One-Two Punch Of Arctic Air Will Push In Behind Winter Storm

Good early morning! I’m much later getting this article out than I was anticipating, but nonetheless, I’m delivering the article, as promised. Since it’s nearly 4 am ET, I’ll try to keep everything a little shorter than what I usually post.

The pattern change that I have been talking about for a very long time is now upon us. I’ve been calling it a pattern transition more often than a change simply because I still believe that this will continue to be more of a transition month. Meaning, despite the several plunges of Arctic air that will be coming this month, there will be a couple of warmups in between, indicating some volatility in the overall pattern.

Unfortunately, the most recent intermittent “warmup” that is currently taking place over the eastern U.S. and parts of the southern U.S. is going to cost some of the more southern regions some snow with the first system that I brought up in my discussions a while back. There was a legitimate chance that a heavier snow event was going to occur as far south as northern GA/AL into Upstate SC/central NC. Due to some changes in timing, which I’ll explain momentarily, the heavier snow will now occur farther north. However, light snow could fall on the backend of this system, possibly giving areas as far south as the mountains of Georgia and Alabama some light snow.

Before I get started, I want to point out something VERY important. You MUST understand the limitations of forecasting individual winter storms in the long-range like I do. There are a lot of intricacies when making these kinds of forecasts, to say the least. When I started pointing out this first winter storm potential, it wasn’t even showing up on the forecast models. Most of the regions that I was anticipating to be impacted by this system will be impacted, but there are going to be a few southern regions that it won’t impact like I originally thought. It’s okay to make plans ahead of time (that’s the reason I put these forecasts out so far in advance) and important to be aware that you may have to change plans, but I’d always recommend waiting some time, if you can, to allow me to iron out details closer to each event. I can usually do a pretty good job at identifying potentially big storm systems, along with nailing down the general timeframes and impact locations, but county-specific forecasts two weeks out aren’t possible. Generally, I think that most of my audience understands this, but since we have several potential winter storms coming up this month, I felt that this was something worth saying.

Details On The Arctic Plunge And Winter Storm:

A ridge is currently located across the eastern U.S. and will continue to move eastward with time. Even with the ridge in place, temperatures shouldn’t be awfully warm, although temperatures will climb above average ahead of a major storm system (the first potential I discussed) this weekend in the eastern third of the U.S., generally speaking. As a piece of energy treks eastward from its current position over the Southwest, the ridge will eventually amplify over New England into eastern Canada, bringing the area above average temperatures before a one-two punch of Arctic air impacts the eastern two-thirds of the nation next week.

500 mb upper air chart

The southern piece of energy that is currently located across the Southwest U.S. will eventually link up with a piece of energy that will be dropping down from Canada. This will usher in the first punch of Arctic air starting this weekend and will expand south and eastward with time through early next week. The southern branch system will trigger the development of a surface low pressure system that will be bringing a snowstorm across a fairly expansive area. I’ll have details on locations in just a moment.

The southern branch system came in much more quickly than I was originally anticipating, and for the snow lovers across parts of the Southeast, this is going to cost many of those regions getting their first shot at some snow. However, like I mentioned above, there will be a large area getting their biggest snowfall of the season so far. This winter, there has continued to be a tendency for ridging to be present along the eastern U.S., which is fairly unusual for an El Nino winter (remember how I said all El Nino’s aren’t the same?). Instead of systems cutting straight across the southern U.S., this has resulted in many of the storm systems moving in a northeast direction from the Southern/Central Plains. As the Pacific jet stream has shifted a bit farther south, this has opened the door for more southern areas to get wintry precipitation from the Southwest into the Plains, but then the storm systems still end up moving northeast due to this ridge.

Over time, that’s likely going to change, and the pattern will become more favorable for storm systems to trek farther to the south each time. I still remain very bullish on the Southern Plains to the Southeast/parts of the Tennessee Valley into the Mid-Atlantic being the hardest hit regions this winter (still the same region detailed in my final winter forecast) with the big month likely being February. That’s not to say that many areas north of this zone won’t get decent snows this winter, and this upcoming winter storm will deliver for many of those areas. That doesn’t even include the potential northern branch systems, swinging down from Canada, that could bring snow farther north this winter.

Anyway, I’ll get off of that rabbit trail for now and get into more specifics on the current system. Low pressure will be developing and moving across the Ark-La-Tex region before strengthening and continuing on a path northeastward through the central Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley/Great Lakes region this weekend. Initially, this could bring some snow to parts of Oklahoma and even into the panhandle of Texas. This storm system will ride along an Arctic front pushing southeast and will dump snowfall from northern Arkansas, into the eastern two-thirds of Missouri, much of Illinois, much of Indiana, into Ohio, and Wisconsin. Snowfall will vary across these regions, and there will likely be a transition from rain to snow in many of these locations.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this system ends up going a little farther south than what some of the models are picking up on. This could open the door for Kentucky into parts of the Tennessee Valley to pick up some snow from this, especially on the backend of the system. This is going to be a storm system that will strengthen as it moves northeast, so just keep that in mind. I wouldn’t even be surprised if areas as far south as parts of northern Alabama and northern Georgia get some snow showers from this, but if this occurs, it will generally be hit or miss. This system will eventually deliver snow to western parts of the Northeast and will be bringing some snow along the Appalachian Mountains.

As this system moves through, the first surge of Arctic air will push through late this weekend into early next week:

Arctic air 1

A second surge of Arctic air comes by mid-week:

Arctic air 2

If you missed out on this first system, there are plenty more on the way. To be honest, this is one of the most active patterns I remembering seeing in a long while, and with the likely blocking that will continue to establish itself over Greenland and the Arctic, I would be in utter shock if parts of the Southeast to the Mid-Atlantic do not get wintry weather sometime right after the midpoint of the month. I already have my eye on two potential systems after this one, and that doesn’t even include what’s to come this February. There’s going to be a lot to watch coming up over the next few weeks. Be not dismayed; winter is definitely upon us.

  • Rita

    Matthew, I just want to say Thank YOU for keeping us, in the Tennessee Valley area, updated. Your detailed info and maps help me to understand more about what is going on. Keep up the good work!

  • RICHARD

    Thanks for the update.

  • Bobbie Verlinger

    Will keep watching for updates. Thank you 🙂

  • Shelley Harrell-Drainer

    WELL, not much information on the Southwest, or So Cal to be exact. Why?

    • Andrew Heyson

      Because he mostly focuses in the Southeast region. He touches on other areas, but the SE is where most of his follower are.

  • Adam Drake

    Matthew,
    Am I correct that the Atlanta area will miss out on the “first round” but still be in play for the second and subsequent rounds of storms?