. This feature looks like a winter storm in the models, and a little bit on satellite and radar. It will almost feel like it, too.

Thanksgiving week has a few different plans

This weekend has been pretty nice across the country, with little in the way of watches or warnings or intrusions of cold air or wet weather. Unfortunately, it is only late November, and winter is not yet cancelled.

In fact, there maybe a couple of features that bring wet weather and less pleasant conditions to the country this week. First, early this week a feature will come out of the Rockies and move into the Plains, bringing rain, snow and cooler air to the middle of the country.

The feature will shift towards the Great Lakes, with showers and thunderstorms south from the Ohio River, and a real possibility of lake enhanced snow mid week before shifting out through New England late in the week.

A couple of other surges of wet weather will be possible with a feature arriving in the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday, which might lead to some significant problems in the mountains for casual travelers, but probably not those that are used to it.

Late in the week, a system will develop in the Lower Mississippi Valley with cold air driving in from the northwest. It will predominantly be a rain maker, initially in Mississippi and Louisiana, but shifting northeast before clobbering the Ohio Valley again, and eventually the entirety of the Eastern Seaboard. Again, it should all be rain at least through next Sunday, with some thunder further south.

Now, as for the beginning of December. A developing area of low pressure in the mid-Atlantic might make things a bit more wintry. But we’ll talk about that again at a different time.

Watch out for a strong polar vortex (That’s a good thing)

One aspect of emerging media and is the rapid dispersal of terms that come up in the news. Some things have always been there, and just get out of hand when they enter the news cycle. Things like “bomb cyclone” seem absurd to the point of frivolity if you don’t know the definition. I’ve gotten into debates on Twitter about Particularly Dangerous Situations being assigned to some weather watches, because the other Twitter user thought meteorologists were being overdramatic in their terminology. It’s a lesson in never using Social Media.

One term that really exploded in the last half decade was “Polar Vortex” which emerged in the midst of a persistent cold snap that was particularly cruel to the Eastern Seaboard. Since the East Coast is where most media, and really most of the people in the country reside, the term was foisted upon the country. There were some amusing consequences.

But mostly, it just annoyed meteorologists, because the colloquial definition of the polar vortex is not correct. As the media may have led some to believe, the polar vortex is not just a surge of cold air that dive bombs the mid latitudes out of the Arctic.

A vortex is something that rotates, The Polar Vortex, then, is the Arctic jet that spins around the North Pole. Ergo when it is strong, as is the case with all jet streams and streaks, it represents a sharp temperature contrast on other side of the streak. While it will certainly be cold north of, or within the vortex, it’s strength suggests that it will actually be fairly warm south of it.

Weaker flow can lead to some ripples in the jet, which can mean lobes of cold air pressing further south, particularly later in the year when high latitudes start to get colder on their own. Right now, though, it looks like we have a stout Polar Vortex to guide us into winter, and that is a good thing.